Is Retirement More Difficult These Days?

Anyone who has spent serious time planning for retirement knows about the many challenges that might derail even the most meticulous financial plan. The unpredictable economy and possibility of health problems makes retirement extremely difficult to plan for. And strategies that worked for retirees a generation ago are nothing like what is needed these days.

Talking with my father I discover a different world not so very long ago. He was a physician in a small farm community in Stockton, Calif. His career spanned more than 35 years until he decided it was time to retire at age 67. When I ask him what he did to prepare he looks at me with a tolerant smile on his face as though humoring a confused child. Yes, he saved money along the way to build his nest egg and occasionally thought about what it would be like to be retired. But beyond that he did not waste his time worrying.

For him the biggest decision was when to retire. Because of the nature of his job, he was not forced to call it quits at age 65. In fact, other doctors work well into their 70’s. His decision to retire at 67 was due in large part to the incredible changes taking place in the medical world. He did not like the way things were going and felt it was time to move on. With many hobbies along with numerous interests shared with my mother, he did not Bronze of Old couple on benchworry about becoming bored. As it turns out, he had no reason to worry. My parents maintain a packed calendar of events.

Can retirement really be that easy? It probably depends on whether you have prepared financially. While 21 percent of Americans say they spent two hours or more selecting a flat screen TV, only 15 percent say they spent at least that much time selecting an IRA investment, according to a recent survey by TIAA-CREF.

After spending a significant part of the past four years fine tuning the most important pieces of the retirement puzzle, I am very much looking forward to retiring. But I also have a variety of concerns:

  • Do I have enough interests to keep reasonably busy for the next 20 years?
  • Without my job to define me, who will I be when I retire?
  • How will I stay healthy and active along the way?
  • Will my wife and I complement each other as we spend 24/7 together?
  • How will I deal with the realities of aging?
  • Will I want to work in some capacity after age 65?
  • What legacy do I hope to leave?

I do find a certain peace of mind in the knowledge that my parents did not do much planning for retirement beyond the financial side of things, and they are happy. Although they did not address all of the potential areas for concern before retiring, they have been able to deal with challenges that arose over the years. Their marriage has also lasted more than 57 years and survived many transitions, including the one into retirement.

The retirement fears we face are nothing new. The realities of aging and a diminished capacity or desire to work have always been faced by the oldest citizens. It helps to put some thought into what lies ahead, and make sure you have a little extra money and patience to help you weather the unexpected.

From my blog for US News & World.

5 Ways to Have Fun and Grow Your Savings Account When Retired

Sponsored content was created and provided by RBS Citizens Financial Group

When looking back on your career, do you wish you could have had more fun while saving for retirement? Now that the workload has lessened, take the chance to re-discover your passions while adding more funds to your savings account. According to Gallup’s annual Economy and Personal Finance survey, conducted in April of 2013, 37% of non-retired Americans expect they will continue working well past the expected retirement age of 65. Having an enjoyable retirement job can earn you extra money and give your fixed income a cushion.

Start gardening

Since you are no longer spending hours a day in the office, take advantage of being outdoors and plant produce you can sell at a local Farmers Market. Crops such as corn, tomatoes, and green beans are usually low maintenance and can yield a big return during the summer months. Plus, saving this extra money for later in a high-interest savings account, such as a personal money market account, can help pay for vacation next year.

Become a consultant

Just because you are no longer working 40 hours a week, doesn’t mean you should stop using your professional skills. Businesses of all sizes hire contractors to do consulting work on a project need basis. Utilize your network of contacts to secure freelance opportunities. If you enjoy doing hands-on training, you can also contact local schools, colleges and business organizations for lecturing opportunities. For example, depending on your area of expertise, you could be a guest speaker at a marketing conference or recount what it was like to work in a large architecture firm.

Sell your crafts online

Do you love wood-carving or painting, but rarely had the time for it when you worked a full time job? Order supplies, take a refresher course and set up a new work space at home to channel your inner artist. You can then create an online shop to sell your handy work for a profit. You may be surprised to find that your artwork is just what a buyer is looking for.

Start a new business venture

As a retiree, you’ve worked hard all your life. If your time in the workforce wasn’t spent in your dream job, consider starting your own business and open a bakery or an auto repair shop. You may qualify for a business loan that can help pave the way for your ideal retirement job.

Get paid to shop

If you like to try new restaurants or shop at new stores, you may be able to get paid to do so by becoming a mystery shopper. Some companies provide market research to their clients by employing individuals to shop at a store and report back on the service. Opportunities are available across the U.S., and typically an application is required. And, if you want to recommend the new places you visit, try contacting your local newspaper about writing reviews or blogging about your favorite spots.

Whatever your retirement job may be, it’s important to have fun while adding to your savings account. Now is your chance to enjoy a slower pace of life, so take the time to do what you’re passionate about. Choose a hobby you not only enjoy but can also make you money, and watch your retirement savings grow.

Who Will Care For Me When I Am Old?

A few weekends ago, we visited my folks to celebrate my mom’s 79th birthday. She and dad are going strong and we had a wonderful celebration of their lives as we relived some exciting and humorous past events including viewing the DVD from their 50th wedding anniversary a few years back. During the course of our conversations, the topic came up of who would take care of a parent who outlived their spouse. My sister and I live within 100 miles and our brother about twice distance that so visiting is an easy option. But who will step up should mom or dad or both need more than an occasional visit? If they can no longer safely take care of themselves, what would they do?

As we grow older alongside our spouse, we hope to be together always. This person at my side who has become an extension of who I am, who under no duress understands and accepts my various shortcomings and quirks, with who I share my wishes and dreams, is an integral part of my life. Growing old together is our chosen path and as we encounter challenges, we face them together. It may be something as basic as regaining the independence of going up and down the stairs by taking advantage of home stair liftsBut unfortunately as we grow older, at some point that wonderful bond and strength that has served us so well for so long may just not be enough. We cannot make it just the two of us and we must search outside of us for assistance.

What can we do?

Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family: whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one. ~ Jane Howard

The importance of family

No one is more concerned for our welfare than our family. We have been through this life together – ups and downs, good and bad family is forever. It is important to maintain ties with brothers and sisters and children and grandchildren. Though never easy to coordinate with everyone’s busy schedules, it is important to make the effort. Bringing various family members together to share and reminisce and build new memories is a must. Holidays and graduations, baptisms and weddings, anniversaries and just plain weekends all offer an opportunity to unite. The extended “family unit” is made up of many pieces that complement each other to make the whole stronger than the individual parts.

We would all like to remain independent for as long as we can. No one wants to be a burden. What can we do to remain independent as possible for as long as possible?

  • Long Term Care insurance – according to statistics, 2/3 of those over 65 will require extended care during their lifetimes with an average duration of three years. With nursing homes costing $70,000 per year for a shared room, these costs can literally break the bank. Long Term Care insurance can give you the assurance that should you need service your family will not have to pick up the bill.
  • Retirement communities – it is never too early to take a look at the possibility of retiring to a senior community. Facilities today offer a supportive community of fellow seniors along with a social event calendar that would tire many younger folks! Retirement communities are no longer a place where people go to die but instead a place where they go to live and enjoy. Many are set in beautiful surroundings away from the fast-paced-traffic-ridden areas yet close to amenities like shopping centers and movie theaters. In these communities, you can age in familiar surroundings with help close by should you require it. With baby boomers entering retirement, I believe that the next 10-20 years will show a big demand for retirement communities as people look for a safe and interesting place to settle down.
  • Moving in with a family member – sometimes for whatever reason the best option is for a parent to move in with one of their children. Extended family can provide food and shelter and love without bankrupting anyone in the process. Grandparents can spend time with grandchildren with both sides learning to appreciate the other a bit more. Everyone needs to be sensitive to the fact that a new member to the household can disrupt the status quo. Tolerance is a virtue, patience is a must, and mutual consideration is the go word. It makes sense to have discussions early on about which child would be the best option for the parent(s) to move in with. Knowing up front helps to remove anxiety that the aging family member may feel. And having a logical discussion between the children ahead of time can prepare everyone just in case this option needs to be taken.
  • In-home care – for some who just do not want to leave their home, the option for in-home professional care is a consideration. Having someone you trust stay with you to cook and clean and make sure you take your medications is preferred by some. The benefit is you stay in your home where you are comfortable. The challenge is finding a caregiver that you can trust and who has your best interests first and foremost. And not everyone will have this option should their health be to serious a concern. But for some, it is the way to go.

It is not an easy discussion to have but ignoring it will not make it go away.

If and when the time comes that a parent or other family member becomes too old or weak to live independently and take care of themselves, what will they do?

A little planning ahead of time can ease concerns and set the stage for action to be taken if needed.