Personalize Your Retirement

(Taken from “I Want To Retire! Essential Considerations for the Retiree to Be”)

Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself. ~ George Bernard Shaw

Retirement is defined quite simply and succinctly in Wikipedia as the point where a person stops employment completely. To those about to begin their personal journey into retired living that abbreviated account might seem an understatement of sorts. As 75 million baby boomers begin to enter that time in their lives when retirement becomes a consideration if not a priority, retirees to be may quickly discover there is a lot more to consider beyond simply the absence of work. Talk about a life changing event – no more nine-to-five, no more Monday morning dread, no more corporate politics, away with those boring meetings, done with pressure filled project deadlines, and finally time for ourselves to do what we want to do. Rather than centering our efforts on moving up in the ranks we can begin to focus on moving out into the world and on to brand new experiences. Retirement can change the way we live every day and redefine those activities we have become accustomed to doing during that day. There is a bit more to retirement than merely the absence of employment.

Well before reaching the threshold of retirement the wise retiree to be will begin to navigate the endless jungle of details that promises to make up his retired life. Assuming we retire at 65 the duration of our typical retirement will be in the twenty to thirty year range. That is a lot of days, a lot of weeks, and a lot of months during which we are solely responsible for identifying and pursuing interests to make our days worth living. Gone are those busy working days filled with packed calendars. Our weekends will extend beyond Saturday and Sunday to include the entire seven day week. Imagine the possibilities now that we can pursue our passions and plans seven days a week! Get ready for time on our hands – lots of it.

I retired from years working in social services and now am following my own bliss. I have a small antique business that I started the month after my retirement. I love old things and the search for them. For the first time in my life I am able to wake up when I want, and the way I spend my day is up to me. I am free to be me.

As we look toward our future, it can help to start to prepare for what is going to happen rather than just wait and see. There might be actions we can take ahead of time to provide for an even more enjoyable retired life. Try to visualize your perfect retirement. Based upon the person you are, your interests and your passions, how might your perfect retirement look? What is really right for you? It is never too early to begin planning for your own fulfilling retirement. Once you begin to more clearly understand where you are today and where you want to ultimately end up, you can start putting together the pieces to build a retirement custom made for you.

What does retirement mean to me?

So you have decided it is time to call it quits at the old job and take a step into a new life of retirement, a new chapter, a new beginning. Some soon to be retirees find themselves almost giddy with excitement and expectation as they look toward the wonderful new life they will soon begin. Others are just ready for a break from the same old grind. Still others may find themselves a bit unsure and perhaps nervous about exactly what lies ahead. With the pending event drawing ever nearer, ideally you are beginning to ask the questions that can give you a deeper understanding of your personal views and expectations.

How do you feel about retirement?

Are you ready or reluctant?

How do you envision yourself in the next five years? What about ten? What about 20?

Are you optimistic or pessimistic about your new life ahead?

Are you maybe a bit scared? If so what is it that concerns you? What are your biggest fears?

What most excites you about the promise of retirement?

Are you looking forward to exploring new interests and trying different things?

Are you creative and energetic enough to occupy yourself with meaningful events each day?

Are you looking forward to spending 24/7 with your spouse?

Will you be able to find meaning in a life outside of work?

What single thing do you believe is most important to achieving happiness in retirement?

An understanding today of what you expect in retirement can allow you to make adjustments as needed while you still have time.

Take a look at your emotional reasons for working (doing something worthwhile, being respected by others, etc.). Those don’t just drive your work, they drive your life. You need to find non-work interests that give you the same sort of emotional benefits.

While I was searching for just the right cover for this book, I asked myself what single picture would best represent the concept of retirement. Is it even possible for a single moment in time to summarize all that is part and parcel of retired life? What I did not want to do was go with the old tried and true snapshots typically associated with retired life. I did not want to use a sunset since I believe that retirement is the beginning of something new rather than the end. I was not interested in using one of the many pictures of an old couple sitting on a bench looking out at a beautiful view of ocean, lake, or mountains. Yes this can be a wonderful component of the retirement we will live but it downplays all of the activity and adventure and life there is to live in addition to watching the world go by. And I sure wasn’t going to use a picture of someone swinging a club on the golf course, a far to frequent depiction of what awaits the recent retiree.

I settled on the picture you see of an empty hammock swinging in the breeze. First of all the vacant spot invites someone to climb on in and enjoy a peaceful, relaxing moment and who better qualified than a happily retired person in search of a little downtime. Secondly, the fact that the location is a tropical spot on some unknown shore reflects the myriad of options we will have to travel and explore new and exotic locales once we retire. The hammock may await us but not before the adventure of getting there has been lived. Finally, I have always had a thing for the ocean and the peace it brings to my soul. I can definitely picture myself reclining in the hammock, gently swaying in the warm tropical breezes with the steady sound of waves breaking in the distance. And when I am ready, one quick hop out of my hammock and a new unexplored world awaits me.

LoveBeingRetired

How to Keep Growing Your Savings in Retirement

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by PSECU, a Pennsylvania-based credit union.

Ah, the golden years, that magical time when people trade in their workers’ aprons and finally get to enjoy some much-deserved rest and relaxation.

However, one’s comfort level during retirement depends upon having an adequate nest egg. In the wake of the 2008 financial crash, many people dipped into retirement savings or increased the amount of debt they carried by taking out home equity lines of credit and the like. This means many seniors today experience a bit of anxiety when looking at their retirement funds, wondering if they will have enough to carry them through comfortably for the rest of their days.

Fortunately, techniques for continuing to grow savings even in the golden years exist, and people’s money can continue working long after the employee has hung up their hat. Here’s how.

Catch up on Your Contributions

Those 50 or older who remain in the workforce should take full advantage of the IRS rule allowing for catch up contributions to your 401(k) or IRA. Workers can contribute up to $6,000 per year without tax penalty. However, the vast majority of workers with 401(k)s can truly benefit from a retirement boost, as the contribution limit for those 50 and older changed to $24,000 per year, much more than the previous contribution limit.

Continue Paying Yourself

A long, long time ago, indubitably some economics instructor lectured on the importance of investing in savings even before paying other bills. Today, placing your savings goals on autopilot doesn’t even require a trip to the bank.

Those receiving direct deposits can simply call or log into their financial institution and direct them to divide income among checking, savings and investment accounts. Another tip — avoid linking debit cards to savings accounts. Merely having to drive to the bank to make a withdrawal versus hitting the ATM makes it easier to decline impulse purchases.

Avoid New Debts

Nothing can cut into retirement savings like high-interest credit cards that need paying each month. Avoiding new debt when nearing retirement should be a logical choice.

Unfortunately, too many people anxiously awaiting their retirement ages yield to the temptation to buy their dream car or take a no-expenses-spared vacation. While driving into the sunset in a shiny new Porsche sounds tempting, adding a $600 monthly payment may break one’s retirement budget. Try to resist the urge to splurge.

Consult Your Financial Planner

Your investing needs change as you age, and by the time you reach retirement age, dropping high-risk investments in lieu of lower-risk vehicles makes sense. By age 60, approximately 75 percent of any investment portfolio should consist of low-risk assets such as bonds. Contacting a qualified financial planner on an annual basis can help stretch nearly any retirement budget.

Have a Little Patience

Many people know waiting to retire means earning more in Social Security income, but holding off on pulling money from other retirement accounts may result in significantly increased gains. For example, those with $1 million in investment assets by age 60 can add another half-million dollars simply by waiting to retire until age 66, assuming a 6.5 percent return on investment.

Consider Downsizing

Many retirees find themselves rattling about in homes meant for growing families, not those approaching their sunset years. Larger homes require more money to heat and cool, increasing annual costs of living significantly.

Given the current stability in the housing market, the time to downsize has come. Additional proceeds from the sale of an overly large property can pad any retirement budget, and the savings in heating oil, not to mention in property taxes, cuts expenses at the same time.

Make Money with Hobbies

The entire point of retirement means finally shaking off the mantle of work responsibilities and spending time doing what one loves. Some hobbies can generate additional retirement income.

Seniors savvy about fitness can seek Silver Sneakers instructor certification and take up teaching classes. Crafty seniors can create unique gifts to sell at local fairs. Animal lovers can open a pet-sitting business.

Stepping out of the workforce means increased loneliness for many seniors, and harnessing a hobby helps keep them involved in their community while providing extra money.

Finally Dig Those Discounts!

Don’t overlook the power of the senior discount! Just about every grocery store hosts a monthly senior day where those 55 or older receive an additional percentage off purchases. Use these days to stock the pantry.

In addition, many Medicare supplement plans come with free fitness memberships. Why not work out when it’s free? Movie theaters, bowling alleys and other entertainment venues likewise often offer senior discounts.

Happy Retirement

Just because a senior retires from the workforce doesn’t mean their money has to stop working for them. By managing money wisely, one’s golden years can become the best ones ever. PSECU, a credit union in Pennsylvania, has created this interesting graphic on the average retirement savings by age — check it out here!

Make the Most of Retirement by Staying Active

Retirement promises a chance to escape the busy lifestyle demanded by fulltime work and raising a family. After decades spent racing madly down the path of life ever struggling to make ends meet retirement tantalizingly tempts with that light at the end of the tunnel, that shelter from the storm, that taste of freedom well deserved.

Before retiring I imagined what life would be like when (and if) I finally got there. No more stress, no more hurry-hurry, no more time spent frozen in immovable traffic, no more struggling to make ends meet. I envisioned myself setting my own comfortable pace, choosing how I spend the hours, content in the knowledge I was in charge. And for the most part it turned out to be just that. But few things worthwhile just happen.After seven years retired (that went fast!) I learned when you finally arrive at the doorstep of retirement it is important to keep moving. Without a variety of interests or passions or distractions the dreaded boredom may find its way into your days and that we do not want. It took supreme effort and commitment to get here – now is not the time to live anything less than the best possible retirement we deserve.

Keep physically active

My wife gave me a Fitbit for my sixtieth. I have always been someone who keeps active. I can’t sit still for long before I feel the urge to move. Whether heading to the garden for a little trimming or firing up the vacuum to tidy up or throwing the ball for our ball-obsessed Boston Terrier Frank or walking up the hill, I like to keep moving. After wearing the Fitbit for a month I found my antsy nature translates well into steps taken for the day. The target is 10,000 steps each day which it turns out I regularly attain. I try to walk rather than ride when possible and take the stairs rather than elevator. I confess at the end of the day should I find myself close to but not quite at 10,000 steps I will walk up and down the house until I get there! Not really cheating since the goal is to ultimately get to 10,000 steps.

A friend from years ago who was a dedicated bodybuilder used to say “If you’re not lifting, you’re shrinking.” I like to retune that sentiment with the emphasis on staying active each day. “If you’re not moving you’re slowing down.”

Keep mentally active

The reality is if you do not keep your mind engaged you begin to lose your edge. That first year after quitting my job for the final time I felt I was not as sharp as while working. Nothing drastic it just seemed I didn’t have the same old pop in daily conversations. Without the job I did not have a lot new to talk about. My career was in sales where I talked with people all the time – that was the job. Now in retirement I was spending more time alone without the interaction I was accustomed. I love having time for myself. I am able to do what I want when I want for as long as I want. That was not the problem. The problem was since I found myself talking less those speaking skills taken for granted were beginning to dull. And that was after only one year! My retirement should last 20-30 years God willing so something needed to happen.

When I left my final job I swore I would never work again. Retirement was to be my salvation from fulltime employment. There was no place in my busy retired life for another job.

After a handful of years feeling relatively content ensconced in an assortment of interests that insidious boredom started to creep into my world. What I was doing began to feel routine, the same thing day in day out. I was running out of things to do earlier and earlier in the day. There were no new activities I wanted to explore. It did not look good.

Then I found what turned out for me to be the perfect retirement gig – pouring wine at a small tasting room within walking distance of home. Three days a week I engage with people from all over the world sharing some excellent wines along with the story of our winery. We tell tales and share laughs in a friendly happy environment (it is a wine tasting room after all). But more importantly I engage with others on a regular basis, keeping my mind active. And I believe my thinking is sharper than it would be if I was alone.

Find meaning (or a reason for being)

One positive aspect of a job is when you look back at the end of the day you feel you have accomplished something. You may not have solved the problem of world hunger but in your own little piece of the universe you made a difference. Achieving goals and completing tasks has a positive impact on our psyche. We are worthy, we made it happen, we matter. Retirement does not typically offer such milestones, such measures of achievement. But you can find your own ways to experience that satisfying end-or-the-day contentment. It may be as simple as pruning a row of roses in preparation for winter. You may exceed those 10,000 steps a day for a whole week. Maybe you plan a surprise sixtieth birthday party for your spouse who comes home from work to be totally surprised (totally) at the whole thing. That expression on his/hers (my) face can be incredibly satisfying.

With time on your hands there are many activities and undertakings, hobbies and interests, passions and experiments to investigate. Whatever floats your personal boat it is important to stay active and engage. You will feel more energized. You will be more interesting. And ultimately you will make the best retirement possible for you and those around you. Good luck and enjoy!

LoveBeingRetired.com