More Important Than Money in Retirement

One benefits of picking my brain that many people don’t realize has nothing to do with asset management or annuity shopping.  I’ve talked to hundreds of people just like you.  I hear stories of both failure and success or good choices and bad.  My recommendations are not only based on what I know about retirement products but also on other people’s experiences.

So when I give advice it is quite likely the result of me having seen someone in an identical situation who has done it right and another who has not.  This weekly post was started with the idea of sharing those stories so you can find similarities that will help sort through the mess of options and ideas.

Regardless of what you decide to do with your money in retirement, isn’t it also important to have a plan for what to do with yourself and all that extra time?  Some pursue retirement as an opportunity to finally experience all those things sacrificed for family and career while others keep working because they don’t know anything else.

I only bring this up because it’s a natural part of most conversations I have and what I’ve recently realized is that most people don’t have it completely figured out.  So I consider it to be a nice diversion from the potentially complicated matter of portfolio allocation.  Why not take a break and map out a plan for all the time you have as well?

Most people who retire early plan to travel a lot.  High pressure careers and a substantial savings rate don’t allow for free time or frivolous spending.  It makes sense that anyone with that kind of discipline would like to open things up and enjoy life a little more.  But there are some who were able to travel plenty even if it meant a later retirement and now travel is not so much of a priority anymore.

That’s an important consideration simply because no matter what your plans are, I’ll bet they change somewhere along the way.  Time with grandkids is another great reason to want more freedom but when they grow up and start families of their own regular visits are going to take more effort.  The things I enjoy today take a fair amount of physical fitness that I won’t likely have when I’m in my 60s.  I’ll enjoy taking pack strings into the mountains as long as I can but in retirement I may have to trade the horse trailer for a camper trailer.  That means less time chasing elk and more time around the campfire.

I happen to know lots and lots of people who are happily retired.  Eliminating the stress of a career is the biggest motivation and it also happens to be a healthy choice too.  But after that, what’s your plan?  Living in the tropics, giving time and money to charity, improving your handicap or catching every last fish in the ocean are but a small sample of the ideas I’ve heard. 

I spent last week at something of a college reunion and it made me think a lot about life from the age of 20 to 40.  Looking back at the last 20 years of my life made me think about how my clients are planning for the next 20 years of theirs.  What I realized is that it’s much easier to dream when you’re young but as time passes the stress of life disconnects you from those ideas and retirement is your chance to reconnect.  It’s reasonable to spend as much or more time doing that instead of worrying about the financial side.

I had a conversation this week with a lady who is having a hard time making financial decisions.  Three people, me included, are all telling her different things and she can’t decide which idea is best.  So I decided to be the first to tell her that it’s ok if she doesn’t do anything.  She doesn’t owe anything to anyone and there’s no reason why she can’t put financial matters on the shelf for a bit.

After speaking with her I decided to put “Life Insurance and Long-Term Care” (yawn) on hold for a week or two.  Sometimes the best ideas come to us when we are focused on something else.  Give yourself a break and spend some time thinking about something a little more fun than numbers.  It may just make that part a little easier when you get around to it.

All my best,

Bryan

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2 replies
  1. Phil Bartlett
    Phil Bartlett says:

    Bryan, I retired 7 yeas ago and the plan was to buy a 2nd home at the coast which we did and to take one really good trip every year. The deaths of our parents put a little dent in those plans, moving them from their homes to assisted living and then on to nursing homes. It also put a minor dent in retirement funds as contributions were required.
    Our coastal home is in a rental pool and fortunately for us it stays rented so much that we actually have to reserve our times to be there. We go when we can, so it is still a treat to be there and the management company does most of the minor maintenance. It is not a huge money maker but the rentals do pay the taxes and insurance (high due to coastal) all the maintenance cost with a few dollars left over.
    We planned before we retired and we live across the street from my golf course and I play 4-5 days a week when we are at home. My wife is an avid bridge player and plays several time a mont in various groups. I also play and the guys have a once a week game in the early evening.
    Our lifestyle is not flamboyant and we have adequate retirement income without spending our investment funds. I honestly believe that some planning with the expectation of some great travel (Tahiti for us this year) and the rest of the time just enjoying life with your friends (family, if that works for you) can be a wonderful retirement. Being happy with what you are doing is 70% of a great retirement and having the funds to be happy is 30%. Your personal attitude about life can in many cases make the money portion zero percent.

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  2. Harry Varnis
    Harry Varnis says:

    Great post, Bryan. Many things *are* more important than money. As for me, I moved to a lower cost of living area where I could also provide for my pets without the structures of a landlord. I also am volunteering care and website design for local animal welfare groups in my new area. Also trying to hike more while I still can. For me, this is better than expensive globe trotting. 🙂

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