"To be too certain of anything is the beginning of bigotry." -- Novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah

Thursday, October 19, 2017

5 Questions to Ask Yourself After You Retire

Retirement is a destination, for sure, one that we have been working toward for decades. But retirement is also a journey. It begins when we leave work, and can easily last for 20 or 30 years. As with any journey, it sometimes makes sense to stop and review where we’ve been and where we’re going.

Here are five questions I can think of that are important to ask ourselves, when we first retire, then again on a regular basis throughout the rest of our lives. Maybe you have other questions that you think are important. But the point is, just because we're retired doesn't mean that life is over. It means we're living for ourselves rather than someone else, and we should examine our situation every once in a while . . . so we stay true to ourselves.

1. Am I on track? You probably had a vision -- or at least some dreams – of what retirement would look like long before you accepted your Apple watch. You might even have had some concrete plans – and maybe even a budget by the time you actually left work. Now we should ask ourselves:: How am I doing?

Think about your lifestyle. Are you retired to Arizona, like you planned? Or are you still living in your family home, cutting the grass, shoveling snow, and storing old textbooks for your kids? If you haven’t launched your retirement life, what’s stopping you? Is it an emotional issue, or a financial problem? If you haven’t made a plan, or have deferred a lot of decisions, now is the time to take control and get on with your life. 

2. What has changed? Retirement involves a transition from working and saving to relaxing and spending, from answering to others to answering to ourselves. But the way we begin our retirement may not involve the same lifestyle that we settle into a few years down the line.

In my own case, the early retirement years looked similar to my working years, since my partner hadn't yet retired and we were living in the same house, with the same friends. Now we've relocated to Pennsylvania. We're finding new activities, new friends, and trying to figure out how to spend the winter in a warmer clime. Eventually we'll settle down – and we can then re-evaluate our expectations after we’ve tried out our new lifestyle for a while and have a better sense of what the future holds.

3. What do we want to change? We might get a few surprises when we compare the vision we had for retirement with the reality of our current life. So is there anything about your new lifestyle that hasn’t measured up to expectations? Maybe you’ve checked off a few items on your bucket list, and now you’re ready for more. Or maybe some of your original items no longer seem interesting.

Change doesn’t stop just because we’re retired. Some people relocate to Florida only to find they can’t stand the heat, and they move back home – or halfway back to the Carolinas. However far you’ve come in your retirement voyage, stop and consider if you still want to continue in the same direction, or if it’s time for a course correction. 

Don't let the retirement train leave without you
4. Are any surprises in store? When you set your retirement budget, you presumably projected the everyday expenses that will likely not vary much from month to month or even year to year. Then you took into account some discretionary items – a new car or a trip to Hawaii -- and developed a plan to balance your financial resources with your spending expectations.

But sometimes we get a surprise. If you’ve received an inheritance, you might make more ambitious plans. If you faced an unexpected medical bill  or major home project, you might have to make some cuts in your discretionary expenses. The recent surprise in my life? My daughter got married. Yeah, I know, I should have figured she would get married eventually. But who knew they would be sending me the bills . . . and that it would cost so much?!? Anyway, if you haven’t yet been hit with one of life’s surprises, look ahead to see if any unexpected events could be on the horizon.

5. We should have a plan … and be willing to change. It’s prudent to plan ahead. But it’s also important to remain flexible, especially from a financial point of view. We make a plan based on everything we know, plus some reasonable projections. But every once in a while we have to stick our heads out the window to see if the weather is changing – and make adjustments as needed. If you’re overspending, for example, you might consider cutting back on discretionary items or taking a part-time job to fill the gap.

          More importantly, if you realize that you're not doing what you want to do in retirement, that your retirement has gone off the rails, there's no reason in the world why you can't get back on track Sometimes retirement doesn’t play out exactly the way we envisioned when we were younger. There may be periods of uncertainty. But if we’re flexible, and periodically review our situation, then we will most likely find a clear road ahead.


Mona McGinnis said...

I appreciate this prompt to evaluate my retirement situation after 4 years.

stephen Hayes said...

Now that the wife and I are both retired we're dealing with many of the issues you've outlined.

Olga said...

THis is an excellent list and quite timely for me. Thanks!

Savoring Sixty said...

I am enjoying your recents posts in regard to retirement. Very timely for me. Thanks!

Barbara said...

Where there's a Zig, there's a Zag. Yes. My life took a little change when I moved this month. Big expense I hadn't budgeted for but I'm slowly filling my piggy bank back up. Medical bills also hit me hard when I first retired. Diagnosis of serious diabetes was an unplanned monthly expense. So yes, being flexible is a requirement.

DJan said...

I have been retired for nine years now, and it's worked out to be pretty darn wonderful. The only hitch in the future will be what to do when I can no longer get the exercise I crave and can still manage quite well. I'll be able to figure that out, though, I hope. :-)

Tabor said...

Life goes on after retirement. There are still challenges. I just wish I could find more rewarding ways or ways that I really feel I am making a contribution to my community. Something other than the volunteer work I do now.

Anonymous said...

Retired for over 13 years: What's stopping me? My husband would not move for a billion dollars! I suspect that I'm not the only one in that situation. Who knew?

Janette said...

Love your list.
Two weeks ago we really went over each of our desires for travel. We traveled extensively in our 30's and 40's (Asia, Europe, North Africa and most of the US) We decided travel to see fly mom and then staying stateside, in general, would more fit what we want to do. With six grands living within a few hours of us---going to DisneyWorld,the beach and a camping trip of the West trumped Israel! Who knew!

Rian said...

Dh and I have been retired for a number of years. We retired in place with no plans necessarily to move. Our daughter would like us to move to the Hill Country of Texas to be near them and it could be a possibility in the future, but not at the moment. Our oldest just moved to Hawaii with his family and although I'm sure we will enjoy visiting, can't really imagine living there (but hey, you never know). Luckily our youngest son and his family are close by, so we still have family near us. We have done some traveling in the past, but except for visiting family/friends elsewhere in the States have no real yen to see more of the world. Our world is here with family, friends, and grandchildren.

Silver in AZ said...

Great post, and since I'll be retiring in 14 months, couldn't be more timely!

Alana said...

I ran into a former co worker who asked me "when are you retiring?" I said "not yet". But a recent injury may have impacted my spouse's ability to work his highly physical job. So, your list may actually help me now, even before I retire. Life is full of surprises, after all.

Anonymous said...

Well, we have been retired for quite some time. Our problem is the inability to travel like we used to. Physically and financially challenging.

Bob Lowry said...

That is an excellent list, Tom. I like that each one is kind of open-ended so we bring our own answers and analysis to the 5 points.

b+ (Retire In Style Blog) said...

Great list of things to think about. I alway go away with things new ideas.

Our retirement is a continually evolving experience. While we have a basic plan, the rest is about living the experience each and every day. I love our life.

Barbara Torris.