The big day comes, and you’re off on a new adventure called retirement. Hopefully you’ve got your finances in order, and maybe some dreams of traveling the world or resettling in the sunbelt.
We are lucky to be able to retire. It’s an option not available to many others in the world, and, except for the rich and famous, was never available here in America until well into the 20th century. We know there are no guarantees that come with retirement. So, as we go forward we should remember that there are a few things retirees simply cannot afford to do.
1. We can’t afford to ignore our finances. It doesn’t matter how big our nest egg is or how generous our pension, we have to remember that we could easily live another 20 or 30 years – all without a paycheck. We will inevitably go through a financial crisis or two, and perhaps another bout of inflation. The purchasing power of a pension that looks good today could dwindle if inflation returns. Ask your parents who lived through the 1970s and 80s. So make sure your investments are diversified and your income derives from several sources, so if one asset runs into trouble the others will pick up the slack.
[See: 10 Ways to Get Ready for Retirement After Age 50.]
2. We can’t afford to ignore our health. This is right in front of our eyes, but sometimes we don’t see it. As we get older, our bodies become less tolerant of injury and more susceptible to disease. An injury we could recover from in two weeks when we were in our 30s now takes two months, or it may never fully heal at all. So get your checkups, eat right, sleep well, avoid stressful situations and get your exercise. But don’t be foolhardy. Walk or hike and play tennis or golf, but don’t go skiing, skateboarding or skydiving unless you really know what you’re doing.
3. We can’t afford to hold on to a large home. We like our suburban house with its backyard. Perhaps we want to keep the old place so the kids will still come home and show the place to the grandchildren. There may also be sentimental memories attached to the house. But, again, remember that we are getting older and less able to clean and maintain a big three- or four-bedroom house, especially if it’s showing its age and may need a new roof and new windows. We don’t want to end up rattling around in a big old house that’s falling down around our feet.
[See: 50 Affordable Places to Buy a Retirement Home in 2016.]
4. We can’t afford to skip planning ahead. Retirement is not a destination; it’s a starting point. You may have planned out your retirement lifestyle, but life goes on, and so you can’t think that all your decisions have been made. Maybe you need to plan ahead for your creaky knees or painful hip and live in a place with a bedroom on the first floor. Maybe your divorced child will want to come back to live with you, or perhaps there’s a grandchild in your future. Your job is to look ahead, as best you can, and set yourself up for the most likely possibilities. You’re retired, but you still may have to adapt your lifestyle to new situations.
5. We can’t afford to lose our friends. Many older people are lonely. They’ve lost some friends and others have moved away. The kids may be halfway across the country. So don’t just plan where you’re going to live and what you’re going to do. Figure out who you’re going to do it with. Don’t be shy about signing up at your local senior center or trying out a new activity where you can meet new people, whether it’s joining a card group or taking a dance class. If you decide to relocate, consider where your friends are going and whether you want to join them. Make sure to find a place that will welcome you as a newcomer, such as a retirement mecca, an over-55 community or just a neighborhood with lots of friendly people.
[See: 10 Costs You Can Eliminate in Retirement.]
6. We can’t afford to take our family for granted. Our kids, or our siblings, may have been around so long that we assume they will always be there for us. But they can move away for a job or a new lifestyle. Make an effort to stay connected to your family. Before you retire to Hawaii, Key West or another country, think about your family, and don’t underestimate the pull of children and grandchildren. For most of us, they’re worth sticking around for.
Tom Sightings is the author of “You Only Retire Once” and blogs at Sightings at 60.