As promised, for now, let’s finish up our discussion on non-financial and financial advice in retirement. I say, for now, because we will no doubt be revisiting these topics in the future.
First, let’s revisit the topic of non-financial advice.
In the last column, I suggested talking to others who are in retirement about their best non-financial retirement advice, especially if they seem to have an active and fulfilling retirement. So, I asked some of the people that I know, who I feel meet this criteria, for their best advice. This will give you an idea of the kinds of great ideas that you will hear, that might help you build a non-financial retirement plan:
• Retire to something, not from something.
• Stay busy, stay involved, and create new dreams.
• Set some goals for learning and doing new things from time to time, knowing that you may have to give up some old things to make room for the new ones.
Another piece of non-financial retirement advice that you commonly hear is to start early to “declutter” some of those possessions that you have spent a lifetime accumulating, but that you are not necessarily really using or enjoying any longer. As retirement gets nearer, consider starting to give things away, sell things, and, yes, possibly even throw some things away. This would also be a good time to consider downsizing your living space.
Another important piece of non-financial advice is to make sure that, in retirement, your socialization needs will be met. Know that if most of your friendships and your social life have revolved around your work, that may not continue once you are gone from the workplace. It may be that all of your socialization needs can be met by non-workplace friends, family, and your retirement activities, like sports or volunteering, but sit down and analyze how you are going to meet all of your particular needs. Everyone is different — some need more friends than others, some just need a lot of acquaintances and activities. Know yourself, know what you need, and insure that your needs can be met.
A final piece of non-financial retirement advice is to be aware that it is important to build structure into your retirement, especially early on. Even if you didn’t really “enjoy” every aspect of your work or career, it provided you with structure. What time you got up, what time you had to be at work, daily or weekly meetings, a regular lunch hour, and more. You may not have to be as structured, but you cannot just drift and make it up as you go along. A lack of structure has negatively impacted too many retirees.
Let’s turn now to some additional financial retirement advice, with the understanding that there is not much new, but that review and reinforcement is important.
First, perhaps this is a combination of both. Hopefully you have saved, saved, saved for that retirement with dignity, which probably included making more than a few financial sacrifices. You have implemented each and every aspect of your “specific to you financial plan,” and you have what you believe to be enough income and principle in retirement to live a long and enjoyable retirement. Now it’s time to do a little attitude adjustment — be willing to actually spend some of that money that you worked so hard to save. After all, that is what you worked so hard for — so enjoy some of it without feeling guilty. It may not be easy, but develop an “it is ok” mindset.
Second, remember that most financial experts estimate that you will need 70 to 90% of your preretirement income to maintain your standard of living when you retire. To be honest, I don’t think that the average American, in our hyper-consumer, keep-up, have-it-all society, can envision a world in retirement where they would voluntarily LOWER their standard of living. Also, going into debt to maintain that standard of living may not be possible, as your income decreases. Also, did your financial plan really include a component of servicing consumer debt, like credit card debt, in your retirement? I, for one, hope not.
Third, don’t touch your retirement savings, even to help your children with college costs. I know that sounds harsh, but if you lose principal and interest, and perhaps also lose tax benefits and have to pay penalties, in the end, who are you really helping?
Fourth, make sure that you know what your Social Security benefits will be at early retirement, and at full retirement for your age, and then factor that into your overall retirement plan.
Fifth, although not all professionals agree, I personally still believe that paying off your mortgage makes sense. Sure, you will still have to pay the real estate taxes and insurance, but you will otherwise be living in your home “rent free.” You can easily establish your own monthly escrow for those taxes and insurance, and not having that monthly payment will be another stress reliever.
In addition, I believe that you should do everything that you can to enter into retirement debt-free, but that is just me. Why would you go into retirement with credit card debt, which says that you are still living above your means, rather than having made the necessary adjustment to living below your means?
As I indicated, we will no doubt revisit these subjects often in the future, but they are subjects that you can’t think too much about, or act too much on.
In the next column I want to discuss, among other things, a few observations and discussions from a recent trip to New York City.
John Ninfo is a retired bankruptcy judge and the founder of the National CARE Financial Literacy Program. Find his previous weekly columns at http://www.mpnnow.com/search?text=Ninfo or at http://www.monroecopost.com/search?text=Ninfo.