Are You Ready to Retire? Advice From Those Already There

Here is a quick summary of how to plan for a successful retirement.

What does it take to make your retirement successful?

Those readers who are getting close to retiring start to realize it is a major step. No one wants to make a major error than can’t be undone.

So how do you avoid the big mistakes that make some retirees regret their decision to quit work? What happened to enjoying life without the hassles of working every day to make them wish they never left the daily grind?

The Wall Street Journal reports on advice given to future retirees from those who are already there. What advice do retirees, now in the 70’s, suggest people do who are gettng ready to retire?

First, plan carefully. Most people don’t realize how expensive it will be to live after retirement. Inflation continues year after year and, while federal employees get a cost of living increase (COLA), you are likely to find that this increase does not match the real increase in expenses.

As part of your planning, consider how long you are likely to live. Most people guess they will live for 22 years after they retire. This means your money has to last that long. With better health care, people are living longer and a guess of 22 years probably isn’t enough–especially for federal employees who are often eligible to retire much younger than their private sector counterparts (although with a reduced retirement benefit).

So, if you are planning on living another 22 years, but find you are actually going to live 35 years or longer, you may run out of money.

The second piece of advice: work longer. That doesn’t mean you should stay in the same job. But staying home watching the world series, college football and the NBA day after day is likely to get pretty boring and make you a boring person.

The biggest reason to keep working is intellectual stimulation. You may find you can’t get another job that pays as well as your federal job. But some retirees find other outlets. For example, teaching at a community college a few hours a week will keep you in touch with younger people, challenge you to to keep up-to-date and be mentally stimulating.

It will also give you less time to spend money you don’t have.

Remaining independent is a major concern of retirees. Working keeps a person in control of his life and less dependent on others.

The third piece of advice: stay healthy. Maintain a healthy lifestyle. Don’t sit around on the couch all day (or stay in the rocking chair on the porch). Just because you can go into your kitchen all day to raid the refrigerator doesn’t mean it will be good for you.

Finally, recoginize there is a generation gap.

People 70 and older think the baby boomers have not saved enough money. They don’t feel an obligation to leave an inheritance to their children. Many current retirees don’t think baby boomers will be better off than they are in retirement but it won’t be the problem of those already in retirement and they aren’t saving money just to hand over to their children–they are often spending it themselves.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47