If you’re old enough to be thinking about retirement, one way to get some insight is to ask individuals who have already retired. That’s what the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) did recently, and though many of the retirees’ reports do not seem all that surprising, they are worth attention if you are within 10 years of retirement or already retired. Here’s some of what WSJ reader retirees reported.
Money and Health
Worries about money (48%) and health concerns (42%) are at the top of the list for keeping retirees up at night. Of the 48% who worry most about money, more than half were concerned about not having saved enough to last their lifetime to accommodate their basic lifestyle needs. Almost a third were concerned they might not have enough even for emergencies and health care costs. For people worried about money, expenses for their cars, travel, healthcare and household exceeded what they had spent before retirement. A recent report of the Employee Benefit Research Institute cited in Financial Advisor, supports the view that travel and other household expenses are actually higher for at least the first two years of retirement than during work years, for close to half of newly retired persons. Many of the people who reported having money and health concerns said they were particularly surprised at how high their Medicare premiums were.
Relationships were another area of concern, mainly the fear that leaving work will mean missing out on being part of the team or work “family.” Retirees who dealt successfully with relationship concerns said that willingness to take risks was key. An example of taking risks was learning something new, which often was rewarded by successful second careers and new relationships. First time exercise classes, volunteering or part-time work had similar results for many people. Some WSJ readers said they were surprised at how quickly they shed their work lives and began to enjoy “the luxury of time” …. an unhurried life and control over the day’s activity or inactivity. The most poignant comments about relationship concerns were the comments about mortality. For those whose spouses, partners or close friends passed away before they were able to enjoy each other in retirement, regret about time not well spent was profound.
Rewards of Planning
Careful retirement planning paid off for many retirees. Examples cited include researching decisions on when to file for Social Security, with a variety of different views given on the subject. Some favored waiting until age 70 to maximize social security payouts while others preferred taking it earlier to allow minimum use of savings. Understanding Medicaid choices and costs was another “careful planning” topic, as was reducing debt before retirement.
Some retirees did not plan well or perhaps at all. Although the WSJ reader report is not a scientific random sample survey, it offers a cautionary counterpoint to the suggestion that expenses during retirement are less than during work years. Putting together a solid estimate of current and expected expenses and understanding Medicare do not require a great deal of time or cost. If you haven’t done this research yet, spending an hour with your checkbook and credit card statements and the Medicare website (www.medicare.gov) and your trusted advisor is a good first step. Updating your conclusions each year as your retirement timing goal gets closer will allow you to avoid surprises.
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