Tag Archives: Retirement

Home Alone: My Aging Plan

Oh! Woe is me. According to the New York Times, I’m part of a growing national phenomenon, an “elder orphan”—no spouse, no kids, out here living alone. Received wisdom is that I should be scouting out a retirement community in an inexpensive and tax-friendly state (if I should ever retire), or at least a one-level house in a location cheaper than my current Washington, DC. And then I should be signing up for elder care and accident monitoring and God knows what else those telemarketers keep trying to sell me.

Instead, the gym is calling to ask when I’m going to get my butt back there (forgive me, I was in Portugal), and I have my heart set not on a modest suburban rambler but a  co-op apartment in a big city, in this case my native New York.

The city sets the stage for the day I have to give up driving: New York is walkable. And it supplies my idea of a retirement home or community: a good building, which will have staff to do things for you, including walk the dog when you can’t or just don’t want to when living alone.

living aloneI used to think New York was perfect for growing old because everything—from furniture to a bagel and coffee—could be delivered to your door. With the internet, of course, that’s true just about everywhere, and I think a lot of us will be the better for it.

But here’s how presumptuous I am about living alone: I want the laundry and dry cleaner to deliver, too, and I want to shop for my groceries and cook in my trophy kitchen (if I manage to get one), but I want the supermarket to deliver the heavy things by bike.

That’s actually pretty close to what marketers have been predicting for years: that as we age we buy fewer things and instead buy more services. I’m more than happy to oblige. And I’m willing to bet I won’t be alone. The Times reported that by 2030, about 16 percent of women 80 to 84 will be childless, compared with about 12 percent in 2010, according to a 2013 report by AARP. I’m not near that age cohort yet, but then again, I’m not getting younger.

My laundry list of wishes ignores, of course, the real world of possible ill health, of age-related difficulty in getting around and the high cost of whichever medicines I’ll have to take to keep my heart beating and my kidneys functioning.

I’m prepared to ignore those realities for a while longer. What I will have to concentrate on is daily structure. Given my natural sloth, I, as a person with nothing that has to get done, could easily spend the day doing exactly that, nothing. Not good.

So as I take aim at a new apartment, I’m looking at buildings that will accept a dog (I’d love a 75 pounder, but that seems to be unrealistic). Those barks and whimpers are enough to get me out of bed at a reasonable hour, and I’ve learned how to keep a dog up late and therefore not start scratching the door at 6am.

It has to be an old dog, one with a little less bounce in his step, just like his owner. I adopted my last dog, Jeremiah, at age 9 (his age, not mine), and we walked and walked around Washington for hours each day. He was big (a Saint Bernard mix) and slow, but the boy loved to amble, and so we did. Jeremiah died this past winter a month shy of 14, so I gave him five good years—and vice versa.

living aloneThe dog triggers the next good thing about a city—walking around in it. You’re never alone with a dog. The pup gives you cover to walk a little more slowly than the office-goers around you and is a built-in ice breaker with people you don’t know who are wandering around with their pups as well. There’s an entire world of dog owners, and I will be happy to be a part of it again.

Walking around the city is really just code for “getting out of the house.” I dread the notion that most of my outings would be doctor’s appointments. So joining something will be important too when living alone. I’ll be closer to family when I’m in New York, but maybe I will find a book club. Then there’s church—any church. And any number of charities—not the fancy ones whose events double as photo ops, but non-glamorous charities in need of worker bees. A city is full of those, and I think we’ve all learned by now that trying to do good for others in fact does us just as much good, even more.

Admittedly, this is not the most sensible or comprehensive plan for moving into old age on my own. But, I have a will and a trust agreement, and my siblings know where all my assets are. So with those things covered, I’m going to concentrate on living alone in the best possible way.

3 Tips for Downshifting into Pre-Retirement

Consciously uncoupling was a word brought to the world by a well-known celebrity to describe the process of separating from her husband. While we may have all chuckled, consciously deciding to make a transition vs. being the passive recipient of a life change is an empowering way to own a situation!

In that same vain, there is a time when many professionals decide to consciously and purposefully step away from their current full-time career to enter a phased retirement stage. The reasons seasoned professionals decide to strategically seek alternative work options are as varied as the options of opportunities available.

So, whatever the reason is for you, if you are seeking to consciously downshift your career and pursue a lighter workload while remaining relevant in the workforce, we have a few tips that are sure to empower you during this phased retirement stage:

Tip 1: Change Your Existing Role from Full-time to Part-time

Employers want to keep good workers and it is expensive to train new ones. There is a good chance you can build a solid case with your current supervisor to transition into a part-time role. First, figure out the advantage this provides to the employer, and then, how the workload can be managed in less hours, or redistributed. Creating a solid plan and selling the advantages can open the dialogue to successfully start your phased retirement while still providing value to the company.

Tip 2: Follow your Bliss

Talents come in all forms and are gifts that express your true nature. When used to help others, they enhance the surrounding community and give meaning to life. Your unique talent coupled with hard earned wisdom and experience is valuable. For instance, if you have an interest in living a healthy lifestyle, this could translate into nutrition consulting services. Enjoying money management and helping others find financial freedom? Then you could just be the talent that a CPA or wealth management would love to have on call for busy times. The point here is to discover a talent that can be used to elevate others. Turn it into a career you love and this, in turn, will bring meaning to your life. Follow your bliss!

Tip 3: Join the Gig Economy

First, identify your strengths and match these strengths to the skills needed for jobs in the new world of work known as the “gig economy,” the “sharing” or “on demand” economy. This is a new line of work that involves online intermediaries connecting independent workers with customers. There are hundreds of online platforms focused on everything from ride-sharing to legal services, consulting, healthcare and freelance marketing. So, there really is a good chance you can find gig work that fits your unique interests and expertise. A few of our favorite online services that match up “sharing” or “on demand” services include Upwork, Take lessons or Thumbtack.

“Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” – Charles Dederich

Be brave! There is always a way to change your life situation to accommodate a new way of living. Explore all your options for phased retirement, find out what works for you as you consciously uncouple from your current full-time role and go for it!

elderly people in a top down car

Retirement Readiness: Mindfulness and Slow Movement

Retirement- a new phase in life, the well-served carrot, or unrelieved boredom? There are so many conflicting views on retirement. As a recent, “early” retiree, I have been asked often to describe retirement. Although I can definitely say that the experience has been very positive, it is often hard to describe it properly. In fact, on a recent internet search of retirement, that is a view shared by many recent retirees. The same search produced varying notions on retirement and different perspectives on the term “early,” ranging from the traditional under 65 definition to the growing concept of “extreme early retirement,” or financial independence, for those in their 30s!

Many women in their late 40s and early 50s start pondering retirement and grappling with issues, not just financial concerns, but answers to questions about meaningful life after retirement. In order to decide when to retire, many ideas need to be explored.

Changing Attitudes

Changes in social, economic and cultural views have had an impact on the opinion of when to retire. For many, it is seen as more of an ideal than a realistic situation.

Economic Realities: The fact is that many people in their 50s cannot afford to retire for a variety of reasons. Unlike in previous years, many people do not stay with an organization that offers a pension plan. Many people, particularly women, have had gaps in their working life or have worked in a freelance or entrepreneurial capacity. These circumstances may leave little room for the concept of “financial independence” after one stops working.

Mental Mindset: Our societal culture values work and our professional identities. The most often asked question upon meeting a new acquaintance is “what do you do?” Add to that a fear of aging, loss of identity, old stereotypes of “retirement leads to death” and other myths, and many people are loathe to give up a career which offers not only financial stability, but a sense of accomplishment and identity.

Perhaps this can be traced back to Erik Erikson’s stages of development where he labeled the post retirement stage as “generativity vs. stagnation.” Obviously one stage of life cannot be so simply stated by one conflict, but this is an interesting, though very negative statement, which may still resonate with people.

Different Attitudes Among Different Generations

Interestingly, different generations seem to have different attitudes on retirement and when to retire not solely based on obvious factors such as age and economics.

Millenial/Generation Y: Younger workers view retirement as financial independence yet a long way away. They are struggling to start their professional lives or have finally achieved a sense of security. The trend has moved away from one career to a varied professional life or different work situations within one career area.

However, a new trend has emerged with movements such as ERE (Early Retirement Extreme), where younger people make early retirement a goal, and to do this, change their lifestyles, often dramatically, foregoing home ownership and making choices for simpler and less expensive daily living. Their goals may include long-term travel or a series of freelance work situations. Clearly, their image of retirement is not one of relaxation after a long career, but a dramatic and adventurous shift in the way one lives life.

In contrast, Prime Women-Boomers/Early Gen Xers often have financial means but have become emotionally invested in a career. They, too, are more interested in an exciting and adventurous change of life, but after years of work, career satisfaction, and economic stability are less willing to make extreme sacrifices to make this happen, and hence, may be more careful in their planning and approach and to their overall “retirement readiness”.

“Slowness Movement”

Much research lately has looked at the concepts of slowness and mindfulness in our approaches to all facets of life.

If, for many women, retirement readiness is about attitude and emotional readiness, then preparing for this milestone is a more involved process than meeting with financial advisers and attending retirement workshops. It needs a thoughtful and careful approach. There is value in taking a look at the precepts of the “slow” movement and the benefits of mindfulness. Experts stress that mindfulness and the art of slowing down should not be confused with procrastination. Instead, this should be seen as taking the time to anchor oneself, foster curiosity, open-mindedness and a sense of gratitude. This, it is argued, will lead to creative possibilities and connections and a sense of grace.

This movement has been applied to studies in education, creativity, employment and health. It makes sense to use it when making a major shift in our own lives.

What are Options/Resources to Finding Meaning in Retirement?

If we apply the philosophy of mindfulness to retirement readiness, it is clear that one can set goals and find meaningful pursuits. These will look different for each person, but they can include:

Embracing “found time”: Enjoying the chance to slow down, meditate, and be open to possibilities you never knew existed. Get to know yourself. Savour the moments.

Making connections: Proponents of the “slow movement” suggest being connected to the present makes our relationships with others stronger, allowing us to be more open to others around us. This can also provide opportunities for volunteerism and sharing time and talents with others.

Pursuing passions and artistic pursuits: Whether this be a new pursuit, a passion that has lain dormant throughout your working years, or a renewed interest in the arts, slowing down, being in tune with one’s mindset, and having more time makes you open to possibilities. Many programs designed to foster creativity in writing or art use as a guiding principle the need to slow down and be reflective in order to surrender to one’s creativity. A good resource for this is The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron.

Re-inventing new career, second act: For some of us, rediscovering or developing new passions may lead to something more permanent. This may take the form of a new career or business opportunity, or a creative endeavour.

What Does This Mean to You and Your Decision of When to Retire?

Obviously, the decision about retirement and when to retire is a personal one, with each of us considering her own circumstances and priorities. For some, retirement is not an imminent goal, while others may find the idea of finishing a career very appealing. It is necessary to take stock of your own attitudes, lifestyle, goals, finances, family situations, age and countless other factors. Prepare yourself emotionally and mentally by considering options and reading and studying as you would before undertaking any new venture. There is a plethora of valuable information in the way of blogs, websites and articles, as well as potential networks to discover as you get involved in other pursuits.

Some good reading:

Boomer Confidential: 5 Things No One Knows About Retirement

Lifestyle Changes: Misconceptions About Life in Retirement

22 Early Retirees Describe What It’s Like To Be Retired

Personally, I am almost a year into my “second act.” I loved my career and was satisfied I had left at the right time. I am fortunate to have a good pension that enables me to do this and to be able to do it at the young age of 53. I don’t regret my decision; rather, I am excited to embrace the new opportunities. My year has been full of travel, the re-visiting of pursuits such as acting and writing, chances to see more of friends and family, books to read and re-read, and even some lazy downtime! I feel almost like a younger person who is “dabbling in” and exploring, yet without the sense of panic about finding gainful employment! I am relishing the chance to slow down and be mindful (though at times I feel I am busier than I was while working!)

The most important thing I have learned this year is that retirement is not a dead end or just the ultimate goal. It needs to be prepared for just as one prepares to begin a professional life, and it needs to be nurtured and adjusted as you go. I look forward to this new chapter in my pursuit of lifelong learning!

retirement age

Working Till You Drop? Retirement Age is a Moving Target

Working till you drop doesn’t sound too bad to me. Retirement age means different things to different people, it seems.

My mother never understood why her daughter wanted to work. At school, she wanted me to stick in and be one of the “clever” ones. She even wanted me to go to University, but by that she meant “dough school” – the Scottish term for “Home Economics” classes. I didn’t catch on to that fact until it was nearly too late. (In fact, I spent much of my youth believing it was spelled “doe,” and that it was only open to those teetering on heels like Bambi and with docile, long-lashed eyes.)

In the event, we reached a compromise that I would go to St. Andrews University and study English, with a view to becoming a nice, respectable blue-stocking teacher. Being a contrary daughter, I of course dropped English after year one and continued with the Psychology classes I’d wanted to study all long. This was an early personal triumph over female expectations and limitations.

In my twenties, I sallied off to London. The one time I took my non-working mother to London, many years later, she was so uncomfortable with its sheer size and cultural diversity that I had to spend the rest of the weekend in a family department store, where at least mum could cope.

Now quickly, I have to say that she was a much better baker than I am. She cleaned the edges of her carpets, where mine are sometimes furry, and was seldom seen without her lipstick. She was a contributing member of society, an office bearer in her Church, did very good things for needy people, and looked after my father in ways most men would sigh for nowadays. But she didn’t believe women were designed to do paid work.

Reaching Retirement Age

As age sixty looms on the horizon, a retirement age when even men of mum’s generation would automatically have retired, I still have fuzzy carpet edges and I’m still working. I really can’t see why I would want to stop.

True, it would mean downsizing my home and living off beans for the rest of my days as my generous pension hopes are filed alongside my divorce papers. (And for anyone who wants to squawk that I should never have been dependent on a man for my pension, it was the other way around).

If anything, I have to remind myself to STOP working since I confess that extended quiet periods drive me nuts and you’re more likely to find me at a computer of an evening than in front of the TV.

When I’m not doing paid work, I clean my own house, dig my own garden, and power hose the decks of my own old boat (and that was just this weekend). I might creak and groan afterwards but love the sense of ability and achievement this brings.

Working Longer Through Necessity

A recent report in the UK said the number of women still working in their 50s and 60s has doubled in the last twenty years and gone up by 3.5% in the last year alone.

Apparently, there are now more than 10 million Brits over 50 still working (from a total UK population of around 65 million) and concerns have been raised that this is down to poor pensions and the rise in the state pension age, which for me won’t be available until I reach 67.

If someone is sick or infirm, this could be a dire state of affairs but, at the moment, I’m one of the lucky ones and have good health. Surely I have some sort of responsibility to make myself useful and keep contributing to society, either as my mother did or by keeping myself and my tax contributions going?

If the tables were turned and I was incapacitated, I’d sure hope people who could do so were still working to keep the NHS going and the lights on.

Taking Jobs from the Kids

There’s a common argument that people over 60 are taking jobs from young people and so should be put out to grass. Wee problem with that logic is that the young folks would then be solely responsible for paying for the care of an ageing population instead of sharing the burden.

I adored working with young adults in my last role; partly I confess because their sense of entitlement was sometimes genuinely amusing, but more because their freshness of mind and the sheer beauty of youth is lovely to be around. We taught each other things every day and I firmly believe formed an infinitely better team than any one age, gender or type.

I also freely admit to playing up my “smart but technically inept” persona which allowed them to feel good when doing things I am perfectly capable of learning but frankly couldn’t be bothered. No one is good at everything, and we all do best when we play to our strengths and encourage others in theirs.

Taking Instruction from “Kids”

Possibly the biggest challenge of working past the usual retirement age is the feeling that you’re looking over the edge of the hill, plus the suggestion that you’re somehow “past it.”

I kept a sign on my desk when I shared an office with much younger colleagues which said, “The treachery of age will always triumph over the enthusiasm of youth.”

You can interpret those words several ways, but I always took it to mean that experience really has a value – as does the confidence and innovation which comes with lack of experience. They are a good mix.

If I’m honest, it can be hard for my ego to take instruction from a client who is barely older than my children. This might even be someone I’ve coached over the years who is now setting the rules. But what would it say about me if I can only give instructions and not take them?

I’ll politely speak out when I believe something could be done better, but I hope I also know when to shut up and allow people to pursue their own path and make their own mistakes. Living to 1,000 wouldn’t make someone reliably right in a world of quickly changing technology.

Having been there and done lots of things, my attitude now is one of gratitude that I enjoy sufficient health, energy and desire to keep taking up opportunities. In the second half of my fifties, I’m a mere youngster and I’ve been smart enough to keep my skills up to date and retain my love of learning.

Given the opportunity, I’ll dance till I think my lungs might give out and have recently taken up lifting weights. I blankly refuse to succumb to polyester slacks and will force myself to try new things which I even slightly fancy (some work for me, some don’t but at least I tried).

I’m Not Ready to Retire from Living

I have said for years that I’m still not sure what I want to do when I grow up. It makes people laugh but I’ve always been serious.

If I reach the stage where I’m not contributing to the working landscape enough to feed my bank balance or my ego then it’s time to hang up my spurs. But that’s the time when I hope to write my novel, bake for community events, maybe attend Church more often and do some volunteering.

My mother had fuzz-free carpets till the day she died at 83. She never had a career but worked every day in life.

For both of us, success is falling off your perch just after your last deadline, not at retirement age. May the deadlines, the experiences, the new people and the learning never cease.

life after retirement

Re-framing the Picture: Life After Retirement

Much as has been written about properly preparing oneself for life after retirement, both financially and mentally. Certainly, one needs to plan, research and get ready for that next big step! I recently retired after a 30-year teaching career and felt ready. I had enjoyed my professional life but was ready for a change, I had plans, I was financially comfortable. However, after having spent most of my adult life with a set professional identity and image, the biggest challenge is now re-framing the picture.

What will life after retirement look like, on a day-to-day basis? How will the picture evolve over time? This new stage of life is one that should be healthy, fulfilling and open to change. The biggest challenge may not be preparing to take that big leap, but creating the new picture in those first few months.

Adjusting to Life After Retirement: Steps for Re-framing the Picture

Step 1:

Embrace your new life and its possibilities. Celebrate past successes. Congratulate yourself for having arrived at this point. Clear your head and open yourself up to the future. You don’t need to have a clear plan nor is it necessary to wipe the canvas clean. How do you want to add to this picture of your life?

Step 2:

Start a brand new picture by doing something completely different in those first few months. If possible change your environment. For me, going to Europe for two months, especially at the beginning of the first new school year was the key! Although we’ve always enjoyed travelling, my husband and I felt a new sense of freedom away from the rigid timelines of the usual vacation. Seeing and living in a new environment allowed me to avoid the usual madness and feel far removed from it. Allow yourself the chance to completely change the setting of your picture, if only for a short time.

Step 3:

Regain a sense of normalcy. When the party is over and life is back to normal, what do the days look like? Many new retirees find that the hardest challenge as they adjust to life after retirement. It’s wonderful to have all that time, but after years of deadlines and projects and schedules, there is sometimes a futility in those seemingly empty days. Fill the picture frame by filling in your calendar – literally! Make plans and schedule them in. Aim for some sort of routine. I struggle with the idea of being too scheduled, but having some marked events in your daily and weekly calendar, such as regular trips to the gym, weekly lunches with friends, or even just to-do lists (of your own choosing!) help fill that frame with a vibrant and moving picture.

Step 4:

Keep that frame strong by keeping it moving – literally. Exercise and good healthy habits are essential – and now you have more time for it! Not only will this help with overall fitness and good health as you age, but it will also give you more energy! Choose something you enjoy. If a rushed trip to the gym reminds you of your crazy work schedule, find a new pursuit or enjoy long walks.

Take time to savour preparing and eating healthy foods. Sleep as much as you need! If you wake in the night, allow yourself to press your re-set button and grab extra hours in the morning. You can now!

Give that picture a clean and fresh canvas and a strong backing!

Step 5:

Get up, dress up. Although it is lovely to have the freedom to lounge around in yoga pants, sometimes it is nice to take it up a notch. I love clothes and sometimes gaze wistfully at the dresses and skirts I used to wear every day. Deciding to dress up a bit, even just for a coffee date or a shopping trip, can be a boost and brighten up that picture a bit!

Step 6:

And show up. Stay connected! Often, colleagues are the best part of our work lives. Stay in touch with people. Even though you may not have as much in common, perhaps you will discover other common ground away from the workplace. At the same time, make plans to see those friends you didn’t have as much time for during your busy work life. Again, these events on the calendar will add new perspective to the picture you are framing.

Step 7:

Give yourself permission to hibernate! Sleep in on a rainy morning, spend an afternoon with a good book or Netflix, say no when you really don’t want to go out. Again, it’s about taking control while maintaining a healthy balance. Freeze frame that picture!

Step 8:

Exploring or re-discovering your passion. Many people would put this first, and it is a very important part of the overall retirement plan.Remember, though, you don’t need to do everything in these first few months. However, start thinking of things you have always wanted to do and explore those possibilities. For me, it is taking an acting class, sitting down at the computer to do more writing – things I spent my career helping kids do, and letting myself become the learner!

What do you want your picture to look like?

Retirement offers a host of possibilities, and everyone has different goals and expectations. These will likely evolve and change over time, but those first few months of life after retirement are perfect for taking stock, celebrating the options available and starting those first few strokes of your new picture.

before retiring

Before Retiring, Make Sure You’re Going to Do It Right

Few people think of Webster’s definition when they decide to retire. For that matter, research indicates that few people do much thinking at all before retiring. Bad strategy. Webster’s definition of “retire” reads:

“To go away, retreat, or withdraw to a private, sheltered or secluded place.”

Larry Jacobson, award-winning author of Sail Into Retirement, says, “When I dig deeper with clients who have been retired a year or more, I often discover a life that’s void of true fulfillment and purpose.” Interestingly, it seems that initially people enjoy their newfound freedom but it’s what happens, or doesn’t, after that first year of retirement when boredom sets in and problems occur.

Almost unanimously, experts agree that regardless of one’s professional status, critical to transitioning from an active career to one’s next life venture requires finding your purpose – your passion. This may sound trite and some hard driving executives may have a tendency to scoff at it.  Yet perhaps more than anyone, those whose business lives have involved perpetual motion often find this more important than they once thought. To point out the significance of boredom and problems after retiring, look at these realities:

  • A study by the UK’s Institute of Economics Affairs found that 40% of retirees suffer from clinical depression while 6 out of 10 report decline in health.
  • Martin Seligman, expert on the psychological origins of depressions, detailed in his book Helplessness: On Depression, Development and Death, that studies show that men who retired from corporate jobs, donned their gold watches and lazed about at a resort lived measurably shorter lives than those who sought productive work.
  • The Archives of Internal Medicine report in a loneliness study among older adults that 30% said loneliness was sometimes an issue while 13% said they were often lonely. They also reported that lonely older adults were 45% more likely to die than seniors who felt meaningfully connected with others.
  • A National Health Survey found that a higher percentage of men and women over 60 are binge drinking and that regular drinking in older women is increasing more rapidly than in older men.

When most people decide to retire, they envision a more enjoyable, less stressful time of life. But the truth is, humans need challenges to feel valuable; it’s important to fulfill their sense of self-esteem. The more demanding the job they once had, the more one needs to feel they have contributed and are appreciated. There’s satisfaction in solving problems and learning new things and there’s also the importance of feeling connected with the relationships formed with fellow workers.

And while it may not be appreciated at the time, there is value to having a daily routine – ala purpose. Once all of these things are gone, if they are not somehow replaced, individuals quite literally begin to die inside a little every day.

So, before retiring, ask yourself this question…what is your passion? What will make you happy when you no longer have the achievements of your job to fulfill you? The answer is different for everyone, but there is one thing to help you find your answer to happiness. Susan David, a psychologist at Harvard Medical School says that to allow happiness to bubble up naturally it’s important to pursue activities that dovetail with your values.

I personally found this very interesting because I myself have been what I would have called semi-retired for a few years now; still working some, but certainly not to the degree I did during the 25 years I ran my own consulting company. I never really considered myself retired; I felt it was more like transitioning to another phase, but always with the quest for projects that provided an accumulation of knowledge. Thus, I’ve maintained knowledge of current business shifts by continuing to serve one of my longtime clients.

I’ve also broadened my knowledge by falling back on my journalistic skills, having worked with eight individuals over the past few years, helping them to write their books – some business-oriented and some in the memoire category – but all quite informative and interesting. As a result, I’ve never become bored, I’m constantly engaged and it gives me meaningful purpose.

Interestingly, this is all aligned with my values. Before retiring, I gave myself a values assessment that I’ve used with clients for years, I realized that the things I’ve done since cutting back are all aligned with my top four values, which are: A quest for continual knowledge; a desire to create results; a need for independence and control of my own destiny, and to have an outlet for my creativity.

So, if you’re thinking of winding down anytime in the near future, before retiring, start thinking about your next phase now. Think about aligning whatever you do with your most important values, pursue a dream that you’ve had but never acted on, or maybe it’s time to spend more time on a hobby you never had time for before. Most of all, as you phase out of your current career to transition to what you may have thought of as retirement, be sure you don’t simply go away, retreat or withdraw to a private, sheltered or secluded place. 

retirement spending

Retirement Spending and Saving: 5 Steps to Put your Mind at Ease

Approaching retirement can be a scary time. What will I do with my time? Will I have enough money to live the life I want? What will give my life meaning? But it is also a time of possibilities. Time to take up a new hobby. Time for yourself – mentally and physically. Time for those trips you always dreamed of. A big part of stress can come from the new financial model that shifts from retirement saving to retirement spending. If you have had good financial advice over the years and been disciplined about saving, you should be able to retire, whether partially or fully, and still maintain your quality of life.

5 steps that will lead you to being at peace with retirement spending:

1. Develop a solid budget

Hopefully, you already had a budget which guided your spending pre-retirement. Take a critical eye to this budget and update it for the new anticipated levels of retirement spending. Some categories will be much the same such as household expenses – mortgage, utilities, etc. Some line items will decrease in retirement. For example, clothing costs may decrease if you are no longer ‘suiting up’ for work. Or car insurance if your mileage amounts decrease substantially. Or, certainly expenses associated with children. We had a pretty substantial raise when our son graduated from college and got a job. We no longer funded his clothes, food, car insurance, etc.

But other expenses may go up for a number of years. Many find that they spend more on travel and entertainment at first since they have more discretionary time. And certainly medical expenses will continue to grow, probably throughout your remaining years. Some increases may last only for part of your retirement. As an example, travel may increase for awhile, then decrease again as you get old enough that significant travel is no longer viable.

But only you have the knowledge about your own situation to predict your new budget needs. And it is critical to make this as accurate as possible in order that you can spend with peace of mind.

2. Get good financial advice

If you don’t have the financial acumen or tools to create your own model of income and expenses over time, I would strongly suggest paying for fee-based advice (i.e. they won’t try to sell you any investments; their charge is only for developing a financial analysis). In the step above, you identified your budget. The other input you will need to know is all your income sources such as social security payments, IRAs, 401 (k)s, pensions or other savings.

The models they can provide will take into account all your income and all your expenses (the above budget), year-by-year, during your anticipated lifespan so that you can be comfortable spending what you’d like (or reducing your budget if necessary). Our plan was one of the best investments we  made toward our peace of mind once retirement comes.

3. Shift assets to provide income

All financial advisors (which I am NOT) will tell you that your asset base in retirement needs to start shifting toward income producing vehicles. Most portfolios will not already be there because earlier in life your investments concentrate on producing growth. But in retirement you want to have money coming in to replace your old salary or wages.

This shift is usually done over time in order to balance returns with liquidity (cash-like assets) but a good advisor will help match your income needs to your planned expenditures and suggest a plan for producing your desired cash flow over possibly 30, even 40, years of retirement.

Of course, one income source that usually starts about the time your work income goes away is social security benefits and these will be factored into your overall planned income.

4. Get comfortable with spending

If you are fiscally conservative, you will probably chaff at the thought of spending your assets while having no work-related income. There is just a paradigm for most of us around NOT touching the ‘nest egg’. But, after all, that is exactly why you have saved all these years – to replace your work income and maintain your lifestyle in retirement. This may be a significant mental and emotional hurdle and many people find it takes years to get comfortable with spending the nest egg. But the sooner you get over it the better!

5. Consider philanthropy

Many people at this stage of life naturally think about the legacy they will leave and sometimes it includes giving to causes you are passionate about. Charitable contributions provide tax advantages as do, potentially, gifts to family members. A tax advisor would be highly valuable in maximizing your giving intention with the appropriate tax write-offs.

So, my best advice would be that good planning is worth its weight in gold when it comes to retirement spending. The five basic steps above will ease your transition to this next phase of life. Carpe diem … you’ve earned it!

retirement lessons

Shifting Gears: Four Retirement Lessons for a Woman in her Prime

Retirement is often seen as the pinnacle of one’s career. However, the emotional and mental side of this life enchanting, albeit often unnerving, change is often overlooked. After years of developing professional skills and social contacts, shifting gears can be challenging.

This life experience is similar to renovating a building with deconstruction and building it back up. It takes time. To aid with the transition, I have outlined four retirement lessons as you continue to thoughtfully and purposely plan for this next chapter.

4 Retirement Lessons

1. Grieve the Loss

With any major change comes loss of the old ways. Grieving this loss has several emotional stages that include denial, anger, sadness and finally, acceptance. We suggest you acknowledge them, tell yourself it is okay to feel this way, realize this feeling is not permanent and allow yourself the time to acknowledge and process the emotions.

As you walk through this stage, draw upon the grace and dignity you have perfected over the course of your career. Remember those times you were stretched, asked to adapt to a new way of doing things without a vote or had to work with that challenging client – you conquered all of that so you can certainly manage this change.

2. Be Gentle on Yourself

Starting a new path requires dealing with the emotional changes and reconstructing different routines and connections. As with any new project, progress can be slow. So, be gentle on yourself and allow yourself to rest – you deserve it!

Prior to your last day at work, have a plan in place that allows you to explore activities that align with your newfound time. Fuel your body and mind with a healthy serving of OATS when forging new paths.

3. Get Involved

Make new connections by becoming involved in activities with like-minded people. Many of our clients engaging in this transition tell us that one of the most helpful tactics they employed was enrolling in a group exercise program.

They found that these type of exercise programs were an excellent way to increase endorphins, connect and socialize with others and rest easier. You now have the time to really listen to your unique physical and emotionally energy level. Creating new routines and connections are good guides to help you stay balanced.

4. Embrace the New You!

This is the new you so embrace it as you create a vision focused on the desired outcome. Just like a work project, create a plan, follow the plan and trust the process behind the plan. By dreaming, planning and preparing for the next chapter, a new way of living after retirement will unveil itself in a way that allows you to soar in this next chapter of life.

“We delight in the beauty of a butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” Maya Angelo

moving to a foeign country

Moving to a Foreign Country After Retirement

There’s something undeniably appealing – both pragmatic and poetic – about the idea of moving to a foreign country and living an expatriate adventure in retirement. Before you pack your bags and buy that Rosetta Stone program, make sure you have considered everything.

Relocating to another country isn’t easy. You’ll need to consider a range of factors, from your destination country’s political stability to the logistics of managing your assets from afar. Retirees need to plan carefully and consider the following questions:

moving to a foreign countryIs your family on board?

Moving to a foreign country can change family dynamics. Understand the impact your move will have on your relationships. Make sure your spouse is as invested in the idea as you are. That way, when unexpected issues arise, you won’t have the added complications of resentment and blame.

How will you handle health care needs?

Access to quality health care is paramount in retirement, so be sure to understand the relative cost and quality of care in the country where you hope to retire. Research local physicians and facilities, then plan accordingly. Make sure quality remains on par with what’s available in your home country. If it doesn’t, budget for the possibility that you may need to return home for certain medical procedures.

Given that Medicare doesn’t cover health services outside the United States, you may want to look into private health insurance or seek out a country that allows those holding permanent residence visas to join its national health plan. Keep in mind that if you return home later in retirement and sign up for Medicare, your premium will be 10% higher for each year you could have been enrolled but were not.

Are you looking for a tax advantage?

The IRS taxes U.S. citizens on income no matter where they live. Even if you relinquish your citizenship, you’ll owe income tax as a nonresident alien. The U.S. also has laws to collect income tax from retirees who move their assets to a foreign country; however, many countries have tax treaties with the U.S. that prevent double taxation, and the same goes for the U.K.

There are no EU-wide rules that say how EU nationals who live, work or spend time outside their home countries are to be taxed on their income. Each country in the EU has its own definition of tax residence. You can be considered a tax-resident in the country where you spend more than 6 months a year, and if you spend less than 6 months a year in another EU country, you will normally remain tax-resident in your home country. However, you should check tax rates and speak with tax authorities to be sure before moving to a foreign country.

moving to a foreign countryHow does the cost of living compare?

A beachfront home in Mexico may cost less than its U.S. counterpart, but you need to consider your entire budget. For example, relocation costs may be higher than if you moved somewhere domestically. And the costs of groceries, electricity, and transportation may equal what you’re currently spending.

Will you be able to work?

Many of today’s retirees hope to work during their retirement, but living in a foreign country may complicate employment. Consider the job prospects for people with your experience in that country.

How will you manage your assets?

If finances can be comfortably managed from afar, expat retirees can keep most assets in their home country. A local account will prevent currency exchange fees and ATM withdrawal charges. You may want to explore proactively addressing cash flow issues — like having your account automatically frozen when you repeatedly access your credit card from a remote location.

Talk to your financial advisor about how to hedge against exchange-rate fluctuations by setting up a local account and making regular transfers from your account to cover everyday expenses. It’s a good idea to know whether these transfers might incur their own fees, and to ensure that legal documents will be enforceable in your destination country.

When moving assets abroad or acquiring new investments in another country, consult a lawyer to determine whether those assets will be subject to local estate tax rules.

moving to a foreign country

Can you adjust?

After the fantasy of moving to a foreign country becomes reality, some expats find themselves feeling isolated. Consider living somewhere with a vibrant expatriate community. Spend a few months in a potential destination before making a permanent move.

How will you connect with family and friends?

E-mail and video services make it easy to stay in touch with family and friends back home, but if you want to see them regularly, choose a destination that will enable you and your loved ones to travel easily and affordably. Starting a brand-new life is appealing, but retiring abroad adds a layer of complexity to many aspects of retirement planning. So do your homework, and make the decision about moving to a foreign country with your eyes wide open.

Information for this article contributed by Merrill Lynch.

Second Career Choice

Considering a Second Career Choice? 3 Lessons from an Octogenarian

In today’s post, I’ll be sharing some insights and wisdom around contemplating your “second act,” or making that second career choice, with the belief that there are more than just two acts during our lifelong journey on stage.

I decided to interview an octogenarian (88 years to be precise) I know and admire to hear her stories around the many “acts” she’s performed in over the years and to seek out some pearls of wisdom.

Let me tell you something about Jean: she’s a college graduate; she married soon after graduation; and she’s a mother of five boys. Jean has outlived her two wonderful husbands, and has resided in a small town in Ohio for most of her life. I often wondered how she could even contemplate doing anything other than raising five children, and I was curious as to how she made that leap.

Her first “second act” began as her eldest was entering college. Jean decided to take some classes at the local university to prepare her for teaching. What started out as a part time position soon blossomed into a full time job teaching English at the local high school. That second act lasted 20 years!

After retiring from teaching, she followed her love of collecting beautiful things to become an antique dealer, enjoying guided buying trips to England and many antique fairs throughout Ohio. Along the way, she continued to write and publish both on the antique collecting she loved and other topics of interest.

The Three Lessons 

Through all of these transitions, a story emerged about what to consider when making and succeeding with second career choices:

Follow your Joy
This is something I admire the most about Jean, and it’s evident in all the choices she made. While she didn’t imagine herself as a teacher while in college (she envisioned a career as a writer or journalist), her teaching position allowed her to share her love of literature, writing, and travel. It was something she could fit into her life as a mother of five.

Be Bold
“If you have the talent, then go out and fight for it. If you have the ability, then go out and work for it. Do what you can to develop your talent and pursue your dreams, no matter what your situation in life is.” Consider this: at the time Jean made her career choice, it was a bold decision. It was still uncommon for women to work and none of her friends had full-time jobs. The sentiment at the time was that, for a woman, following your interests was selfish – especially if you were a mother. Keep in mind, she is a mother of five!

Get Help
Before taking on the job – and with her husband’s support and encouragement – Jean hired household help to allow her to thrive as a teacher and have time for her friends and family. It’s common for women to try and do it all on their own and not seek help. Realizing it’s okay is perhaps one of the most important lessons.

Thank you, Jean, for your constant inspiration and for sharing your wisdom.

For additional practical tips when considering a second career choice, reference this PRiME article on career transitions and choices.

Do You Know Yourself

Do You Know Yourself? A Question to Ask Yourself Approaching Your Second Act

I had the good fortune of attending the United State of Women Summit in Washington, D.C. earlier this year. The Summit is convened by The White House and featured a rock star list of speakers and content that surpassed any event I have ever attended or produced.

I came away with lots to think about and most notably a question posed by First Lady Michelle Obama, while in conversation with Oprah. Oprah asked the First Lady how she managed to keep it real, have fun, stay sane and thrive during her time in the White House, given all the naysayers and media attention. The First Lady responded by posing this question to the audience:

Do you know yourself?

She went on to say, “Our first job in life as women, I think, is to get to know ourselves. We spend our time pleasing, satisfying, looking out into the world to define who we are – listening to the messages, the images, the limited definitions that people have of who we are.”

“I always tell young girls, surround yourself with goodness. I learned early on how to get the haters out of my life. You’ve got to surround yourself with people who uplift you, who hold you up.”

Understanding who and what brings you joy is at the heart of knowing yourself. In my view, the small things and big things carry equal weight, for the small things are a bit easier to orchestrate into your day – a dog walk, reading to a child, taking a run, or enjoying a morning coffee that’s brewed just right. When you have a daily dose of this goodness, you are far better equipped to take on the big stuff.

Be mindful of where you thrive in your work and play. I posed the question to myself. Do you know yourself? In reflection, I thought about how I steer clear of commutes, excel sheets and long meetings, and veer towards the creative design process and challenging problem solving. I know if I commit to a 4-hour boardroom style meeting, I am likely to zone out and be drained for a day, and if I start my day with a meditation or by hitting some tennis balls, I seem to be able to tackle the challenging stuff with greater success.

Knowing yourself also means understanding who and what causes your feathers to get ruffled. It’s likely impossible to keep them away at all times, but just understanding who they are and knowing that their actions and words don’t define you is powerful.

As you ponder your second act, take time to reflect and ask yourself, do you know yourself? As our stories evolve, we evolve along with them. This is simple but powerful stuff.

I am so grateful for the invitation to attend the State of Women Summit and for the incredible opportunity to sit in a room with so many women who are working together to bring about change for good. Thank you First Lady Michelle Obama for convening this extraordinary event and to all the changemakers who shared their stories and wisdom.

 As Women Succeed, We All Succeed.

Ways to Save for Retirement

5 Ways to Save for Retirement

A sense of mild panic can set in as we reach a certain age and face the fact that we could have saved more for retirement when we were younger. It’s been my experience that women generally worry more than men about running out of money. Let’s look at some catch up ways to save for retirement as we approach that milestone.

To keep it as simple and straightforward as possible, you only have two options (or a combination of those two): make more money and/or save more of what you make. (Actually, there is a third option – an inheritance or windfall, and I mention how to handle that below.)

1. Make More

For the self-employed, the “secret sauce” is almost always the same: figure out how to work smarter and get more production out of the same number of hours in a day. By “production,” I mean income. Whether it means more sales, more billing hours or more dollars per sale, you should take a step back and see how you are spending your time. Maybe it’s time to shed an account that takes lots of time but shows a relatively low dollar return. Maybe with a little more focus or organization you can schedule one or two more prospect or client touches in a day, which could yield a nice income jump.

For employees, consider how long it has been since you received a raise. If you have been doing good work, have you asked for a raise lately? There are lots of tips available on how to effectively ask for a raise, but it all starts with taking the step to ask. That alone increases your odds. Here is one article from Monster on tips for asking.

Ways to save for retirement include taking a second part-time job. One upside of this economy is that more employers are looking for contract workers and part-time workers, which gives the employer more flexibility in controlling costs. Some of these gigs have a higher hourly rate than they would if they were full-time because of the extra flexibility it gives the employer, plus the employer’s ability to avoid paying benefits required for full-time employees.

2. Save More

Duh! That’s easy to say, but let’s get your creative juices flowing with a few ideas. First, take that pay raise you just negotiated or earned through extra effort and direct ALL of it into retirement savings.

Ways to save for retirement include taking that tax refund you just got and stash it in savings. And while you’re at it, if the refund was sizable and nothing much is going to change this tax year, you are withholding too much and letting the IRS keep it until the refund. Consider refiguring your withholding, which would give you more take home pay. Then, direct those extra funds to your savings!

If you receive a windfall inheritance, avoid the temptation to spend it and sock it away for retirement.

Ways to save for retirement include doggedly reviewing your expenses and consider where you can cut without seriously affecting your lifestyle. Whether it be controlling the thermostat, cutting some of the frills off your cable bill, cutting back on $5 cups of coffee, a cheaper gym membership or less dining out, we all have places to trim without much pain if we take the time to search.

The options for cutting back are many. As the zero-debt guru Dave Ramsey says, there are three factors in saving for retirement: rate of return, length of time until you retire and the amount you save. You can’t always control your rate of return, and circumstances can alter the time you retire. The only factor you can control is how much you save.

3. Maximize the “Free” and Cheaper Money

If your employer offers a 401k (or similar) plan with a percentage match to what you contribute, taking advantage of it is like getting “free” money. My firm nearly always recommends contributing at least enough to a 401k or similar plan to get the maximum employer match. Doing less leaves “free” money on the table.

On ways to save for retirement for the self-employed, speak to your financial advisor about creating your own plan that allows you to sock away money with some tax-advantaged savings.

The federal government has recognized the savings gap of many mid-career and older Americans and provides tax advantages for those 50 and over to save more. Those include higher allowable contributions to 401k and similar plans and higher “catch-up” contributions to IRAs. It’s not “free” money, but with the tax advantages it is “cheaper” money.

4. Be Efficient with Your Savings

My husband and I lost our nest egg when we were young because a stock broker put us into risky investments that were totally inappropriate for our status. Find a financial advisor that has your interests at heart and is in-tune with your risk level and empathetic with your lifestyle choices. Watch for investments with high fees and brokers who make a living off the trades that move your money constantly.

When shopping where to put your 401k or 403b money among the choices offered by your employer, look hard at the administrative fees in the investments your company offers. Those fees take money right off the top and can have a huge long-term effect on your returns.

5. Protect What You Have!

This is the area most neglected but is very near to my heart. “Life happens” and a serious financial setback at a late stage of your career not only ruins your day, but it can ruin many days in the future. Many articles on preparing for retirement will ignore this aspect, but I put it near the top of the list in planning. I have found that if you start with identifying common risks that can occur, you can alleviate a lot of pain and aggravation if and when something actually does happen. By addressing the possibility of a risk, you can find potential solutions in a calm and rational manner. Trying to accomplish this after an event has occurred is nearly impossible; the damage has already been done. I cover this and other aspects of retirement in more detail in my book The Big Retirement Risk: Running Out of Money Before Running Out of Time.

Nothing we’ve discussed on ways to save for retirement in this article is rocket science. The issue is more about action first and then discipline to carry out your plan to meet goals. Now might be your time to take some action and improve your peace-of-mind as you plan for retirement.

 

Securities offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC.  Financial Planning offered through Lifestyle Planning Solutions, a registered investment advisor. Investment advice offered through Stratos Wealth Partners, a registered investment advisor. Botsford Financial Group, Lifestyle Planning Solutions and Stratos Wealth Partners are separate entities from LPL Financial.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.