Experienced Retirees Share Valuable Advice for a Better Retirement

The internet is awash with advice from retirement planning experts. Interestingly, many people who write retirement advice haven’t retired yet or are relatively recent retirees (like me). Plus, much of the advice you read comes from financial planners. That’s important, of course, but as you know, there’s more to a happy retirement than simply saving enough money.

Wouldn’t it be great to receive advice from some older, more experienced retirees who have spent many years living through the experience?

Recently, I had the opportunity to query some residents of Wake Robin, a life plan community in Shelburne, VT, through Wake Robin’s publicist, Charlotte Longley Lyman. I asked the residents questions such as “What advice would you offer to someone who is preparing to retire now?” and “What was the number one thing you wish you had done when starting the retirement process?”

Here are eight bits of sage advice compiled from their answers. Most of this advice is not ground-breaking or new – you’ve probably heard most of it before. But it’s good to have this advice validated by people who have been there and done that.

1. Think ahead about where and how you want to live.

This is excellent advice on many levels. If you are thinking about moving to a different place, you will be able to take several trips to check out your options. If you are planning to downsize to a smaller home, it may be easier to purchase your new home while you still have a working income. It may also give you the foresight to upgrade or renovate your current house so it will be ready to sell or to not trade up to a larger house if you have less than ten years to go.

If you are considering moving to a foreign country after you retire, some countries are much easier to get into if you are moving there to work than if you are moving there to retire. Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and many European countries are good examples.

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How to find the best place to retire is covered in greater depth in my book The Quest for Retirement Utopia. This book will suggest new possibilities for where and how you might retire. It will help you clarify what factors are most important to you. It will help you evaluate each place realistically and dissuade you from making a poor choice. And it will provide you with the resources you need to make the most informed choice.
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2. Learn to say “No.”

Once people find out you are retired, you will probably start receiving a lot of requests to join boards or committees or volunteer for charitable organizations. They will assume, rightly or wrongly, that you now have plenty of time on your hands and you are looking for things to do.

Devote some thought to what is really important to you and how you want to live your new life. Only accept those invitations that will bring you happiness and fulfillment. Otherwise, you will soon find that your calendar is full of activities that don’t add much value to your life.

3. Get involved with extracurricular activities while you are still working.

While working and parenting (if you have kids) may take up most of your time, try to reserve a little time for activities you truly enjoy. You will be nourishing your skills and interests so that when you retire, you can expand those things you’re passionate about into the additional time you’ll have.

4. Know what you will do with your time. Plan for new interests, hobbies, and travel.

Building upon #3, retirement also offers you the opportunity to finally do those things you didn’t have enough time for during your working career. You may wish to make a list of the first few vacations you will take after you retire and what new things you will start doing.

You will transition into your new retirement life much more smoothly when you know what you’ll be doing with your time and you have that to look forward to.

Pickleball has become a popular sport with boomers.

5. Stay healthy, exercise, and eat healthy. Stay active both mentally and physically.

The more you can stay in good health during your working years, the better off you will be when you transition to retirement. Of course, it’s never too late to start getting in shape and living a healthier life. With more time available, you have more time for physical activity and exercise.

Be careful not to get into the habit of spending large amounts of time in front of the TV and the computer. This can happen if you suddenly have more time on your hands and no clear picture of what you will do with it.

A great thing about retirement is that it gives you more time to get out and participate in the world. You don’t have to engage in a rigorous exercise program to stay fit, just make sure you work a sufficient amount of movement and activity into each day.

Recent research into ways to maintain mental acuity and delay or ward off the onset of Alzheimer’s suggests that the best kind of mental activity is to learn new things. That is better than continuing to exercise knowledge you already have, such as working crossword puzzles. But any form of mental exercise is better than doing nothing at all.

6. Consult with the Social Security Administration before you retire to understand retirement date options and financial implications. Hire a financial adviser before leaving your job.

The question of when to start taking Social Security payments is complicated. The right answer varies widely depending on your personal circumstances, such as your life expectancy, how much money you have saved, whether or not you have the option to continue working, the relative age of both spouses (if you’re married), and both spouses’ income and level of benefits.

Contacting the Social Security Administration is a good idea, but keep in mind that the representative you deal with doesn’t know your situation as well as you do, and in spite of all the training they receive, they sometimes make mistakes. Verify everything with a financial planner. A financial planner will also be able to advise you about whether you have enough money to retire and how much you should be able to withdraw every year.

7. Understand what retirement will mean for your partner and how it will impact him/her.

Typically one person will drive the decision-making process, so it’s good to have open communication.

If one of you will retire and the other will continue working, you will need to discuss issues such as redistribution of household duties. Consider how it will affect your interpersonal dynamic when one person suddenly has more time on his/her hands or when there’s a shift in how you much each of you contributes income into the household.

Regardless of whether one or both of you will retire, you should discuss what your new budget will be and what changes in your lifestyle you will make.

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This topic is explored in greater depth in my book Smooth Sailing Into Retirement. This book will guide you from your last few months of work through your first year of retirement. It identifies the many ways your life will change and prepares you for the emotions you may experience along the way. You will learn how to design your new day-to-day life in a way that will reflect your passions and interests. You will be inspired to create a new identity for yourself that embodies the way you plan to live in retirement and frees you from the limitations of your former job title.

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8. Speak with other retirees about their experiences, concerns, and regrets.

The best advice is usually first-hand advice. Seek out older relatives and retired former co-workers and ask them how they adapted to the many changes they faced. Keep in mind that the transition to retirement and the overall retirement experience differs widely from person to person, so try not to rely solely on the advice of any one person.

What questions would you like to ask a person who has been retired for 15 or 20 years already? Please share in the comments (below).

© 2017 Dave Hughes. All rights reserved.

Photo credits:
People talking: National Guard Officers Association. Some rights reserved.
Pickleball players: Michael Martin. Some rights reserved.
Father and son conversation: Michael Coghlan. Some rights reserved.

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