The average American spends four decades dreaming and saving for retirement. Some transition well. Others struggle. Advertisers portray retirement as a life of leisure – endless walks on the beach and rounds of golf. But as Mitch Anthony wrote in “New Retirementality,” playing golf every day risks two things – first you get bored, and second, you become boring. Retirement is supposed to be fun and a time of rejuvenation. But according to a survey by USA Today, about two-thirds of retirees said they had challenges adjusting to retirement.
Rather thinking about planning for retirement, think the phases you are likely to navigate and negotiate. The three phases of retirement are Honeymoon, New Directions and Reflections. Each phase is defined more by distinct situations, needs and spending rates, than by time. And each has unique financial planning issues. This article is intended to give you some ideas as we focus on the middle phase.
New Directions phase (age 75 – 84) is a pause from the go-go of the prior Honeymoon phase. That period may have been fun and busy. But now, many shift and re-think what they want from their lives while they’re still able. They include simpler things in life, finding new identities (being productive), or new relationships (circles and groups). Think about these two insights by MIT AgeLab. First, we will see a depletion of resources during retirement – financial, cognitive, physical and social – and hopefully gradual and not abrupt. We press on the gas but want to make sure there’s enough in the tank to finish the trip. And second, a 60-year old routine is broken – get dressed, eat breakfast, go to school or work, come home, eat, and go to bed. A new routine is needed.
- Primary retiree concerns: “Shall I stay or shall I go?” Conversations arise about downsizing or moving closer to the children, someplace warmer, or nearby healthcare. Concerns emerge about longevity and mortality. These include finding yourself suddenly alone (loss of a spouse), caregiving (giving or receiving end), and giving up the car keys (mobility and independence). Do you remarry? Some make new relationships but keep things separate (finances, homes, etc.). According to Pew Research, about half of those 65 or older remarry. Yet another interesting finding from the Office of National Statistics is that women 65 or older are four times less likely to remarry than their male counterparts perhaps supporting the notion that women mourn and men replace.
- Cash flow planning: The rate of spending tends to decrease as retirees settle and get into a groove. Some planners refer to this as a “retirement smile” effect where retirees spend more in early retirement, flatten in the middle, then rise with healthcare costs. However, spending priorities shift (you travel less but buy airline tickets for the kids to visit you, or rising home or rental maintenance costs as you hire more help).
- Investment strategies: Is cash flow keeping pace with living costs? The drive for simplicity continues – fewer cats to herd – consolidating, hiring property managers, etc. And interestingly, I see less concern with market events or crisis du jour. I remember a quote by Warren Buffett’s business partner Charlie Monger a couple years ago, “The older I get, the less concerned I am with the state of US economy.” He’s now 94 years young.
- Estate plan: Review and update wills, trust, POAs and beneficiary designations. How about a professional trustee in lieu of one of your kids to help maintain harmony in the family, or you need special talent? Have you identified new causes or organizations that are ideal for legacy gifting?
Da Vinci, Edison and Ford are known for their innovations that changed the world. However, there’s also the Museum of Failures in Helsingborg Sweden with examples like the hydrogen blimp, Concorde jet and Segway. Prior miscues serve the wise as lessons learned. Hopefully, these insights give you some ideas ponder and nudge you to action. Forget the rearview mirror. The future is closer than you think.
You can also view this article on Reno Gazette Journal.