June 13th, 2019
6 Regrets to Avoid in Retirement
Are you feeling lucky? As you reach the end of the road, worrying about what might have been has little purpose.
Before you get there, you’ll likely pass through three phases. I refer to them as the the GO-GO years, the SLO-GO years, followed by the NO-GO years.
When the average life expectancy for a man was about 60 years, few of us had enough time to spend thinking about this, so we didn’t. But now that someone in good health at age 60 can expect to live another 24 years, it changes how we think about things.
Also, retirement is no longer an event like it once was. It’s now more of a transition from one life phase to another. As we move toward the end, it seems increasingly important to reach the end of our respective journeys with only a few regrets.
Here are six to avoid with another six coming in my next blog. They appear in no particular order and I’ll leave it to you to prioritize them. It’s just that six seems like enough to park in your psyche at any one time. I came up with twelve that are worth identifying and putting on a checklist.
1. Neglecting your health. During your 30s and 40s, you may have picked up a few extra pounds and some unhealthy habits. At the time, they were easy to ignore and you probably felt like you were getting along fine. But in your 50s and 60s, years of neglect will show up in the form of expensive medical procedures, decreased mobility and a reduced life expectancy. That limits the number of GO-GO years before the SLO-GO years arrive. Make sure you include some physical activity in your routine. Get regular exams, screenings, dental checkups and colonoscopies. Monitor your cholesterol, blood pressure and weight.
Not traveling when you had the chance. If you like to travel and hope to do more in retirement, don’t postpone your dream trips too long. You never know when your health or mobility will start to decline. In the worst case scenario, you or your spouse could pass away unexpectedly. Once you reach your SLO-GO years, eagerly anticipated trips become much more difficult. Just be careful not to overspend during your GO-GO years of retirement. It’s a delicate balancing act.
Working too long. If you’re approaching retirement with inadequate savings, working a few more years might be necessary. But many people work longer than they need to, either because they are afraid they’ll be miserable after they retire or because they may not realize that they have sufficient resources to retire. Working too long is one of the most common regrets of people who are approaching the end of their life. Few people regret not working longer.
4. Not planning for how you will spend your time. During our working years, our schedules and priorities are often determined by a job and the requirements of raising a family and maintaining a home. Retirement brings endless possibilities for things to do, but you need to think about what will be most satisfying and take the initiative to create a lifestyle that you will enjoy. Ideally, that will include a mix of physical activity, social contact, mental stimulation and fulfillment.
5. Not downsizing earlier. For most of us, it’s difficult to part with things we’ve accumulated over the years. But when you finally do get rid of things you no longer need, it will feel liberating. Many retired folk wish they had done it sooner and some fully realize and wish they hadn’t bought most of that stuff in the first place. Moving to a smaller house also has advantages. You’ll have a smaller house to maintain and with any luck no mortgage to deal with.
Moving without doing thorough research. The internet makes comprehensive research very possible. Adding projected climate changes to the equation makes living on the coast more problematical, so finding a new location that’s sustainable and supports how you plan to live your life going forward is increasingly important. Try taking extended trips to the area you are considering at different times of the year, or better yet, rent a home for at least half a year before you totally commit. Favorite vacation destinations rarely make good choices for permanent day-to-day living.
Tony Kendzior, CLU, ChFC
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