Let’s face it … today’s media hasn’t done a good job of depicting retirement. How many movies, tv shows, and cartoon strips out there have constantly relied on the tired old tropes like the retired couple with too much time on their hands, the husband constantly underfoot, the winding down of people’s lives (and usefulness), or the restrictions on things like personal freedom, mobility, and income?
No, the media really hasn’t made retirement seem all that cool. Though things are better than they were a few decades ago, all too often there’s still that vibe of getting put out to pasture.
Well, to Hell with them!
Rather than see it as a time where your best years are behind you, it’s time to see it as the chance of having a second adulthood (or yes, possibly a second childhood), but in order to pull that off, you need to plan ahead. All of the wonderful plans in the world will come to nothing if you don’t have the resources to pull them off!
Start Socking Away Money Now
Putting away money for your eventual retirement is one of those rare activities that falls in the category of “No such thing as overdoing it”. Anything you put away for retirement will come back to you when you really need it, so the more you save up, the more you will have when that day comes, and consequently, the more you will be able to do.
If you’re starting off when you’re young (as in, your 20’s and 30’s), consider payroll deductions for an IRA or 401K, especially if your company offers matching contributions. That way, the money saved is invisible; your net pay already has taken out the money so that you don’t have to.
Or consider making investments that yield lower returns but are also lower risk. After all, if you have more time on your hands, then the onus is not on you to try to turn over an investment quickly, so being content with smaller gains is acceptable. Let it build, slow and steady, without taking big chances.
Define Your Expectations
Okay, so maybe there are people out there who DO want their retirement to be a time of winding down and doing nothing. That’s fine; some people have had busy, overly eventful lives, and may relish the lack of stuff to do. Fair enough, we won’t judge.
But that’s why it’s important to sit down and ask yourself “How do I see myself when I’m retired?”. What do you want from your retirement? After all, we’re talking here about finally not being obligated or relied upon to show up at a job day in and day out, or caring for kids, or any other responsibility. How do you want to spend that freedom?
As the article “Retirement Planning: 9 Tips for What to Do When You Retire” observes, “when you’ve spent your life carefully planning, there’s no reason not to indulge.”
Put Your Plan Together And Stick To It
So you’re saving up, and you know what you want from retirement. The final step is putting together your plan and following it. Figure out what age you want to be when you retire, where you want to live, what goals you have for saving up your nest egg, all of it. Also figure out what your expenses will be, such as financial obligations. When do you expect to have the house paid off? What about making sure all loans and debts are paid off?
Quantify what steps you’re going to take, write them down, and begin to implement the plan. A little effort each day, or week, or month, will add up and make all of the difference in the long run. Again, the sooner you start, the more flexibility and choices you have.
Unexpected expenses can make getting by on a fixed income after retirement difficult. Taking out a reverse-mortgage on your home can help to counteract that problem, but you must be aware that such a loan has both benefits and potential drawbacks. For example, one of the reverse mortgage disadvantages is that you will be obligated to stay in your home for the duration of the loan, pay the loan balance back in full when you move, or allow your home to be auctioned off. On the other hand, reverse loan benefits include having no monthly payments to make to your lender, maintaining full ownership of your home while you live in it, and being able to spend the borrowed money on anything you choose to make your retirement more comfortable.
There is no reason why retirement can’t be a fun, active time. It’s amazing how fast time flies. Start making plans now, and enjoy the results years from now.