You are probably saving money to afford a comfortable retirement, but you also need to be planning what you will do with your time. As Bill Waterson, of Calvin & Hobbes fame, said about retirement, “There’s never enough time to do all the nothing you want.”
Retirement can be anything you want it to be, but you have to define that, build the financial reserve to make it possible, and then continuously work toward achieving the dream you have. A lot of us are also asking ourselves, "Can I retire early?"
Before you make that decision, consider what type of person you’ll be in retirement and what that means for when you’ll be able to finally step away.
The Ongoing Workhorse
For some, working in retirement sounds like they haven’t really retired. Retiring may mean stepping away from a management position, or it may mean spending less time on the job. Some people simply have to work at least a few hours a week to meet their financial obligations. Others are passionate about the work they do, and it may even define who they are.
Not working at all seems impossible. Whether you have to or because you love it, the persevering workhorse will likely stay active and engaged while continuing to supplement their income.
The Eager Volunteer
For some people, retirement doesn’t mean watching reruns or gardening but giving back. They enjoy volunteer work, especially in areas they are passionate about, such as helping the sick, supporting charities, or working within their religious organization.
A survey from Age Wave and Merrill Lynch found that about 45% of all people who volunteer are over the age of 65 and 85% of those who volunteer during retirement find that it helps them to build new friendships.
The Extreme Penny Pincher
Some people find that retirement is about simplicity, not because they don’t want to do things but because they feel they have to mind their money. They are extreme frugalists, people who simply worry that they will run out of money during their retirement and, as a result, simply don’t spend.
It’s not an unfounded fear. A survey from NASDAQ found that 66% of Americans worry they will run out of money once they retire, with about half worried about unexpected major health expenses. The only way to alleviate some of these worries is to have a retirement plan that gives you confidence.
The Relentless Traveler
If you use the best travel credit card to maximize points so you can travel, you could fall into this category. A relentless adventurer is a person who is always looking for new things to do, see, and experience. They may travel around the world, buy an RV to see the entire continent, or spend their time exploring the wilderness.
One survey found that 99% of baby boomers plan to take at least one trip each year, with about 40% heading to Mexico, the Caribbean, or the British Isles to do so. If you plan to travel, you’ll need to have put away enough money in retirement savings to have the luxury of travel. Since 63% of people over the age of 50 say that travel is critical to their retirement, it’s worth the hard work now.
The Regret-filled Struggler
For some, being frugal isn’t a choice but a necessity. It’s not uncommon for people to find themselves regretting that they did not start saving earlier in their working life or never opened a retirement account. Those who fall into this group are the least prepared for retirement and typically find themselves working longer to meet their financial needs.
Sometimes your financial situation is not something you planned for. Divorce, illness, or the sudden loss of a spouse can trigger a financial difficulty that makes retiring comfortably seem impossible. Working with a financial advisor to develop a realistic retirement plan can help those who find themselves with money trouble.
The Isolated Senior
For some seniors, isolation is a constant concern and limitation. Whether by choice or with few family members and friends nearby, many seniors spend their retirement alone. This lack of socialization triggers mental and physical health challenges for some. For others, being introverted feels comfortable enough.
Isolation may not be a frugal lifestyle, though. You could spend much of your time alone, but that could fuel excessive shopping or giving too much to charities. Some people who live alone may find themselves supporting others, perhaps even younger generations, just to have someone stop by for a visit.
As you consider retirement, you may find yourself content with just doing what your parents did. Getting up when you want to, eating simple meals, chatting with the neighbors, and worrying about the weather. Some people feel life is good and don’t need or want to spend a lot of money during their retirement years.
If your focus is on the grandkids or new hobbies that keep you close to home, don’t assume you can minimize your retirement investing. You’ll still need to save to support the potential long life you have ahead of you. Still, it can feel good knowing the past responsibilities you had are no longer weighing heavily, which is why some choose to retire early.
The Generous Giver
While some seniors enjoy volunteer work, others like to stay home and donate or support others. Whether it’s providing money for your adult children to meet their ongoing needs or to help out good friends, some seniors find themselves constantly giving away their money.
When you’re saving for retirement, you’re putting money aside for your own needs. If you find yourself trying to support others, you need to plan to be this generous, say no to others, or cut back on the financial cost of enjoying your retirement.
The On-the-Go Senior
For some seniors, life is about going, seeing, and doing, but they don’t necessarily feel the need to travel. They go shopping, they visit friends, they take a class at the local community college, or just find some new project to tackle around the home on a constant basis.
Being on the go like this can be a good way to maintain your mental health and may even keep you physically fit. Yet, this may be how some retirees waste money. Just as you need to live within your means during your working life, you need to watch your budget in retirement too.
Take the time now to determine what type of retiree you hope to be and then take a closer look at your current retirement account and income. Do you have enough to support that lifestyle? Do you know how to pay off your debt? Is your spouse on the same page as you in relation to how you plan to spend retirement?
Asking the hard questions now and creating some boundaries or expectations could help you realize the retirement lifestyle you want rather than one that is forced on you.
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