living in retirement
You've decided to retire. Now what?
With every aggravation at the office all these years, you’ve fantasized about what it would be like not to have to devote a third of every day to that maybe tension-filled, maybe monotonous, maybe exhausting place. Now you’re about to find out. You’ve retired and said goodbye forever to all the physical, mental, and emotional demands imposed on you during your working years. Now what?
With conscientious thought and planning, you’ve provided financially for your transition from the lifestyle imposed on you to the one you impose on yourself — the one you worked all those years to earn. All the discussions and calculations should pay off for you now. However, the truth is that there are so many nuances to a brand new, untried lifestyle that you would never know how effectual all of that planning was until trying it out for yourself. But let’s take a look at some of the main ingredients that will now constitute life in the slow lane, just to double-check the arithmetic.
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditures Survey tell us this*: Average annual expenditures for people in the 45-54 age group is $74,783; for ages 55-64, it’s $64,937; for 65-74, $47,579; and for above 75, $40,839. Obviously, people are spending less the older they get — even though medical spending is very likely on the rise.
The broad suspicion is that, upon retirement, spending for many undergoes a spike, as that much-anticipated event is cause for celebrations that might include travel, boat- or camp-buying or getting that perhaps-last new car. That spike seems to be belied in the survey statistics, but maybe not — expenditures in those age categories could be even lower without those normal, initial celebratory purchases.
Research also indicates that, for people age 65 to 74, the cost of a home and home-related expenses accounts for 41 percent of the budget.** How does that square with your specific situation? Does your budget accommodate that proportion of spending? Is your home in the right place? Is it the right size? Should you sell, pocket some money and buy a smaller house — or rent? If you plan on moving to a different community, look closely at the comparative cost of living in that area, as well as considering how well it accommodates your habits, needs, and preferences. It costs to move, of course. Make sure what kind of hospitals and other medical facilities are available. Places of worship might be a consideration, as well as colleges, fraternal organizations or other institutions that are important to you where you now live.
The same research spells out how the average couple 65-74 distribute their spending: 12 percent goes toward transportation; 13 percent toward food; 20 percent toward health; 12 percent toward entertainment; leaving little for everything else. If you’re unsure of how your financial preparation for retirement stacks up against your needs, you might go through that list and compare your own proclivities and find areas in which you could cut expenditures.
As a retiree, unless you are inordinately wealthy, you are exploring life in the uncertainty of whether the resources you’ve provided match up with the needs you’ll confront during the rest of your life. All the calculations you might have gone through to prepare for your workplace exit are hypothetical, at best. They can’t be the final word on how long you’ll live, or even how well. So, until you have a clearer vision of your lifestyle, it is wisest to try to live as frugally as possible.
Here are some areas in which you can economize, either temporarily or as a lifetime habit:
- Food. Pay attention to coupons and sales at grocery stores. Eating at home is less expensive than dining at restaurants. As a matter of health, as well as expense, try to stick to a diet low in fats and carbohydrates and high in fruits and vegetables. Plan meals for the week and go equipped with a shopping list. It will amount to fewer trips and more efficient shopping.
- Shopper discounts. Many categories of businesses offer a 10 percent discount for senior citizens. It can add up to significance.
- Entertainment. Movies, museums, and theater performances are just a few of the venues for senior discounts. If affordable, an occasional foray in these kinds of days or nights out beats another session in front of the television in so many ways. Staying active, sociable and appreciative of the sensory advantages of live entertainment is one of the healthful pastimes available to you.
- Speaking of television, do you really need all those channels? Is there a less-expensive option on cable or your dish service?
- New ways to socialize. Are there clubs in your area that specialize in activities you find interesting? Would you be interested in college courses? Are there senior discounts? Would you be able and inclined to teach a course as an adjunct professor and not only challenge your mind, but enrich your pocket?
- Do you have two cars? Do you need two? When you were both working, you probably did. When just one of you was working, you may have. Now, you probably don’t.
The deeper you get into your retirement, the more you’ll learn about your cash flow. But remember that the cash doesn’t flow by itself. You have the final word. But don’t ever lose sight of the possibility of the need for sudden cash in case of emergencies. In the meantime, though, try to stay as worry-free as possible while still remaining attuned to your situation. And enjoy your retirement. You’ve earned it.
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