Counting Down to Retirement

My husband, Scott, has always loved surveying. So, imagine my surprise when hubby told me that he wants to retire in one year. Not that I blame him. Shockingly, the housing market took off during the pandemic and our family engineering business has become extremely hectic and stressful.

We’ve always supported each other’s goals and dreams, so I quickly jumped on board.

What the Experts Say

Some experts predict some pretty dismal golden years for baby boomers who are known to have skimpy savings. Many suggest that a decline in health and the emotional changes that come with leaving the workforce could leave some boomers unhappy in retirement.

But hold on.

Using data from the University of Michigan Health and Retirement Study, researchers at George Mason University and Utah State University discovered retiring is associated with an immediate increase in happiness and an improvement in health.

And that’s not all.

Chances are if you are an older boomer who has been retired for a few years, you’re feeling pretty good about your finances – even if you don’t have that million dollar-plus nest egg experts say you need. That’s what Ameriprise Financial discovered in a survey. Turns out 76 percent of boomers with $100,000 in investable assets who retired in the last five years felt satisfied and “in control” of that decision.

Andrew Meadows, producer of the documentary, Broken Eggs, says he sees seniors getting creative with figuring out how to stay happy while also making ends meet after leaving their careers.

Maybe the news isn’t all bad for us boomers who are planning to retire.

At any rate, we’re moving forward and the countdown is on. I know we need to make some big decisions. Since I know many of you baby boomers are in the same boat, I’m sharing some of the actions we’re taking. Keep in mind, I’m not a financial planner and am not including steps you personally may need to take before retiring.

The following list is not a comprehensive one, just some of our thoughts as we plan for the future.

Doing the Math 

Our first step was to check out what our social security benefits will be if we start taking it in a year. If you want to check your online account to review how much your benefits will contribute to your retirement income, click this link.

If you’re planning to retire, your preparations may include talking to your boss and Human Resources department to review your pension and health insurance options. If you’ll be over 65 when you retire, you’ll need to explore your Medicare options as well.

Many experts recommend test driving a retirement budget. That includes estimating future income and trying to live on that amount for at least a few month before actually retiring. Sounds like a good idea to me. This way we’ll know if our budget is realistic or not.

Downsizing and Relocating

As I wrote in a prior blog, Scott and I downsized to a 400-square-foot casita while renting our 3000-square-foot main house to our son and his family.

Fascinated with minimalism and tiny houses, we wanted to live a simpler life to have more time and freedom for meaningful activities and adventures. As an added benefit, downsizing allowed us to sock away money in savings and retirement accounts.

After a couple of years, we had no regrets and enjoyed our new lifestyle.

Since we do not plan to stay here in the desert after retirement, we are currently selling our house, trying to take advantage of a robust real estate market to help finance our retirement. We hope to make enough money so we can purchase a much smaller home outright. If this is going to work, we need to make sure we no longer have a mortgage payment.

We live in the California desert, where electric bills are sky high. Although we don’t know for sure where we will land, we need to look for a place with less expensive utility bills.

Staying Out of Debt

Experts recommend eliminating debt as a first step toward retirement. Thankfully, my husband and I do not have any credit card debt. In addition, our cars and travel trailer are also paid for in full. We’ve always tried to live our lives this way, which is paying off now.

We plan to spend wisely and continue to stay out of debt as we approach retirement.

Saving Money

Although my husband and I are life-long savers, saving money is a high priority as we prepare to retire soon.

Actually, the pandemic helped us save money since we stopped traveling, eating out at restaurants, and visiting the beauty salon for more than a year. There were some financial lessons to be learned for sure. As mentioned before, we also saved money by downsizing.

We’ll continue to put away as much as possible this next year.

Thinking About Part-time Gigs

Many boomers haven’t saved enough for retirement and look for ways to make extra money to supplement their social security, pensions, and retirement savings. Hubby is considering his options.

Interestingly, some boomers choose to launch an “encore career” as an entrepreneur after retirement. They want to continue working after retiring – but on their own terms, pursuing their interests and passions before it’s too late. Scott is burned out and not sure he wants to stay in the civil engineering business, so there is a chance he’ll take this route.

Myself, I’ll always write and plan on continuing to do so. Freelancing allows me to live anywhere we choose. However, I am giving thought to other income streams from my next book, which is aimed at helping people whose dream it is to write in retirement. Perhaps online courses or a writing boot camp? Stay tuned. I’ll share my plans in a future blog.

Creating a Retirement Bucket List

Now comes the fun part.

Research has shown building a list of things you want to accomplish in retirement helps make a smooth transition.

At the top of our list is traveling cross country in our travel trailer. We’ve always been involved in volunteer work and will continue to do so. Staying in shape and healthy is also a priority, so we’ll continue hiking and cycling. If you read this blog, you know that my husband and I love to travel and seek new adventures. I’m excited we’ll have more time to do so.

Since the transition into retirement is a major life change, I’d recommend having a detailed plan to manage that transition. Be sure and develop your own steps to take in the year before retirement.

Now it’s your turn. Are you retired? What’s your best advice for us? Are you planning to retire in the near future? What’s on your list as you begin to prepare? Please share in the comments below!

 

 

juliegorges

Julie A. Gorges is the author of two young adult novels, Just Call Me Goody Two Shoes and Time to Cast Away and co-author of Residential Steel Design and Construction published by McGraw Hill. In addition, hundreds of her articles and short stories have been published in national and regional magazines, and she received three journalism awards from the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association while working as a newspaper reporter. Julie currently lives in southern California with her husband, Scott, and has two grown children and three grandchildren.

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5 Responses

  1. Cat Michaels says:

    All the best on this next chapter of your life. Eager to see where and what your next home will be! I left the 9-5 routine to write as you want to do. Hardest for me was losing my daily work place social network. Writing is solitary, so I put a lot of effort into finding other social connections. It also took time to establish a regular routine after being regimented for years. It was challenging but love the freedom of making those choices!

    • juliegorges says:

      Thanks for sharing your experience! I’m more worried about my husband adjusting from a hectic 9 to 5 job than myself. But he’s really looking forward to slowing down. I’ve been helping out part-time at our family’s engineering business lately, but have been a full-time freelance writer in the past and for the most part enjoyed it. We are excited about this next chapter in life, wherever we land!

  2. Hi Julie, this is a very timely post for me. We have begun discussing retirement too. Hubby works for a company in PNG, with the pandemic this has meant he has been working from home for nearly two years. He is in no rush to start travelling overseas again, so it looks like it might be time for that retirement plan. He has plenty of hobbies to pursue, but we do need an investment strategy. As a writer I don’t feel I will ever retire. I will always write whenever the muse gives me inspiration. Wishing you well on the next path of your journey.

  3. Great article, Julie and such important things to consider.
    My hubby is going through this phase, as well.
    Looking forward to hearing about more of your adventures, as I know you two will have many.

  4. Julie says:

    Although we are a little way off from retiring it really is never to early to start thinking of it. Although I want to write well into my 90s, I want the option of not having to work if I want as well!

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