Home > Do You Regret Retiring?

Do You Regret Retiring?

November 23rd, 2008 at 11:25 pm

This was the question a friend asked me recently, and I'm not surprised. Every day the media has commentary about the fate of those about to retire or recently retired. The calamitous state of the economy has ruined many a retirement plan and has had a negative impact on the quality of life of many retirees.

Well, I didn't even have to stop and think... my answer was a resounding "NO!!" Then I explained to my friend that my retirement was planned over a long period of time; it wasn't a decision made on the spur of the moment. But I've always believed that even the best-laid retirement plans have to take into account future economic challenges, and it is naive to think that situations like the current recession won't recur again in the future. Retirees have to be prepared for the best of times and the worst of times.

My friend asked what I'd done to help me prepare for retirement, so I shared some strategies that I think played a key role in helping me be ready to retire and that should help me weather fluctuations in the economy after retirement. And, while it is crucial to save money in one's retirement accounts, there is far more that can be done to be solidly prepared. So, what did I do that made possible my goal of early retirement?

1) I live below my means. When I worked, I lived below my means, and now in retirement, I will continue to live below my means. And while it's good to at least live within your means, living below your means will allow you to be more successful saving money. Another benefit of living below your means: you can more easily avoid debt.

2) Saving by "paying myself first" is a habit. Starting at 16 when I got my first job, I saved some money every month. It could be more or less depending on the circumstances, but I have to say that in the last 40+ years, it has been a rare month when I have not been able to save something, even if it was only $20.

3) Saving for retirement was a focused effort. From my early 20s, my savings included "untouchable" money: my retirement accounts. I opened my first IRA at age 22 and saved something for retirement every paycheck. As soon as I could, I would increase the contributions and in later years, it evolved to sheltering the maximum allowed in both my 403b and 457 Plan. And if eligible for a Roth IRA, I would contribute to that as well. (This is "doable" if you have mastered living below your means and do not have to use all your earnings to make ends meet).

4) I try to separate "wants vs. needs." From the time I was 19 and lived on my own, I learned to be a careful shopper and have always tried to avoid impulse purchases. Over the years I've had a few slip-ups, and though guilty of some regrettable impulse buys, I can honestly say these never prevented me from meeting my financial responsibilities (because I had savings...). As I've gotten older and wiser, I've gotten better at asking: "Is this a want or a need?" Other questions I ask when I see something I think I need: "Do I love it? Do I have something like it already?" It keeps me from buying things that I really can do without, like ANOTHER pair of black pants.

5) I educated my children about finances. My two DDs were raised frugally and were taught life lessons about money: people and experiences come before things. It was a necessity because I became a single mom when they were 7 and remained single until they started college. My DDs had no problem wearing hand-me-downs or bargain fashions. Both worked from age 16 on, saved money, and helped pay their college (along with scholarships, some student loans, and what I contributed). One DD has a BS in Nursing, the other a BS in Wildlife Biology. Now as adults, they are financially independent, frugal young women. And why is this important? Well, aside from my obvious pride, my DDs are not a financial burden on me, unlike the adult children of some of my friends.

So, do I regret retiring last August? Absolutely not, but it doesn't mean I don't worry about the economy or that I will not continue to live frugally. I do and I will. In fact, frugality is so ingrained in me that it's become a character trait, one that has helped get me where I am today and one that will help me survive in the current turbulent economy. As a retiree, I will not "live high off the hog," but instead will "live low off the bacon" *smile*... that is, I will live with the help of what I've systematically set aside for this season of my life... and it will be more likely to last because I have planned and prepared. And although I am careful with money, I do not live a deprived existence. On the contrary, my life is rich in terms of pursuing the interests that call to me and in traveling to continue life-long learning and seeking new adventures.

3 Responses to “Do You Regret Retiring? ”

  1. NJDebbie Says:

    Great post!

  2. scfr Says:

    What a great post ... You're a great example!

  3. shiela Says:

    Fantastic post! I want to be just like you when I grow up Smile.

    You have total freedom.

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