I sort of feel like this. Always at a point where I’d feel better if we just had a, “little bit more.” Seems to be a moving target. Funny thing was that dh retired and then went back to work. He isn’t making near what he was at his peak earning capacity, but having the extra cash flow is nice. However, being back in a full-time job (along with Covid, of course) has put us in a place where we don’t have the opportunity to take much time to go and do. We now live far from dh’s family, and his vacation time primarily has to be used to visit them. Not what I envisioned at all.
It’s really hard to stop being the way you’ve been for so long. I know, because I feel the same. I watched my parents, who thought they had enough, lose so much after retirement. A major corporation cut benefits to retirees (sadly, it’s legal to do that), and my dad put too much faith in a single stock that plummeted. (They passed relatively young, though, so it didn’t affect them too badly - but I hope to live longer than they did.) That has imprinted itself into my mind, and I admit to having a lot of issues sleeping when we became retirees. What helped us has been using a financial planner we trust. I know a lot of people who think it’s a waste to pay someone to manage their retirement money, but it has allowed us to understand that we could afford to retire … and we feel comfortable that our savings are not as vulnerable to the market as they might be if we were trying to manage them ourselves.
Our financial planner keeps telling us…the hardest transition he sees in retirees is saving vs spending. All their lives they have been saving…and there is a reluctance to now spend.
I get that. I’m retired, and I have my RMD go into a separate account than my checking account. I’m proud that that separate account is adding up – see, we don’t need that money!! – but on the other hand, what am I saving it for??
Actually, there’s a possibility of a second home somewhere down the road, so that might be why. Maybe.
We have a financial planner who we have used to consolidate all kind of loose retirement type funds into his group’s fund. He has helped us reduce our portfolio risk with some annuities we have purchased over time that are doing better than any bond fund – his expertise in finding the right annuity. Yes there is risk if the insurance company fails - Nationwide, Alliance, Brighthouse. I continue to manage DH’s sizable 401k (his former company pays their fees outside of a small withdrawal fee when we remove funds). We have spun money out of that to purchase annuities - am in 4 different stock fund groups that are doing well – I look at long term results and made adjustments with funds that didn’t go down with downtrends and kept really high returns. At the beginning of this year I was getting fearful, but we hear a lot of bad news and stock market generally has not gone bear yet. My small 401k from last 4 1/2 years of work (4% matching after qualified) I just cashed out for our cash flow while we are waiting to draw DH’s SS before he is at full SS age, 66 and 4 months for us.
We sit down with financial planner twice a year and we attend his groups’ market updates and a few social things. We know some of his clients personally. His group also purchases some expertise from consultants that watch specific things very closely. We sleep well at night.
I took early retirement (about a decade early). Great decision. I was fortunate - I had three other offers before the ink was dry on my papers. I ended up not taking distributions (I can, but it is not mandatory) and working half-time for another university.
This was a much, much better deal than “phased retirement”, where everyone who did it says “they expect the same work, but for half pay.”
Half time lets me meet my expenses with a tiny bit left over. Not ideal, but pretty good. I won’t move to the French Riviera, but I won’t be sleeping on a grate and eating dog food either.
I call this a win, even if the 9.9% might not.
I can so relate. i have so much to say on this but will try to keep it short.
What mostly convinced me that we could afford for dh to retire at 58 was going to a fee-only adviser who ran the numbers and showed me that it could be done. Dh had wanted to retire starting at 56, but I told him that we couldn’t afford it. He is horrible at this stuff. He doesn’t understand our bills and expects me to make it work. I felt a lot of pressure. I told him let’s go to a third party and maybe I would be proved wrong. I kind of was and kind of wasn’t. He could retire but would need a part-time job for five-seven years. At that time I would start collecting my pension, we both would take SS and Medicare would kick in, reducing our medical costs. She even said that we wouldn’t have to touch my 401k. I don’t really believe that, but it was nice to hear. He retired this year at 58. He has two part-time jobs, trying to see which one he likes better as the job that he carries for the next several years.
What helped me be good with the situation was a weekend with other couples considering retirement. One couple really made an impression on me. The wife several years earlier had breast cancer. They had run the numbers and could afford for him to retire, even though the husband had gotten a huge raise in the past year and it would benefit them financially to have him keep working for two more years to increase his pension (pension is decided by three highest years of salary). But his dad’s health was failing, and he wanted to spend quality time with him. And, while some people (like me) would see the wife’s possible cancer recurrence as a reason to keep working/saving, he understood that time isn’t promised to anyone. They want more quality of life for their family now, not some imagined later. So, he’s retiring next year, increased pension be damned.
I kept thinking about their philosophy and know how I am with money, and I just decided that I don’t want to white-knuckle these years. The FA told us we can do it, and I 90% believe her. I am not going to let our lives be driven by the other 10%. Even if she’s wrong and we “have” to use 401k money – well, that was the point of all that saving from when I was 23yo. I did what I was supposed to do, and now I need to just to trust it.
Sounds like you made good and thoughtful decisions, @Youdon_tsay.
In my opinion, the couple in the article is not “doing OK”. Had they not lucked into $4k of Covid assistance, they would be in a heap of trouble right now. I realize many Americans don’t have a huge savings buffer (in retirement or prior), but it seems important to have more than nothing… in case there is a large expense for medical, car repair etc.
Possibly they could benefit someday by investigating Section 8 housing. I think, if qualifying, it charges 30% of income (calculated after deduction of medical expenses).
Your comment about eating dog food - Kathy Lee Gifford talked about some of Frank’s growing up years during the depression where the mom’s family bible had scribbled in margins of when/where they had to move for her H to find work, and they did sometimes have to eat dog food. Or the abusive dad (movie based on true story - Barbara Streisand played the psychiatrist/psychologist) who wanted meat for his meal and the mom spiced up dog food – chopped up onion and cooked onion in the butter/fry pan, put in lots of seasoning sauce with the canned ‘meat’ and he greedily ate it and said it was great.
AARP was started - as one has seen the commercial, when a retired teacher was living in a converted chicken coop.
I only saw the commercial one time when there was some kind of recent political discussion about Medicare having less medical services as a way of cost containment – a youngish looking white haired lady talking to medical provider and walking away with a comment about not cutting her Medicare benefits with her phone in hand ready to ‘go to battle’…
Many years ago, I read a book called “Stumbling on Happiness.” The key takeaways for me are 1) we’re very bad at predicting what would make us happy and 2) we’re much better than we think at adjusting to circumstances. The latter gave me some peace of mind and this notion was reinforced during the pandemic (in particular, that we could live simpler lives and be fine). So, I try to worry less about whether we have enough (my wife is much better about this, although she worries about other things that I am oblivious to).
I also see a bit of another thing happening with transition into retirement is spending a bit right away - motor home, quite a lot of travel. Covid has put some of the kibosh on travel, but a lot of people had purchased motor homes/campers of some kind in order to have time with family/vacation - in or not in retirement.
People who see financial planners often won’t spend a big amount right away because they want to move forward with caution and have seen how they do want their nest egg to withstand any financial challenges that can ‘happen’ over time.
DH retired first (he was primary income). I accepted his ‘out’ from work because it was a bad work situation which wasn’t good for his emotional health, and we could afford for him to do so. He would have been allowed to go to 30 hours/week and I was not in his shoes so even though his boss didn’t cut his work to do so, he could have worked his 30 hours and emailed his boss on the loose ends that needed follow through (for the boss to re-direct the ‘chores’). His boss (who I use to work for years earlier) was being a jerk; I just think his boss thought he wouldn’t quit/retire. DH had redirected his time after retirement - for about 4 months almost right away was dealing with the illness and death of his parents who died 3 months apart, 840 miles away from our home – so he was almost there continually with some short time back home when his mom was hospitalized. So in hindsight DH’s retirement did make sense. DH’s primary hobby took over and he utilized his skills with that. He eagerly does all the yard work, including cutting a hedge that is work – and it is like, no problem, because he no longer has the work pressures.
We didn’t spend down our cash available that much; my work was not FT (my choice) but I worked enough for having the health insurance and was productive at work (win-win).
Interestingly enough, DH’s former boss’ boss (who DH had worked some with work at other company sites) had told DH’s former boss to call DH about some contract work that might develop and if DH was interested. You can imagine the discomfort level his former boss had with that call. DH gave his parameters on his interest, and DH knows what the company contract pay will be – it was for future business that evidently either didn’t materialize or was out of his parameters (foreign work site in Mexico).
My “story” seems kind of like yours. I started working right out of college, and have been saving since I was 22. I watched my mom and 2 of her siblings die at about 70, and dementia seems to run in my family.
I have substantial but not huge retirement savings, and I get a pension (not huge either, but it will keep me from eating cat food when I’m 80). I retired at 59, even though if I’d waited until 62 I would have been eligible for a pension worth thousands more each year.
My husband is working until 62, because he didn’t start work until 30 (advanced degrees), and he didn’t always save as much as I did. That put him retiring about 16 months later than I did, and it worked for us.
I tracked my SPENDING (spending, not savings, is what’s important to know when considering retirements) for a couple of years before I retired, and went to 3 different financial advisors and had them run our numbers. All said we will be fine.
Now that I’ve been retired for several months, it really does seem fine. Granted COVID has kept up from traveling as much as we’d like, but I can afford it when we start up again.
I do worry about inflation and what that will do to our retirement, but that’s for another post…
I think you have to realize that some stages in life are bigger spending periods than others. I had this realization when my daughter started college and between tuition and other expenses, our spending was way up those years. I think the transition to retirement can be similar. We are in this stage right now -empty nest, 2 years into my husband’s retirement. We are going to be renting a second place (to figure out where we want to retire long term to.) Besides the rent, there are other expenses right now associated with setting up a new home. This should be a short term spending burst (maybe one year) and then we will hopefully moving into a lower spending longer term retirement period.
You also can’t ignore health insurance premium fluctuations, as they can be a big percentage of expenses. Going from your part of the cost for a company sponsored plan, to getting coverage in the marketplace, to getting medicare.
We’ve been very lucky. I chose an unconventional career path/calling with an eye toward creating a career where I was both intellectually challenged and financially rewarded. This was an explicit choice and probably meant a 90/10 corporate/public sector balance to my work. Independent of financial needs, my balance might have been 50/50. I think I really paid my dues, starting with my undergraduate years. In my work as a professor at a leading business school, I used to say that I had a half-time job doing research, a half-time job teaching and a half-time job consulting. After 6 years as a professor, I took a job as an investment banker on Wall Street, I found I was working fewer hours than as a business school professor, but the work was tenser and involved a lot of travel. I was really investing in acquiring substantive expertise. Then I set up a consulting firm in a field with pretty much no one in it using the ideas I’d helped develop as a professor (and continue to develop). In the early years, I was probably on the road three weeks a month. For years, I was very anxious each quarter that there wouldn’t be clients in the next quarter. I’m not sure I have averaged anywhere near 8 hours of sleep a night since I was in HS – probably the average is closer to 6. In the past few years, I have been able to relax a fair bit. As a consequence, I have a sense that all of the dues-paying has paid off.
ShawWife and I have been relatively frugal compared to our peers, though not relative to the average person in the US or even our state. We have never really figured out how to track spending. Everything is entered into Quicken, but even with that, it is hard to digest. We have loosened up our frugality more recently, but as per the above, even though I was doing well, we were never really sure if I would continue to do well.
@kiddie’s point that spending fluctuates in stages is a good one. We have not traveled for a year or so (very weird for me as I probably had 25 flights or more in the preceding year, half international). But, we are spending a lot of renovations for our house. What I am seeing from my mother and MIL is that when we are 25 years older, we will travel less but may have higher medical expenses or need assistance in the home (or things like an elevator).
One thing that I did from when I started working full time was have deposits go into a savings account, then transfer money (in nice round numbers) to a checking account as needed for spending. Originally, this was to avoid dealing with deposit hold / clearing times in the checking account – i.e. deposit holds or returned deposits would not cause my own checks to have insufficient funds (there was enough in the savings account to cover the risk of any returned deposits).
But it also made it convenient to track overall spending, since it was easy to add up the nice round number transfers to the checking account (excluding those made to pay income taxes) to see how much overall spending was.
We expect we’ll spend on travel when H first retires – we’ve been doing that already over the past ten years, and know how to keep things reasonably priced. Travel is our priority and other parts of our life (except college) were happily scaled back. Our sons are 3,000 and 5,000 miles away, and they live in interesting places.
We have lived well below our income for many years, so retirement shouldn’t reduce our standard of living. Many of the payroll deductions we have disappear at retirement (401k, life ins, extra disability ins, automatic savings deposits, etc.). H’s commute is $600/mo – that’s a big chunk that disappears! Professional wardrobe expense – gone!
H didn’t start saving for retirement til 37, as grad school, student loans, day care and saving for a down payment were top priority. We could probably afford for him to retire now, but he still really enjoys his job. He’d also like to get full SS, and possibly wait til 70 to take it (which then makes throwing more at the 401k a good idea to cover the years between 67-70). I started retirement savings at age 24, and continued as much as possible as I was in and out of the job market with kids and health. Compounding has been my friend.
I don’t see us buying a second property. Think we’d do long-term rentals if we wanted to spend extended time someplace. Suspect we’ll stay in our current house because we can’t rent/buy anywhere we’d want to live for less. Mortgage pays off in four years.
We learned during the shut-down phase of Covid that our house-bound expenses were REALLY low. Even after deferring some expenses til things started opening again, we were still spending less.
We’ve been very fortunate. It all could have gone sideways so easily.
Yes, tracking SPENDING is important. That helps plan better for your ideal, where spending is same after retirement (or maybe even more for folks not retiring during covid and able to travel). It does not need to be detailed.
For over a decade I’ve been noting our “outflow” (spending) when I get the monthly credit union statements / balance checkbook. I total up Cash (much less in recent years) + Checks (omitting college expenses and car purchase) + Withdrawals/elecPayments + Visa (a biggie!). After a few years I put the handwritten tally into a spreadsheet, so we can easily look at annual average. I have a comments field to explain nonregular items. For retirement we also needed a plan to cover future car purchases and medical (which had been inexpensive, paid via payroll deduction.). Along the way, we paid off the house … which enabled us to reduce monthly spending estimate.
When planning how to cover the spending, you do need to consider the tax factor. For simplistic example, $1000 from a bank account can cover $1000 of spending. If withdrawing from a traditional IRA, you need about $1300 since it will be taxed.
We tracked spending, and we determined that we’d need a particular amount per month. We started withdrawing during Covid, and we found that withdrawing 15% less than we expected gave us plenty. Even as we start to do a bit more than we did during the lockdown, the money is still enough. It’s been a nice surprise.
We’ve tried to teach our kids good financial habits - saving, spending wisely, investing etc.
Lately I have been talking about how staying on top of things so they don’t cost you more in the long run.
It drives me nuts when people say “woe is me, look at my bad luck.” And I think “your 5 year old car dying is not bad luck. It died because you didn’t change the oil, drove with the check engine light on for weeks” etc.
There is bad luck, crap happens, but sometimes people create or contribute to it.
Anyway, I hope to teach them to do what they can to stay in front of that eight ball!
I definitely have learned some career things to assist DDs/SIL, as has DH. Other ‘life lessons’.
There are people on this thread that are very talented, have made personal sacrifices to utilize their talents and also take some career ‘risk’ for the reward. They are blessed to put it all together and not have something catastrophic have a long term financial or other downturn in their lives.
When one has a high cash in and is living below their means, it may be an unintended distraction to track ‘low noise’ expenditures - one spouse may know and understand it while the other spouse is on the career focus and needing to expend energies there.
I do think there are some young people that use debit card and do not understand they are spending money frivolously – no tracking. There are lower income people who buy lots of junk at convenience stores - ruin their health along with having no savings/retirement planning.
Like @shawbridge we don’t track expenditures per se, but I do know what we spend money on – the energy billing, tax billing, monthly and weekly expenditures. I watch what is important and what our short term and long term needs and expenditures are generally. We don’t pick up meals or eat out often for example - when we do it is a ‘treat’ (often when DDs/family are in town).
Key for many is having the right kind of saving and investing so their money works for them for retirement. Keeping good health (avoid being overweight and keeping a check on health/health issues, keeping up activity/exercise) so in retirement one can avoid having medical limitations as long as possible.