The Social Part of Retirement Planning

by Sandy L on January 18, 2011

I have a secret that I would love to keep from my employers.  The secret is that I’ve been planning my retirement since my very first paycheck. I was so jazzed about being able to finally save money that I quickly became hooked on watching my retirement grow.  It wasn’t long before I realized that it literally would take decades to have enough money to retire and that was a little discouraging. I also realized that once I become a member of the AARP, I may become one of those old dogs that can’t learn new tricks.

One of the saddest statements I hear is when people say “I don’t want to retire, I would go out of my mind with that much time on my hands.”  Gosh, the sheer thought of not wanting time, the most precious of all things is a very sad thing indeed. 

The other thing I hear a lot is, “when I retire, I’m going to travel or volunteer or what not”.   What makes a person think that if they couldn’t budget their time and money to travel for the first 65 years of their lives, that now suddenly they will have wanderlust and financial prowess to do it in their golden years?

Live Your Retirement Dream Now

My current retirement plan is not unlike my mom’s.  I have a number of hobbies and activities that I enjoy doing and once I no longer have to work, the time allocation between work and hobbies just changes. For me, I don’t anticipate a big long transition period. 

In addition to saving, I believe it’s just as important to start planning how you want your time to be spent during retirement and start doing those things in small doses now.  I liken it to saving a portion of your income. Invest 10% of your time into your future retired self. If you think you want to travel or volunteer when you retire, then do a little now and make sure you get the hang of it first.

Just think, it might be a lot scarier taking a trip to a 3rd world country when you’re hobbling onto the airplane with your walker and oxygen tank. If you’re already a seasoned traveller, then the physical limitations that come with aging won’t be as big a barrier because you already know what to expect from a long journey.  Or the complete opposite could happen, you may realize that you hate the hassle of going on long trips. One trip may be all it takes to realize your goal was completely out of character and you need to substitute something else in it’s place.  By exploring and learning some of that now, you are saving precious time during retirement.

Invest in Keeping Relationships Alive

I’m very happy to say that I have friends all over the world and I do spend time reaching out to them on a periodic basis.  Some of us go out of our way to visit people if we happen to be within 200 miles of each other.  Although it’s not practical to visit everyone you’ve ever spent time with, it is possible to send the occasional email or keep tabs on folks via facebook.

I absolutely plan on spending more time with friends and family during retirement and when that time comes I still want those relationships to be alive and kicking.  There are some people who you can talk to once every 5 years and you can just pick the relationship up where it left off.  Those people are great.

Spend a little time keeping your relationships thriving.  For me, it’s been tough juggling it all and it’s easy for this one to fall to the curb. Luckily I have great friends who do plan things on a regular basis so I make every effort to participate in events when they are in town. Likewise if I’m on vacation or a business trip, I go out of my way to visit people if I’m travelling in a particular region where I have old friends.

Summary

If you really want to prepare for the social part of retirement take a hard look at those 72 hours/week that you’re not working or sleeping.  Is that how you want to spend your retired days? If it is, then you’re well on your way to a happy retirement.  If the answer is no, then I think you may have  some issues.  I’m all for temporarily working my butt off to get to certain milestones but I think it’s dangerous to make work your life. If it is every taken away from you, you will also lose a good portion of your identity in the process. Scary Stuff.

Good Luck and I hope this gives you some food for thought.  Are you living your retirement dream (even if it’s in small doses)?   What investments in your retired self are you making now? Is it learning to cook, garden, write, guitar lessons, serving as a volunteer? I’d love to know.

{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

Money Beagle January 18, 2011 at 7:38 AM

Very good points. I think I’m learning various home improvement projects so that I could putter around the house and help friends and family that might need help after I’m retired (and I’ve already got the language down, since I think only retired people say that they ‘putter around’). I also love to read and love to travel so I could imagine having a fulfilling retirement when/if that day ever comes :)

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Sandy L January 18, 2011 at 6:11 PM

Money Beagle – we for sure have been learning those skills. I think we’ll be fixing something up indefinitely. I like the idea of puttering around.

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Nicole January 18, 2011 at 7:45 AM

I think we’ll have to wait until the kid (and potential future additional kid) is older before we live any sort of retirement dream. Small children take a lot of free time.

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Sandy L January 18, 2011 at 6:12 PM

Nicole – yes, the last few years were a sleepless blur. I’m trying not to make the next 15 the same. I think the early years of child rearing, getting through college have to be exempt from this plan.

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Everyday Tips January 18, 2011 at 8:11 AM

Our posts are somewhat similar today…

I can tell you why I am not living my retirement dream, I have literally zero excess time or money. I would love to travel more, but I don’t have the resources now. (We do travel, but not internationally like I would love to.) We will have more resources in retirement because there will be just 2 of us as opposed to 5, and we have always set aside money from the beginning so we would have retirement money. We could travel more now if we didn’t squirrel that money away, but I would rather save it.

However, I am working on preparing for ‘what is next’. I am trying to reclaim my former self a little bit.

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Sandy L January 18, 2011 at 6:16 PM

Everyday Tips – I love how your blogging money feeds your vacation fund. We did a lot of international travel earlier, but now with kids we don’t do as much. I kind of deliberately didn’t go anywhere in the US because I thought we’d have time to explore those things as a family. Luckily there are tons of places to see that aren’t too far. Plus since you started having kids earlier, they will be out of the house way sooner than mine will be.

I’m also trying to reclaim my self as well and this is part of the process. What do I want to be like and how do I fit it all in + work + family.

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retirebyforty January 20, 2011 at 2:00 AM

First Gen, that’s exactly our travel plan too. We’ve been aboard and loved it, but saved the US travel for when we have kid.

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Linda January 18, 2011 at 10:41 AM

My work gets in the the way of my hobbies all the time! I don’t think I’ll have much trouble keeping myself busy if I ever stop working completely.

I have thought that I may need to take potential physical limitations into account, and this could change the types of hobbies in which I engage, though. Presently I love to knit and garden. But if I have severe arthritis or another health issue that impacts my hands, this may be hard to do.

Spending time around my guy’s parents has made me more aware of this issue. They are both in their 80s and seem to spend most of their time sitting in front of the TV. One has an arrhythmia and Addison’s disease, so doing a lot of physical activity is difficult; he used to do a lot of woodworking, but that isn’t really possible right now. The other has very bad arthritis in her hands and I’m amazed that she can still prep meals and bake. They’ve never traveled much but I’m not sure that’s because they didn’t have funds; I think they just never learned to love travel.

I would go crazy if all my days were spent just watching TV. Maybe I need to take up Sudoku or crosswords!

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Sandy L January 18, 2011 at 6:17 PM

Linda – my husband took care of his grandparents and great aunt/uncle until they were in their 90’s. Same deal…at some point you get too blind to read books, etc. He seems to think that fishing is the ultimate hobby you can do at any age, so his retirement plan is to be somewhere close to water.

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Aloysa January 18, 2011 at 2:35 PM

I always believe in investing in future retired self… Not just money wise but health and attitude wise. I would never delay travel until retirement thought. Just because travelling in the older age brings a completely different experience than in the younger age. Great post!

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Sandy L January 18, 2011 at 6:18 PM

ALoysa – I totally agree with the travel bit. I can’t forsee backpacking at youth hostels with my toddlers in tow. Maybe when they become teenagers, but not now and by the time I’m 50, I probably won’t want to stay in the flea bitten cots anymore.

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MoneyCone January 18, 2011 at 3:42 PM

Sane advice! So very important to maintain relationships. I don’t think it is ever too soon to plan for retirement!

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Sandy L January 18, 2011 at 6:19 PM

Moneycone – the more I think about it, the more life is about relationships and people and it’s so easy to toss that aside when life is busy.

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The Lost Goat January 18, 2011 at 5:38 PM

As I am not even halfway to the federal retirement age, I don’t worry too much about what I am going to do in retirement. Instead, I am trying to find something that I love to do enough that I can become one of those people who never retire. I don’t have any trouble finding fun stuff within my budget now, though, so I am not too worried.

I think the retirement blahs are probably the providence of people on a more defined carreer track than mine. If you’ve done the same thing for 40 years, it might be hard to change. But if you areaways doing something new, it’s hard to get in a rut. (It’s hard to get seniority too, but that’s a different topic:)

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Sandy L January 18, 2011 at 6:22 PM

TL Goat – I kind of think it would be fun to one day have a variety of little side businesses that always keep me busy, but without the stress of the 9-5 gig. I have a friend who used to grow giant pumpkins and butcher meat during deer season and set up party tents. IT was just a mish mash of all different things but it never got boring because they all happened at different times of year.

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101 Centavos January 18, 2011 at 7:19 PM

Good thoughts, Sandy. The older we get, the more we need to reach out to current and past friends and family and build community. I basically see retirement as doing more of the things I like doing now, except in larger doses, and learning new things and skills. Mrs. 101 and I have traveled enough in our younger years (and I still do for work) for that not be a top retirement goal. We’ll still probably travel places to visit family and friends that are scattered around the world.

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Sandy L January 19, 2011 at 6:20 AM

101- sounds like we’re in a similar spot. I don’t feel like I’m missing out by vacationing locally while the kids are young because we’ve already been to many places. Your gardening hobby will surely keep you busy. Babci is out in her yard from dawn to dusk just about every day during gardening season.

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Money Reasons January 18, 2011 at 9:11 PM

I think I would like to learn to cook and do a bit more gardening. Unfortunately, our lawn is tiny, so gardening consists of planting veggies along side the house… Cooking is going slower from me (esp in winter). But I am starting to grill out a lot more!

I understand what you are saying completely. I would like to travel more, but financially I’m not at that point in my life yet. Perhaps in 5 to 10 years I’ll have more financial resources at my disposal.

Great post, and I agree with your thoughts 100%!

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Sandy L January 19, 2011 at 6:28 AM

MR – I really enjoy cooking too, but not always during the week. I’m usually drained and uninspired by the end of the day and just do something easy. I still think traveling can be done on a budget. I backpacked through europe and hopped into my corolla and drove across the US when I was in college. It was cool and cheap and I split the gas cost with my 2 buddies. We stayed at some pretty gross places, were flea bitten and road side camped. It was super fun but definitely not for everyone. I don’t know if I’d go the same route today with all the bedbugs everywhere.

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Molly On Money January 19, 2011 at 8:56 AM

This is great and so right on! My parents retired last spring. I was not quite sure how well they would fare but really their lives have not change a whole hell of a lot. When they worked they also volunteered, gardened and traveled. They do all the same things but just more of it (and not work!). It’s such a good example for me.

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Sandy L January 20, 2011 at 6:15 AM

Molly – You hit the nail on the head. Most people’s lives don’t change, so I think it’s important to first not assume you will become a different person once you hit retirement age and second, work on making yourself into the person you someday want to turn into.

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Crystal January 19, 2011 at 9:57 AM

I’m one of the ones that will travel more and volunteer more during retirement, but i do those things now as well. I just would like the other 45 hours of my week back so I can add to it, lol. You aren’t the only one who has been planning to retire since that first paycheck hit your hand, lol. :-)

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Sandy L January 20, 2011 at 6:16 AM

Crystal – yes, we are alike, but if you hit your blogging full time goal by next year, you’ll be living the dream decades sooner than most. I’m routing for you.

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Little House January 19, 2011 at 10:01 AM

You made some excellent points about the vision of retirement. I think it’s very important to have strong friendships and plan how to spend retirement – and start by doing a little bit of it now! I’m very lucky to have plenty of vacation time to work on hobbies, travel or camp a little, and visit family and friends. As for retirement planning, well as you know I’m behind! I plan on catching up over the next 10 years, though. ;)

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Sandy L January 20, 2011 at 6:18 AM

Little House – you’re doing great. The older I get the more I realize that life’s about people and relationships and much less about other things. I just had the realization that I get an extra week of vacation this year and it was so exciting to have that time.

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retirebyforty January 20, 2011 at 2:05 AM

I’m blogging and training to be a landlord. ;)
I would like to do more international travel as well, but maybe a longer stay in one spot. Maybe 3 months in Kyoto or something like that instead of the 3 days whirl wind that we usually do.

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Sandy L January 20, 2011 at 6:20 AM

RB40 – I want to go on some wild adventures with my kids before they get too cool to want to hang out with me. Right now they are too small to do the crazy stuff, but I certainly want to go back to Africa with them at some point. I’m so excited about the prospect of doing that someday when the houses are paid and the major repairs are behind us.

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Jacq @ Single Mom Rich Mom January 23, 2011 at 9:39 AM

I think part of the “problem” with retirement is that you just don’t consider the sheer enormity of the time you have off until you’re faced with 16 hours of free time a day. That’s A LOT of free time.

The other “problem” that I had personally is that I don’t putter well. My sister’s been a SAHM for 30 years and she can putter. I’m a ‘get in, get done, go home’ kind of person because I’ve had to be for the last 20 odd years of raising kids and working. It doesn’t help that most of my work has centered around improving efficiency and that mindset has seeped over to my personal life. The less time I have available to do things, the more I get done. Parkinson’s law…

In some reading I’ve been doing recently, the author identified that some people – but not all – need to have a purpose. It never really occurred to me that many people don’t feel the need to have a big purpose other than puttering, little hobbies, traveling and hanging out with friends or whatever. My dad retired a couple of years ago at 88, and I’ve noticed he’s declined quite a bit in the last 3 years since retiring. He’s still freakishly robust physically, but some of the spirit seems to have died out.

I think there’s a reason why many scientists, authors, and inventors in history lived a disproportionately long life compared to the average. And a big part of it is probably due to having a purpose beyond the mundane.

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Sandy L January 23, 2011 at 3:07 PM

Jacq – my favorite teacher in high school always said “the more you do, the more you get accomplished”. She’s so right, when you only have an hour to get something done, you are pretty darn efficient. Wow..what did your dad do that he could work into his 80’s? I like the idea of a little side business in retirement. It gives you purpose but doesn’t have to be as stressful as a normal day job.

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Jacq @ Single Mom Rich Mom January 23, 2011 at 4:14 PM

Oh yeah, ITA with your teacher. It’s only been the last year that I realized I really did “need” about 2 hours a day of pure relaxation with a good book though.

My dad’s a farmer. We raised show cattle mostly. I think part of the resilience is because (like your mom) they aren’t part of the current victim / poor me culture. Cripes, he broke his fibula last week and was still walking around, thinking it would heal eventually.

Yeah, I’ve been thinking about a business of some kind, but the only thing I really really want to do (so far) is to be a master baker and have a bakery somewhere but that ties you down and I don’t want to live in the city full-time.

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