Sunday, August 14, 2011

Regrets, Nana Has a Few

In my last post I wrote about ten things that I had done right to prepare for retirement.  Today I address the things that I would do differently.

Plan:  I made the decision to retire quite suddenly.  Although I was eligible for full retirement, I didn’t have an exit plan in place.  I made the decision to retire when I lost total respect for the people I worked for and it became too difficult to continue to pretend that everything was okay.  Granted there was talk of changes to the actuarial tables that would have impacted the amount of my monthly benefits, but for me it was an emotional, not reasoned,  thought process that led to my decision.  Other bloggers have related accounts of their retirement plans; all in all I think that it is probably wiser to devise an exit strategy at least six months before a retirement date.

Take full advantage of employment related benefits:  There were benefits that I received as an employee that are not available to me in retirement.  Before retirement I should have had all my dental work done since my post-retirement plan does not include dental.  Six months before your final retirement date, get in to see your dentist and doctor and get EVERYTHING checked and fixed.  Because I retired with only 30 days notice, I didn’t have time to get an appointment with my dentist and get a few things fixed before my insurance expired.  My employer also offered an Employee Assistance Program that offered, among other things, free access to counseling.  Heck, it was free.  I should have taken the three free counseling sessions and had some assistance coming up with a post-retirement plan.

Start saving for retirement sooner:  I had retirement savings, but they took a big, well really gigantic, loss in the stock market crash a few years ago.  They are starting to recover but I wish I had more in savings to supplement my income from my pension and future social security income.  When I was younger I didn’t think about retirement.  Had I listened to advice and acted on it, I would have a lot more money in the bank.

Decide where and how you want to live in retirement and act on it before you retire:  If I were buying a house to live in for retirement, I wouldn’t buy the house I now live in.  If, for example, the spouse or I had to use a wheelchair, my current house is not fully accessible.  Although it is all on one level, there are stairs at both the front door and rear that would make getting in the house a challenge.  There is nothing that stops us from downsizing now, but  my sense is that it would have been easier to secure funding (and pay it off) while we were both still working.

Get a hobby or a plan for staying active:  The first few months of my retirement were a challenge for me.  After the retirement trip to Hawaii and cleaning out my long neglected garage, I had no plan for what to do with my days.  I am still envious of the people with well thought out retirement plans that include a bucket list of activities.  I’m still fumbling around doing whatever pleases me at the moment.  There’s nothing that stops me from creating a plan now, other than I’m quite happy doing nothing.  Unfortunately, there’s a little voice inside me that isn’t happy about my slothful behavior.

Build relationships with other retired people:  When I retired my friends were all still working.  It is only now, two and a half years later, that I am starting to build relationships with other retirees…and that is a challenge for a recluse!  I’m comfortable going to a matinee or shopping by myself and it is a pleasure to do these things during the week when they aren’t crowded, but it is also fun to have a friend along.   

Make a commitment to exercise:  Remember these are things that I wish I had done, not things that I did!  I have the time now so there are no excuses (except it’s really hot today.)  Commit to exercise several times a week.  There are days that I realize I didn’t leave the house…I should at least be walking or riding my bike a half an hour a day.

I wish I were one of those people who lives life without regret.  I’m packing around a boatload of regrets.  Sometimes it’s easy to fix…I can return that sweater that made my daughter comment, “Mom, what were you thinking!”  Sometimes it’s a missed opportunity that might never come my way again.  I may be piddling away my retirement years, but I don’t regret the decision to retire. 


  1. I can so relate to much of what you said here when it comes to regrets about retirement. I will have to write a post soon on this topic. Your advice is excellent. I just can relate to what you are saying on many levels. Great post.

  2. I made my the decision to retire quite suddenly as well. It came the moment my boss walked into my office and told me the company was eliminating my job. Therefore, I couldn't plan on getting all my dental and medical needs addressed six months ahead of time. The whole retirement process was confirmed as I realized that, at age 54, there was no one interested in offering me a job anywhere close to my previous position in terms of responsibility or compensation.

    As for all the rest of it, I agree -- no excuses! We make of retirement what we want. Good luck to all!

  3. Gee.
    What's wrong with a little slothful behavior for a couple of years after forty years of doing what other people want you to do all day?

  4. Fantastic post with excellent advice, #1 Nana! The only thing I would do differently -- besides starting to save sooner as you mentioned -- would be to put more savings into non-retirement accounts or Roth IRAs. All of our savings are in 401Ks and so every time we do a withdrawal, we have to pay taxes and it adds to our income, which sometimes ends up having some of our Social Security taxed. It would be nice to take something out of savings without all that happening. So I would advise non-tax-deferred savings as well as traditional 401Ks.

  5. An excellent post with many things to think about. I did have a plan however. The last year I worked I was getting my ducks in a row for our move from Texas to Oregon. I retired on a Friday and left Saturday morning for Oregon. I've never regreted it for a moment. I do have problems making myself get out and about to make friends. I'm perfectly happy staying at home and don't want to clutter my day doing things other people want me to do. I'm never bored. I absolutely love retirement.

  6. Dear Nana,

    I am a friend of Deb Shucka's and have been following your blog for awhile and find it most amusing.I too am a retired educator. I also retired suddenly to care for my grandson just because I could.

    I also wish I had more time with the great insurance plan I had with the school district. There was also that wonderful time in the 80s & 90s when we had double coverage. WSP & Evergreen School Dist. Ahhh those were the days. If I knew then what I know now . . . . . . . .

  7. I envy you your spontaneous decision to retire, even though you left a few benefits out there. What I love most is the freedom to decide what to do each day, even if it's nothing!

  8. I retired just before the crash and had already put all my retirement savings into annuities. I lost 25% of them but still had enough to get by. They have begun to recover, but still haven't completely. Fortunately we were not living on the edge.

    I guess I'm doing it all pretty well, since I have a great group of fellow seniors to hike into the mountains with, a great husband who helps me with food preparation, and plenty of freedom. Great post, thank you for it!

  9. Nana it seems so far away for me just now. It's not something I really think about especially just now when getting a new job has been in the fore-front. I need to save, it's my big problem, at least I have a pension which is a start and with my new job / redundancy combo I'm hoping to have some money in my savings now!
    Thanks for the hints, I am going to make the most of my current benefits at work before moving to one where I don't have years of service!
    Mrs M

  10. I planned the financial part and the to-do part, but the economic crash put both of those plans in the crapper. Now, I'm making it up as I go along. So many Bucket List items cost the kind of money I once had. The best laid plans...don't anticipate financial implosions that not even the S&P called.

    Don't feel bad, sugar. This is where most of my retired friends are right now. Regardless of plans, it's a whole new ballgame today and we're not doing too badly at it.

  11. I am still 10-12 years from being able to retire...thanks for the tips !

  12. Really good advice, and I hope I follow at least some of it! I'm close to retirement, but I must admit, I take little advantage of the employee assistance program. Probably should! I do plan to get the dental stuff done in the next three years, as I'll be in the same boat.

    Thanks for sharing! Your postings are always interesting and enjoyable!

  13. Great post! I think one of the things about this time of life is that we begin to define success in different ways. Perhaps your task is to discover all the many way you can piddle happily. :-)


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