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.