The Five-Year Countdown to Retirement

I now have less than 4 years to retire at 66, and every once in awhile I Google “retirement” and find a whole crap-load of links to investment companies that will help me save enough money – ha!

Since I don’t have a lot of retirement savings, my fall-back is to target paying off the house by the time I turn 66, minimize my costs, and be able to live off of the Social Security benefit.

Below is an article I ran across that does more than tell you to save more:  via The Five-Year Countdown to Retirement: How to Prepare.

When it comes to retirement planning, the top regret among American seniors is this: they wish they had saved more. In fact, a recent survey by the National Council on Aging found that this regret outranks all others, including how well they prioritized health and maintained family connections in their younger years.Retirement planning, done well, starts early in a career but intensifies in the five years leading up to your actual retirement. Once you are within that time-frame, you should be pushing hard on saving as much as possible. But this part is relatively easy once you understand what’s required. Before we get to that, let’s talk about a less quantitative factor in retirement planning: what exactly are you going to do with yourself?

Set Some Goals

It might sound like a question for young people: what do you want to do with your life? But a surprising number of folks go into retirement with no idea what they’d like to do with their time. While the money has to be there for retirement to work, happiness in retirement also requires an answer to this big question.

So, make a list of goals. Maybe you want to volunteer your time, and one goal might be to try out several volunteer opportunities. Maybe you’d like a part-time job in a field that you’ve always found interesting — perhaps a bookstore or a library if you are a big reader, an art museum or gallery if you enjoy art, or a tutoring company if you like working with children. I have a client, a retiree, who volunteers with the Red Cross and travels to disaster zones all over the world.

If you are a golfer or enjoy fishing, if you want to spend more time with your grandchildren, if you’d like to travel — some of the more classic retirement activities — then put those goals on the list, and plan out ways you can achieve them. Setting goals and making plans will lend structure to your day-to-day life, which is a very important factor for retirees used to the hustle and bustle of a long, busy career.

Practice Retiring

This may sound a little silly, but it’s actually a great planning tool. Once you are within three to five years of retirement, take a long vacation — consider it a practice retirement. See how you spend your time, and consider what works and what doesn’t. You might find a balance of leisure time and productivity (that volunteer job, for instance) that works well for you, and having that information before you officially retire will make the transition that much easier.

Simply put, human beings are happier when they have a life plan and goals, and that’s not something that goes away in retirement.

The Numbers

As you come within five years of retirement, it makes sense to conduct a feasibility study. That means figuring out what your goals are, how much money you’ll need to meet them, and how much money you actually have. Try this step-by-step process:

Step 1:  Identify your assets, income source and debt

What and how much do you have? Assess all possible sources of income and equity: pensions, retirement accounts, other resources like property and liquid savings. Next, identify your debt, including money owed on credit cards, loans, and your mortgage. Will they be paid off or continue into retirement?

Step 2:  Assess your Social Security options

Identify how much income you will receive from Social Security and explore different strategies to elect your benefits. You can register online with Social Security to obtain your latest statement. Also, use the Retirement Estimator to receive an assessment of your actual benefits, and learn about your different benefit disbursement options.

Step 3: Determine your income needs

How much, exactly, will you need when you retire? This means understanding your spending habits and creating a realistic budget. Most people, surprisingly, don’t have a firm grasp of exactly what they spend from month to month. Your list should be specific and exhaustive, as the rest of the plan is built on it. Once you complete your list, use the PSA Retirement Readiness Calculator tool to help you figure out whether you will have sufficient income upon retirement.

Step 4: Consider your health and where you will live as you age

While most people underestimate the size of their savings necessary to cover retirement income even more fail to plan for rising health care costs or the potential expense of a retirement, assisted living or nursing care facility. The protracted illness of one spouse could leave the other spouse destitute. Will you have enough assets and income to cover the cost or should long-term care insurance be considered?

Step 5: Identify gaps

Do the numbers add up? If not, identify what you must change now in order to meet your goals. Review our blog about avoiding pitfalls by adjusting your plan. You might be able to put more into savings in the years before you stop working, or you might have to adjust your target date for retirement. It is important to conduct the study while you still have time to make adjustments in the plan, rather than a year before retirement.

Step 6: Develop an income distribution strategy

Assuming the numbers do add up, you’ll need to determine from what sources you’ll derive your monthly income. It might make sense to delay taking your pension and live off of your savings for a few months, if possible, until the new tax year begins and you fall into a lower tax bracket.

Step 7: Conduct an estate check-up

The years just before retirement are a perfect time to review your entire estate. Update account titles and beneficiaries, take a close look at your life insurance, annuities, will, power of attorney, advance directives, and the like.

Working through these important steps — and taking some time to set some life goals — in the five years before retirement will help you realize the relaxation and enjoyment a quality retirement affords.

via The Five-Year Countdown to Retirement: How to Prepare.

Moving to be near grandchildren?

The Dilemma:   Our 39-year-old daughter and her husband had a much- hoped-and-tried-for child last year. They live 150 miles from us, so we have only limited contact with our granddaughter. Our son is 29, in a relationship and lives not far from us. He says they don’t want children. My other daughter is 32, lives locally, and has been single all her adult life, but would like to find a partner and start a family. We see both these children regularly. Our fourth child is married, lives in Australia and will stay there. Recently, our eldest daughter asked us to move near them so that we could play an active role in our grandchild’s life. We are in our early 60s, retired, and could easily move financially. We would love to play a big part in our grandchild’s life, but it would take us away from the others, who might give us grandchildren one day. Should we live our lives in the here and now or wait for what might or might never be?

You’re an all-or-nothing kind of guy, aren’t you? If you’re wondering how I know you’re a man, you’re pragmatic, detailed and entirely unemotional approach to your dilemma is a dead giveaway. I’m sensing nuance is not your thing, but embracing a degree of flexibility might actually be your best option in this scenario.

Before we get specific, may I say a quick “Hallelujah” for the grandparents of this country and beyond. Across the nation and across the globe, the lives of many millions of working men and women are improved and their children’s lives enriched by the selfless dedication and commitment of grandparents.

Perfect grandparents eager to do your duty and torn between the grandchild you now have and the ones who may arrive in the future… Does it have to be such an all-or-nothing choice? You say you are nimble and portable, your ties being mainly to your children, near and far-flung. Why not make a virtue of your no-ties retirement and set out on an adventure that isn’t stamped in stone? How about doing some creative thinking? One thought would be to rent out your current home, use the income to pay for somewhere close to your granddaughter and try out the location and the hands-on grandparenting experience without committing forever?

I’m also not sure, despite your clearly magnanimous impulses, that the rest of your lives should be entirely focused on your grandchildren. Living vicariously through our grown-up children is on a par with abandoning them in adulthood – two extremes of a situation that calls for compromise.

With time on your hands and money to support your ambitions, there are many things you and your wife could be doing – learning new skills, discovering new passions and setting yourselves new challenges. Consider all your options, not just the ones involving your kids’ procreation plans.

Your motivation is admirable and your commitment to your children exemplary, but your plan for the next half of your life could do with more spice. After all, your ability to enrich the lives of your grandchildren will depend partly on how full your own lives are.

via Should I move nearer my grandchild but away from my grownup children? | Mariella Frostrup | Life and style | The Observer.

so about marriage…

I noticed today that I feel so much different now about marriage since I swore off of it a couple of years ago.

Out of some odd curiosity I looked at all the WordPress blogs under the category and noticed that a lot of them had some sort of religious reference, for one thing.  Otherwise they fell into categories of celebrating how long they had endured in that condition, or went on to list ways to mend the marriage or make it better.

I have an odd sense of humor perhaps, but it made me think of someone talking about their Cadillac and how it was the best car in the world and how it had changed their lives, but you really needed to psyche yourself up to drive it and be careful you don’t do certain things or it will break down and the repairs would be expensive.

In short, it reinforced the idea that marriage isn’t for everyone, and those that it is for now seem a bit off to me.

But I say that in a nice way, and don’t intend any disparagement to anyone that is married or wants to be married.  A couple of my kids are married, most of my adult relatives are married, and I wish them all the best.  And I was married – 3 times for 38 years married.  So perhaps I should consider that I’m just as much “a bit off” as they are in that respect.

I haven’t been able to define it to myself precisely, but living in a committed relationship without marriage, as I am now, is distinguishably different.  And I wish there were as many blogs about being unmarried together as there are for the married.  Maybe it’s just that there are fewer issues for the unmarried?  Maybe it’s more like owning a Toyota Prius that never has problems and gets great gas mileage, which helps you overlook the fact that the navigation system sends you to a completely wrong place once in awhile?

So I guess my point is, if you’re living unmarried to someone, write a blog.  It might give married people something else to blog about.

The Witness


“The existential human condition is such a tragic state, one must either laugh or cry, but one cannot remain neutral. One must feel compassion for all of us weak, deluded humans.”

Originally posted on Dharmasar:

Why do we crave—to the point where it causes physical stress—a witness? Why do we want to walk side-by-side with another person, preferably one perceived as an equal partner, as an intimate witness to our lives, twenty-four hours a day? We don’t want to be alone—isolation has been shown to be emotionally and physically damaging—we want a sympathetic witness: an impartial but understanding reflection of our view.

It’s almost like we want an external conscience—a breathing, walking, friendly, supportive, even sexual presence. I see this craving in myself and in others, and I see how hard it drives us, often to outrageous lengths. Look at people who become stars. How hard they work just to ensure they always have interested companions!

I think we are deeply insecure about our reality. “Do I really exist? Do I exist the way I see myself, or is that just something I’m creating?” Well…

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Boomer Sex: How Does Your Garden Grow?

Originally posted on Geriotica: Seniors, Aging & Elder Sex:

Happy Spring!

After a particularly brutal winter here in garden zone 5, I’m happy to see snowdrops, spring bulbs showing their tips, and other evidence that the earth’s waking up. I’m ready to renew and replenish mind, body and spirit. Clean out the dreck winter left behind and get off to a fresh start. And because Geriotica is about senior sex (granny sex, mature sex, elder sex–pick your term of choice), I’m ready to welcome spring as a time for sexual awakening or reawakening.

Is your bedroom garden ready for some new action–or any action at all? If so, this might be your season for a libido makeover. What’s that? Arrive at your own answers by asking these questions (feel free to add to the list):

1. How long since you and your partner showered or bathed together?
2. When’s the last time you experimented with a sex toy?

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Creating a Working Marriage

Originally posted on The Anjana Network:

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Call me a hopeless romantic or an endless fool, but I never imagined myself without a partner which unfortunately has caused me to make several very poor choices. I am on my fourth marriage. I met my current and last husband in 2004 and married him in 2007. He’s taught me more about my wrong view of marriage by being the kind of husband I need, more than what I learned from the bookshelves of the many self-help books on how to make a marriage work.  I’ve found several differences between my current relationship and  my previous marriages.

Just because someone says “I love you” doesn’t mean they love you the way you need to be loved, or know how to love you in a sustaining way. Love doesn’t take away from who you are, it’s an addition to your very being. It allows you to bloom…

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