Controlling Our Retirement: How Much Is Up to Us?
This post was contributed by Bob Lowry, creator of the wonderful A Satisfying Retirement, a blog about being Passionate About Living a Retired life with Purpose & Joy.
Who do you depend upon to insure a satisfying retirement: Social Security, your company pension, your investments and savings? Are you counting on a rich relative, or a winning lottery ticket? Regardless of the source of your retirement’s income, I suggest the answer is really, ourselves. No one is as interested as you in having the wherewithal to enjoy this stage of life.
Financially, we must take control of our own money. If your bank is treating you poorly or layering on the fees, move to another bank or credit union. If you are comfortable with an Internet bank, go for it. If you have a financial advisor or stock broker, are you confident he or she understands your desires, your risk tolerance, and your goals? Sit down with them and review your account. Question everything that doesn't make sense to you. If you are unhappy give that person new marching orders or switch to someone else.
We can't afford to be uninformed about the world of money. If you don't use a budget, start. If you have no idea how much interest your credit card company charges, find out. If you don't understand your pension or IRA, use the Internet to get educated. If you don't understand some aspect of the financial world that affects you, ask questions and get answers that make sense to you.
The government may be unable to tame a deficit, but luckily we have more control. We can choose to not spend more than our income. It is easy to eliminate things from our life that cost more than they are worth to us. We understand we can't afford every want when we want it. Instant gratification is a freeway to financial ruin. Simplifying our lifestyle, cooking more meals at home, using coupons and shopping grocery store specials can save hundreds, if not thousands of dollars a year. We know a 70" 4K TV won't really make us any happier than last year's 55" model. We know we can do just fine without the very latest smartphone model.
What are your health care options? For many of us, the choices are poor: spotty coverage, or policies with more holes than swiss cheese. Many hope to make it to Medicare age without an expensive problem, or that Medicare will be as robust then as it is now. Have you researched any available options?
Many drug store chains offer all sorts of free or discounted tests at various times of the year. In-store clinics may be less expensive than the traditional doctor’s office. Hospitals often sponsor health fairs that have free testing. Take full advantage of these offers.
A no-cost blood or colon cancer test can save you hundreds of dollars, and more importantly, your life. Free glaucoma screening could undercover a problem before you lose your eyesight. Watch the paper and check on the Internet for these opportunities. We can, and must take more responsibility for our health and its care.
We control how much we spend on travel, leisure, and entertainment. Leading a satisfying retirement is about making smart choices. If you have saved enough money for the 12 day Caribbean cruise and it is important to you, take it. If you don't have the money, then stay off the ship. Or, take the four day version.
Find things going on around you that are free or very low cost. I am lucky to live in a major metropolitan area that, on any given night of the week, has dozens of free or nearly free music events, plays, art exhibits, lectures or films to choose from. I can be as entertained and stimulated as I choose to be at a very low cost.
Obviously, there are critical parts of our retirement life that are out of our control. We have little say in what ultimately happens to the country’s health care system. Cuts or restrictions in Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid might happen. Taxes may go up and deductions down. We can adjust our way to living to a degree to make those changes less damaging, but ultimately, we will pay the bill.
With that being true, I also believe that we can do a lot on our own to make our retirement as good as it can be. Attitude is free and makes a world of difference. We control more of our own destiny than we may think. We are on our own and I am glad. I have faith in me, and you.