Learn how to save and prepare for retirement no matter your age or your income.
12 Ways to Retire on Less offers a roadmap for anyone seeking financial security and peace of mind for their retirement years ahead, regardless of savings or income in the present moment.
In a time when fewer retirees have the kind of pension many of their parents had, those looking to retire can be especially vulnerable. But here, the author outlines those steps people can take to ensure their security and enjoy those activities they look forward to in the future. Offering case studies and actionable steps in the form of bullet points, questions and lists, the book focuses on the importance of planning and analyzing one’s total financial picture in the context of goals, hopes, and dreams.
“A compelling read”
— Margaret Wylde, CEO, ProMatura Group, LLC
Wednesday, Oct. 5, Guest on Retire with Purpose Podcast with Casey Weade
Monday, Aug. 2, 2021, Retirement Wisdom Podcast
with executive coach/retirement coach Joe Casey,
Tuesday, July 20, 2021, 7 p.m., BOOK SIGNING
Friendship Village Center, Village of Friendship Heights, 4433 South Park Avenue, Chevy Chase, MD 20815 – (301) 656-2797
Thursday, July 22, 2021, 9 a.m. Podcast
Retirement Wisdom with Joe Casey
Thursday, June 10, 2021
Thursday 6/ 10 Your Retirement Dream: How Planning Can Make It Come True with Harriet Edleson, author and journalist. Retirement! Have you imagined you’d be lounging on a beach in the south of France or Bethany Beach? Riding a luxury train through the White Towns of Southern Spain? Cruising the Danube on a luxury riverboat? Or, taking courses with others like yourself? Serving on a nonprofit board? Buying a vacation home in the mountains? Spending more time with the ones you love? Relocating to be near your grandchildren? Whether you are already retired or thinking of retiring in the next five or 10 years, planning will make the journey more enjoyable and secure! What do you really want to do? Think about all the resources you have or will have at a time when you may no longer be working. Will you have a pension or will you be relying on Social Security and savings? Whatever your situation, the best way forward is knowledge. Learn about the optimal time for claiming your Social Security retirement benefits and how to decide whether downsizing is for you, since housing can be the largest expense in retirement. Harriet Edleson is an expert on baby boomer retirement strategies. She has written the Retiring feature for The New York Times and the Where We Live feature for The Washington Post. A former writer/editor/producer for AARP where she specialized in Social Security, she now writes for Kiplinger’s Retirement Report. Her forthcoming book, 12 Ways to Retire on Less: Planning an Affordable Future is to be published in May 2021 by Rowman & Littlefield next year. Visit her website at https://www.howtoretireonless.com.
Registration Link: www.littlefallsvillage.org/RetireOnLess
Latest from the Blog
Reframing Your Golden Years as an Adventure
What Do You Really Want to Do?
Satisfaction in retirement varies. A lot depends on your expectations: What did you anticipate retirement would be like, and what is the reality? It also depends on what life has been like before you make the transition into retirement.
If your expectations are unclear, you may find entering an unstructured period of your life unsettling, even disappointing. Often those who have worked intensely for 30 to 40 years look forward to a time when they can do whatever they want, whenever they want. Or they choose to spend more time with their grown children and grandchildren. Others prefer to work at their own pace, no longer commuting to an office each day. Some want to give back in one way or another such as through pro bono work or serving
on a board. Overall, the key to the next part of life is attitude. Health plays a big role too. There are many unknowns, so focus on the certainties. Unless you keep working or have significant resources, your options may be limited.
Be realistic, and you will be better able to plan and enjoy your life.
Find Your Purpose
To make the most of the years ahead, define your purpose. What will you do?
What will make your days meaningful? Enjoyable? The answers are different for everyone.
I spoke about setting expectations for retirement with Bob McDonald,
retired chair, president, and CEO of Procter & Gamble and former Secretary of Veterans Affairs. “The most important thing is knowing your purpose,” he told me. This means knowing where you are going rather than “meandering through life without direction.”1
McDonald is one of those fortunate individuals who knew from an early age what he wanted to accomplish. In sixth grade, he applied to West Point, the US military academy, and ultimately matriculated there when he was 18, in 1971, graduating in 1975. He was keenly aware that he wanted to “free people from communism” and believed by filing an early application to West Point he would increase his chances for acceptance to the elite academy.2
At age 67, as of this writing, McDonald says that, if anything, he is too
busy, even in retirement. He still maintains leadership roles in companies, serving on the board of directors of the Xerox Corporation, the McKinsey Advisory Council, and the Singapore International Advisory Council of the Economic Development Board.
Not everyone will accomplish what McDonald has in retirement, yet
each person can find meaning in their own endeavors. It may take some soul searching and self-evaluation to figure out what you like to do, what you have access to, and what your skills and talents are beyond working.
“You don’t have to set the world on fire,” McDonald says. “Don’t allow
other people to define your success for you.” Helping one other person in a day can represent success, McDonald says.3
Consider Where and When to Retire
Research, planning, getting to know your spouse or partner or yourself better, and the willingness to compromise are all part of determining where and when to retire. “It’s no one thing,” says Reed C. Fraasa, certified financial planner and registered life planner in Wayne, New Jersey, “but time and place are always two big elements. It’s rarely a black-and-white single issue.”4
It can take five to seven years or more to achieve clarity about when it’s the best time to retire, if at all, and, if you are considering relocation, where to live.
To start, think about the ideal:
• What would you like to do if money were no object?
• If you are planning your retirement with a spouse or partner, what do they want?
• How much of what each of you wants fits together?
• How much is so different that it might be hard to meld two lives?
Consider where you’ve been and where you’d like to go before making any major decisions. Take time to reflect before leaving a long-term job or career position, says Robert Stammers, director of investor engagement for CFA Institute, an association of investment professionals.5
Think about what your goals are, as they determine everything else.
• Are you planning to travel, stay in one place, or downsize?
• How much is your life in retirement going to cost?
• Do you have adequate resources to live the life you want to live?
• Will you be satisfied if you have to limit your spending in the years
ahead because you retired too soon?
• Will working in one way or another be part of your retirement life?
No matter how busy you are in the years leading up to retirement or semiretirement mode, reserve time to discuss your thoughts and feelings with your spouse or partner. If you are planning on your own, keep a journal or find a trusted friend who knows you well and can serve as a sounding board.
Consider Kathi and Patrick. Married some 50 years, they know what
they like: entertaining, gardening, traveling, and spending time with their children and grandchildren. “I don’t like being away from my kids too long,” says Kathi, a stay-at-home mother. Though her husband, Patrick, was not as certain as she was about having two homes, Kathi knew she wanted to keep the family home and find a second one that would be easy for their grown children to visit with their spouses as well as the grandchildren.6
The couple spent 10 years searching for the right place, considering Marco Island, Amelia Island, and Vero Beach in Florida before finding a new community in Bradenton, south of Tampa. They decided on a home a mile from the beach rather than one closer to a golf course. Kathi preferred swimming in Anna Maria Sound to the Atlantic. In addition, living in Bradenton would mean warmer weather than if they bought a home further north. It seemed to be the kind of life they would like. For them, timing was an issue, as Kathi was ready to retire before Patrick was prepared to leave his banking career of 45 years.7
Timing retirement was also an issue for Lucy and George of Old Greenwich, Connecticut, and Sarasota, Florida, who had been living together for 20 years. For them, living separately for part of the year was the solution.
When Lucy, an author, was 67, she gradually began to live in Sarasota from October to May, more or less. She wanted to be out of the cold, while George was still working as business administrator for a church in Old Greenwich.
She describes the move as a “careful and calculated decision” that works for them. “George and I are still making up our lives,” she says. Ultimately, they both plan to spend time in both places. For them, living apart has worked, and their marriage can stay intact. For other couples, that may not be an attractive arrangement.8
Inventory Your Interests
Knowing what you enjoy may seem obvious, but your interests and passions can be submerged during years of child raising and working. It’s useful to keep an ongoing list of your interests and passions. One attorney in his mid-60s admitted that aside from travel he didn’t really have any hobbies and preferred to keep working, though he had retired from a senior-level federal job.
By reflecting on your interests during different periods of your life you can identify activities that appeal to you that you haven’t had time to pursue.
Write them down so you can go back to your list and make revisions. Or you may find different interests to pursue.
The Arc of Life
One way to look at what has been called “retirement” is to consider the arc of life. From birth through the later years, if you retire at 65 or 70, you might enjoy another 25 to 30 years of life. That is a long time to be living without a plan. While you may feel tired or bored of the routine you have, before you make any decisions, look down the road.
• Review your list of activities and interests, and then consider which
ones you are likely to be able to continue to do as you get older.
• Factor in your overall health and any chronic conditions you may have.
• Check your eyesight.
• Consider your mobility.
• If you have listed travel as one of your activities, analyze which trips
you will be able to take more easily now and which will be easier when you are older.
Pursuing Your Passion
Some people visualize fairly early in their work lives, if not before, what they’d like to be doing in retirement. Others are not as certain. They don’t have an overarching goal or picture of what their retirement years will look like. Among those who do, sometimes it’s a passion that has been limited by the need to make a living.
For those who have a particular passion they didn’t have time to pursue, preparing to retire or work only part-time can be satisfying and meaningful. For those without a passion that bubbles to the surface, working longer can be a reasonable option, a way to postpone retirement indefinitely and increase a nest egg at the same time.
Now in their 60s, Brian and Heather, who married 34 years ago, both
knew they would eventually want to retire so they could sail as often as they wished. One of Brian’s favorite books is Joshua Slocum’s Sailing Alone Around the World. At one time, Brian’s father was commodore of the Washington Irving Boat Club in Tarrytown, New York, and Brian enjoyed power boating and later sailing.9
It was on a 1983 ski trip to Mont-Tremblant in Quebec that the two met and their lives began to change. Brian was living in New Jersey at the time, working as a mechanical engineer. Heather ultimately moved to be with him, and they married the following year. They have always known they would one day want to retire; they just wanted to be sure they would have enough money to sail. It took them until 2016 to realize their dream.10
If you have your own retirement dream, you can make plans to pursue it. But even having a retirement dream may put you in the minority. If nothing springs to mind when you think about what you want your retirement to look like, take some time to think about what you really enjoy in life. Give yourself time to think about it, and over the next weeks and months you may come up with a dream of your own. It does not have to be big. Your dream may be to live near your children and help raise the grandchildren. It may be to spend more time volunteering. Or writing. Or traveling. Or a mix of all of those. There is no one right or wrong answer.
Some people simply haven’t had the time to pursue their dreams as
they’ve navigated through life, taking care of the tasks at hand; earning just enough money or simply getting by with the money they make from their daily work has been all they could do. They haven’t been able to save very much. Others who have put money each month into a 401(k) plan at work may find that it still isn’t very much. Yet inside of some people—even most people—may be an untapped dream—potential—that has remained dormant during their working years.
Though it’s not the case for everyone, it’s worth thinking about what your dreams are if you are in your 50s or 60s. For some people, that is what retirement is for—to do whatever you want, whenever you want.
Brian and Heather, who for a time lived in Gloucester, Massachusetts,
on their sailboat Ark, had moved inside during the winter months. In 1991, they situated themselves in St. Petersburg, Florida, where Brian continued to work in engineering and engineering management and Heather in human resources management. In 2000, after years of working for corporations, they bought a tool and die business and the building that housed it a year later.
They sold the business and the building in 2016. Yet their plans to retire had been in place for many years. “We prepared for it every day, so it wasn’t a shock,” Heather told me. They used a spreadsheet to map all their expenses and income from property they had bought over the years and when they anticipated selling each building.11
According to one lawyer who has retired from the federal government
after more than 40 years, “I can do whatever I want, whenever I want.” He retired from his federal job at 68 and hasn’t looked back. At 71 he enjoys the pension he earned and the freedom he has each day when he awakens.
He and his wife, who is younger and still working in a federal job, visit their second home in South Carolina several times a year but plan to keep their home in Bethesda, Maryland.
If you love your work, and some people do, then you may be one of those who wants to continue to work as long as you can either full-time or in some reduced capacity. If you’re tired of working, it’s worth thinking about what you’d like to do instead. Don’t quit your job just yet!
Realizing Your Dream
If you thought you would have retired long ago, it may not be quite so easy to dream about what you’d want your life to look like. Even if you are still working at 60, 65, or 70, retiring may happen sooner than you’d think.
The first step is to visualize the way you’d like your life to be in the years ahead. Forget what you thought you’d be doing, and instead focus on what lures you today and may in the future. Rather than get mired in the day-today, turn the page to imagine the next great time of your life.
Life Planning is a tool that preretirees can use to imagine the life they want and begin to put their plans in motion. “Life Planning is a financial movement dedicated to delivering people into lives of greatest vitality, purpose, and meaning,” writes George Kinder, coauthor of Life Planning for You: How to Design and Deliver the Life of Your Dreams. He founded the Kinder Institute of Life Planning and is a certified financial planner and a registered life planner.12
Once they retire, Kinder told me “couples may be spending a lot more
time together, and they’re anxious, fearful about that.” Sometimes, he says, “each has been sacrificing something of themselves to keep the routine going.”13
So when looking ahead to retirement, each person has the opportunity to think about what they would like to do in this next part of their life, whether as a couple or on their own. “Today you have a much broader range of choice,” Kinder says.14
Part of the Life Planning approach is explained by the acronym,
EVOKE—standing for exploration, vision, obstacles, knowledge, and execution.
Kinder says that in the first phase, exploration, we have “permission to
bring everything in our life, everything we have ever dreamed of, into the conversation.”15
Ask yourself, if you were not working, how would you like to spend your time?
• Do you want to travel?
• Do you want to live near the ocean?
• Do you want to live in the mountains?
• Do you want to move closer to your grandchildren?
• Do you want to pursue a lifelong interest that you haven’t had time
for up until now, such as painting, chess, bridge, philanthropy, tennis,
or sailing? Is it swimming in the ocean that would make you happy, or
perhaps cruising on an oceangoing vessel?
• What kind of life does your spouse or partner have? Or are you on your own?
It’s useful to dream about the kind of life you want. Maybe your dream is awaking every day without the help of an alarm or taking off in your convertible at a moment’s notice.
Remember, what may be enjoyable, interesting, or exciting for a few
months may not afford the same pleasure if it’s repetitive.
Before you decide to give your employer notice, consider it carefully. If
you are tired of the routine, irritated by the monotony or the commute or the responsibility of answering to someone day in and day out, or any combination thereof, take your time in making major life decisions. While your present circumstances may not always be comfortable, they come with a prize—a paycheck at regular intervals.
If you’re approaching 60, quit your job, but then change your mind after a year or two, it’s not going to be easy to get back into the workforce. If you’re past 50, it’s likely to be a challenge as well. Unless you have hundreds of thousands in savings or a defined benefit pension, proceed carefully.
If you are closer to 65 or to 70, the decision to give up your professional life is a bit different. Now that you have made the transition into your 60s, you have the option to access Medicare at 65 and your Social Security benefits at 62 or older.
If you’ve worked very hard for 35 or 40 years, you may be ready for a different type of life. If you’ve raised children, paid for college, graduate school, and even professional school for them, and have been able to save as well, it may be time for a big change.
But how much money you have saved isn’t the only indicator of whether it’s time to give up that paycheck, sell a business, or leave a professional practice. Certain situations can either impede or speed your transition to retirement.
For example, caring for aging parents while you’re in your 50s can necessitate leaving your work earlier than you had anticipated. Even if you had expected to one day return to the workforce, it may be more difficult after a gap in employment. Similarly, leaving the workforce to raise children can affect your ability to return to full-time work at the same level when you are ready.
In addition, exiting the workforce for any reason for a period of time ultimately can affect not only the number of years you work but at what income level. This, in turn, impacts not only your preretirement income but your Social Security income whether you claim it at 62, 66, or not until 70, or anytime in between.
Whatever your situation, deliberate and careful planning can help you
avoid regret. If you have misgivings about decisions you’ve made at earlier periods of your life, it may be useful to reflect on how and why you made those decisions, especially if it helps you make better ones in the future.
Beyond that, the best approach is to focus on your choices in your current situation.
Retirement as defined by previous generations looked different and, likely, was of shorter duration. For example, baby boomers’ parents didn’t necessarily expect to live as long as they did or as long as the baby boomer generation and those who are younger are expected to live. That can be 90 years or longer, as discussed in chapter 1.
My father, who lived to 87, enjoyed what one of my first cousins described as a “long and, at times, exciting life.” For me, there is a lesson in that—one I often think of as time speeds ahead or slows down, depending upon what I am doing and with whom. Yet I have become philosophical about life, and recognizing that life is filled with peaks and valleys increases joy—at least for me.
A Time of Reckoning
With careful reflection, you may see a path to the retirement you know would be most meaningful to you. This is what George Kinder calls “lighting the torch,” a time of reckoning. “It’s the moment when we realize the dream we have held onto all our lives is achievable,” Kinder writes. Alternatively, it can be a “terrifying moment” when we realize that, “without action on our part, our most precious dreams might slip away.”16 This is when you come to terms with the vision you have for your life in the future.
Once you have allowed yourself to tap into what means the most to you, consider how much that lifestyle will cost. Will you be able to afford it? This is discussed in chapter 4.
Obstacles Other than Money
One obstacle to living the retirement of our dreams, other than money, is internal or relationship conflict. Do you believe that you and your spouse or partner may not want the same things? Part of the value of dreaming is to allow yourself to think about what you want and then share it with your spouse or partner or other loved ones. You may be surprised how similar your dreams are. And you may also be surprised at how different they might be.
But there can be room for flexibility and adaptations. The first step in resolving the conflict is to share your dreams, either together or with the help of a certified life planner. You may be able to blend your goals or execute them sequentially. You may do some things on your own or support your partner in pursuing one of their solo ventures. Allowing for a variety of options may help keep both partners happy and engaged.
Finding Reachable Dreams
It’s okay to dream, but keep the dreams reachable so you will enjoy this part of your life more. Rather than considering just one way of living these years, experiment mentally and on paper with different scenarios.
Begin by asking yourself some questions:
• If you stay in your current home, what will it cost you?
• If you move to a different home, what will that cost?
• If you move to a different part of the country or world, what would it
• Ask yourself, how important is your current community, and how
important is it to be near family members—grown children and
• How important is it to find a lower cost of living so you can travel more or visit family and friends?
Postponing the Dream
If you’re waiting two or more years in order to retire with more resources, keep that in mind as you continue to work. Whether you are postponing retiring from a nine-to-five job or from part-time work or selling your business, remind yourself why: You want to get a larger pension or to be vested in a pension at all. You want to get a larger Social Security check at 66 or 70. Or you enjoy your work so much or enough that you want to continue to pursue it as long as you can. This is discussed in chapter 5.
Now that you’ve considered your dream, read on to analyze how much it will cost and how you can pay for it.
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