Monday, May 20, 2019

100 Things About Retirement (Early or Otherwise)

I read this post over at Sam's blog which should be top of mind for anyone retiring in the next decade or two.  We've been kind of retired (hubby fully retired for the last decade, me kind of retired yet doing some gig work as it comes along for the last decade) and we have learned quite a few things along the way...

  1. Things change continually and sometimes drastically.  There is no way what you plan today will 100% happen in the future (look at what happened to Enron employees).
  2. Always live below your means.
  3. Always be debt free (certainly while you are still working and especially after you retire).
  4. When you retire on a fixed income, it is literally fixed (you may get a small COLA increase each year but other years you may not get this).
  5. On the flip side, everything goes up in price over the years (utilities, cost of food, cost of gas, cost of buying a new vehicle, etc).  See the problem between #4 and #5?
  6. Have multiple sources of retirement income if possible (social security, pension or multiple pensions, Roth IRA, 401k, investment income, etc).
  7. Have a HUGE emergency fund.  There will always be emergencies that come along (heating system goes toes up, car is totaled, etc) and living on a fixed income means you may not be able to cash flow such issues.
  8. Never never never co-sign a loan for anyone!!!  You don't want to be saddled with paying back a loan someone defaults on when you are retired on a fixed income.
  9. Watch out for scams on other "great deals" that will affect your money (don't send money to the Nigerian prince who emailed you, don't take out payday loans, be very careful with reverse mortgages, etc).
  10. Protect your money.  Keep most of it in a bank, don't give anyone else access to your accounts, check your accounts regularly for any purchases or withdrawals you didn't make, etc.
  1. Have a notarized will.
  2. Have a medical power of attorney.
  3. Have an advanced directive.
  4. Have a living will.
  5. Consider a financial power of attorney if necessary.
  6. Consider having a POLST form if necessary.
  7. Pull your free annual credit report each year to make sure there are no problems you weren't aware of.
  8. Be sure to keep all of your important legal documents in a safe place where your next of kin can find them if needed.
  9. Consider getting a passport.  Even if you don't travel, this is definitive identification and good to have if you ever lose your other ID.
  10. Have a driver's license (or state ID card when it comes time to give up driving).  Again, this is an important form of ID to have.
  1. Pay off your home before you retire.
  2. Better yet, downsize your home and pay it off before you retire (it's cheaper to heat, air condition, maintain, and furnish a small home compared to a huge home).
  3. I am fully in the "own a house" camp while others may want to live in an apartment or RV or trailer or other type of place when they retire.  Generally houses hold their value while RVs and trailers don't and apartment rents seem to continually increase which is a problem when you are on a fixed income.
  4. Check to see what tax discounts you qualify for as a senior/retiree.  Some cities/counties offer tax abatement to those who are elderly or on a fixed income and many counties also have property tax caps so even if the place you live booms, your property tax bill won't skyrocket.
  5. Consider moving to a state that does not tax social security or pensions or military retirement pay if you receive this.
  6. In addition to #5, consider moving to a state with an overall low tax burden (some states don't tax income but have really high property tax or sales tax).
  7. Look at other housing options as you age.  Can you live in a "mother in law" tiny home on your kid's property?  Can you share housing with friends or relatives instead of each of you owning your own houses?
  8. Maintain your housing systems (plumbing, electrical, etc).  If you can not do this yourself or can't afford these fixes, many communities have "senior fix up days" where volunteers will come to your home and make repairs for free.
  9. When decorating and furnishing your home, consider minimalism and discount decorating (kind of like when you were in college).  Paying top dollar at retail stores for seasonal furnishing and decor is a quick way to go broke (and it's unnecessary, a livable home is more important than a lavish home).
  1. Cars are expensive and driving gets more difficult as you age.  Can you take public transit and get rid of your car?  Is Uber or Lyft a better (and cheaper) option?  If you are disabled can you get a monthly bus/paratransit pass?
  2. Do you live in a place where you can walk to do all of your errands instead of driving?
  3. Definitely pay off you vehicle before you retire, you don't want big car loan payments when you are on a fixed income.
  4. Call around every year to see if you are getting the best deal on car insurance (in our area, the same policy can vary by hundreds of dollars depending on your insurance company!).
  5. Can you use a bicycle as your main form of transportation?  It's cheaper and makes you healthier (safety on the road would be my main concern with this form of transportation).
  6. Can you cobble together a transportation plan to avoid owning a vehicle?  Maybe walk for basic errands, car pool to work, take public transit, then rent a car when you need to make special trips somewhere.
  7. Do many of your "errands" online to cut down transportation needs.  Online banking instead of going to the bank, downloading e-books from the library instead of going to the library, shopping online and having your stuff delivered to your door, using Grub Hub or Uber Eats instead of going to a much of your life can be done online these days!
  8. See if you can get a discount on your car insurance if you take a senior driving class like those hosted by AAA, AARP, or 55 Alive.
  9. Even if you used to drive all over the country when you were younger, consider taking non-driving vacations like train trips, bus trips, or flying to your destination (it's both safer and easier to travel this way instead of driving).
  10. Stay safe on the road when you do drive--carry emergency supplies and equipment in your car, never drink and drive, and have a checklist of things to do should you get in a car accident.
  1. Keep yourself as healthy as possible!  This cannot be overstated as the alternative is sickness and doctors and big medical bills.
  2. In addition to being proactive with your health, address dental, hearing, vision, and mental health issues as soon as possible so they don't grow into bigger (and more expensive!) problems.
  3. Start figuring out health insurance now.  The US healthcare situation is a hot mess.  Yes, you will be able to get Medicare when you turn 65 but you will still need to pay for it and Medicare doesn't cover everything like prescriptions so you will need additional insurance for the things Medicare doesn't cover.
  4. Get some exercise everyday.  This will go a long way towards keeping you healthy and fit and strong as you age.
  5. Know what to do when you have a medical crisis.  There are prescriptions assistance programs if you can't afford your medications, free and sliding scale clinics if you don't have health insurance, dental schools for cheap dental work, etc.  You can also call 211 to find out about even more health services offered in your community.
  6. Stay on top of your health metrics and fix medical problems immediately as they come up.  Keep your weight within a healthy range, be proactive with diet and exercise in addition to medication if you have high blood pressure; ditto if you have diabetes or high cholesterol.
  7. Consider medical tourism both for getting medications you can afford and for getting medical or dental work done.
  8. De-stress.  Stress is one of the leading causes of chronic disease in our country.  Meditate, do yoga, do breathing exercises, etc.  
  9. Keep up with your vaccinations.  Seniors still need booster shots as well as flu and pneumonia shots; ask your doctor for a vaccination schedule.
  10. Keep a list (written or on your computer) of all of the medications you take (both prescription and over the counter), allergies, medical and surgical history, doctor's name and number, etc.
  1. Consider gardening as a hobby, this is a great way to grow some of your own food as well as cut your food budget.
  2. Eat at home as much as possible, this is often healthier than eating at restaurants and it is also cheaper as well.
  3. Learn to cook from scratch.  Buying processed and pre-prepared food can get expensive,  learning to cook from scratch can really stretch your food budget!
  4. Explore all of your food shopping options--local grocery stores, buying food online, CSAs, farmer's markets, ethnic grocery stores, Dollar Stores/99 Cent stores, etc.
  5. Use coupons and shop sales to cut your food budget even more.
  6. When you host get-togethers and parties, consider making them "potlucks" in order to save money yet still put on a fun social event.
  7. Consider bulk cooking (freeze the leftovers) so you will have many meal options even if you don't feel like cooking.
  8. If you must eat out, use coupons, ask for discounts, and eat lunch out instead of dinner to save money.
  9. If you will be out all day, consider packing a meal and beverage and taking it with you instead of being forced to hit up a fast food place or other restaurant.
  10. Consider eating more vegan/vegetarian as well as ethnic meals, these are often healthier as well as much cheaper to make than cooking up a slab of beef for each meal.
Your Bills
  1. Even though you are debt free, your monthly bills will still keep coming in.  Be sure to review your list of bills (utilities, gas, food, insurance, etc) at least annually to figure out if there are ways to reduce or eliminate your bills (ie; if you have Netflix, you may be able to cut cable TV and just pay for internet and use an over-the-air antenna to get local TV stations).
  2. See if you can get a discount for pre-paying your bills.  We pay our car insurance every six months which saves over a hundred dollars over paying this bill monthly.
  3. Assign each bill a stream of income to pay for it.  My grandmother used to sell chicken eggs and that paid for the monthly electricity bill; I work a gig each summer which pays for a couple of annual bills including our car registration, my annual web hosting plan, and our annual sewer bill.
  4. Consider alternative ways to pay your bills.  For example, our electric company will either let you pay your regular bill each month (it's low in the winter then super high in the summer due to air conditioning) but they also have a plan where they calculate your annual electric cost then divide your bill into 12 monthly payments so you don't need to worry about super high summer bills.
  5. Put aside money from your fixed income to pay for annual and semi-annual bills.  Once your home is paid off and you don't use an escrow account any more, you will need to pay your property tax twice a year.  Instead of scrambling to get the money together to pay this bill, set aside money each month out of your budget to pay this bill.
  6. If your budget is super tight, consider things like side gigs, renting out a room on AirBnB, driving for Uber, or working annual events (like being an election worker, census worker, working in retail at Christmas, etc) to bring in extra money to cover your bills (note income restrictions as they relate to receiving social security!).
  7. Take drastic action to cut your bills.  I would love to get rid of our cars and just Uber around but hubby is firmly against this; doing the math I think it would save us money.  I've considered getting a tablet and cheap tablet plan (I'm mostly where there is free wifi) then just carrying an off-line cell phone only for calls to 911 in an emergency (this would also save money but hubby isn't too keen on this idea either).
  8. See if there are assistance programs to help you pay your bills if needed.  Usually electric companies have assistance programs to help seniors pay their electric bills, there are free and low-cost cell phone plans for seniors, and don't be ashamed to hit up a food bank, free meal program, or sign up for food stamps if you qualify.
  9. See if there are things you are paying for each month that you no longer need.  Most people can get rid of their home phone since they have a cell phone and many people rent their cable/internet modem yet it is much cheaper to buy one outright rather than rent one each month.
  10. Get rid of subscriptions and other recurring payments for things you no longer need.  Timeshares are a huge waste of money for most people (they are hard but not impossible to get rid of), ditto gym memberships, magazines can be found free online instead of subscribing to them, etc.
Discretionary Spending
  1. Plan ahead for gifts.  Depending on how big your family is, birthday and Christmas gifts can turn into a burden.  Don't be afraid to cut down on the gifts you give when living on a fixed income or give different gifts (like coupons for free babysitting to your relatives if they have kids) instead of giving expensive things that you can no longer afford.
  2. Make a shopping list so when you do go to the store, you know exactly what you need and can avoid impulse spending.
  3. Always do your research on things you want to buy.  I keep two shopping lists--things we really need like grocery items we are almost out of and a list of "nice to have" items.  The grocery items we buy during our weekly shopping trips (hopefully at the 99 Cent store where everything is so cheap!) and the "nice to have" items stay on the list until I can find the item at the Goodwill or at online stores with a steep discount (I wanted a sling bag from REI which was $40+ dollars but by waiting I found it on a closeout sale for $20!).
  4. Try to buy the things you need like clothes and household items at the Goodwill and other thrift stores (on sale days to save even more money!).  This is a great way to get things you need at a fraction of the cost of retail.
  5. Experiment with bartering--this gets rid of things you no longer need and gets you new things that you want.  Selling things online and holding garage sales also have the dual purpose of clearing out stuff you no longer need and putting some extra money in your pocket.
  6. Seniors have a lot of extra time which is great for people who like to travel.  There are many ways to travel for free or cheap if you have a lot of time.  Off-season cruises are much cheaper than high season cruises, ElderHostel and Servas cater to seniors, and visiting family and friends is often a great way to travel cheap (staying with friends or family saves on hotel costs) plus being flexible allows you to find the cheapest airline tickets (or you can be adventurous and take an inexpensive Flix/Megabus/Boltbus trip).
  7. Don't shop for entertainment!  I used to wander around the mall when I was bored which led to buying things I really didn't need.  Only shopping when you specifically need an item will save you a lot of money on impulse purchases.
  8. Do no-spend days, weeks, or even months.  This is a great way to save money and it will also challenge you to "reduce, reuse, recycle, or do without" when you need something that you would otherwise run to the store for.
  9. Although "couponing" isn't as popular as it once was, there are still hundreds of thousands of Google search pages on the topic.  The strategic use of coupons and sales can result in buying lots of things you need for very little money.
  10. Sign up for birthday freebies.  We no longer get each other birthday presents as we have everything we need so we spend or birthdays redeeming "birthday freebies" which start showing up in our email boxes about a week prior to our birthdays.
Fun and Entertainment
  1. As a retiree you will have A LOT of hours to fill, make a plan for how you will fill these hours with fun and inexpensive activities.
  2. Take advantage of senior entertainment discounts (like cheap matinees at the movie theater), senior center events, senior-centered events at the library, etc).
  3. Participate in clubs and activities that align with your interests (we have hundreds of clubs in our city from walking and genealogy clubs to hiking clubs, astronomy clubs, coin collecting clubs, etc.
  4. Consider volunteering.  This fills your days, allows you to share skills and wisdom you have acquired over the years, and helps out organizations that are beneficial to the community.
  5. Keep your brain sharp!  The internet is perfect for this with free puzzles (I often do free online crossword and sudoku puzzles), many library services that can be accessed online (I've downloaded a bajillion e-books from our wonderful library system), and there is online gaming which many people seem very fond of.
  6. Consider hobbies that can also make you some money.  My cousin gardens and has honey bees so he sells stuff from his garden as well as honey at his local farmer's market each summer; this is a great way to make your hobby pay for itself as well as give you a bit of extra money.
  7. Look for senior-specific groups and clubs which save you money and provide fun and entertainment.  Hubby is on several senior bowling leagues, there is a wonderful--and free!--hiking group in our area which you have to be 50 or older to join, and our local PBS station always advertises several senior-only events like teas and trips and shows.
  8. Live in a vacation destination.  We live in Las Vegas so there are oodles of free and cheap entertainment that we can enjoy every day of the year (we previously lived in a family-oriented rural-ish community where there were some family activities like kids sports and roller skating but not much in the way of fun daily activities).
  9. Buy an Entertainment Book, buy a Fill a Seat/House Seats subscription, and look through your junk mail for discounts and freebies on all kinds of things from haircuts and plays to restaurant freebies and free concerts.
  10. Look at the Goodwill for discounted hobby materials.  Our Goodwill has everything from hardly used exercise equipment to knitting supplies to sewing machines to electronics equipment and much more.  This is a great way to explore a new hobby without breaking the bank.
Getting Help as You Age
  1. Plan to spend more to do the jobs that you used to do around the house (hubby is no longer allowed on ladders or on the roof so we hire jobs requiring this out these days).  Also, while we can do some home jobs, anything with heavy lifting we hire out so we don't injure our backs (oh to be young when we could do all sorts of things without worrying about the long-term health implications!).
  2. Consider having long-term care insurance.  The point between living independently and living in a nursing home for the rest of your life can be a difficult transition, especially if there is no money to cover home-based, long-term care or assisted living care.
  3. Consider moving in with family if this is a viable option.  In most countries it would be considered weird for elderly family members to live by themselves in their own house; usually elders live with their kids and provide free babysitting for the grandkids, cook, clean the house, and otherwise help out their kids while living in a multi-generational household.
  4. Consider trading what you have (room in your home for example) with someone who can help you around the house (like college students who need housing and can help around the house).  Apparently this is a thing now.
  5. Take advantage of all of the community programs you qualify for.  Meals on Wheels, state-funded senior programs, food stamps, in-home care, paratransit, etc.  You can find these programs by Googling online, by calling 211, or by contacting your local Area Agency on Aging.
  6. You may not be able to do as much as you used to do physically so consider ways to get the things you need done in the most cost efficient way possible (instead of winging it if our car breaks down, we have an AAA membership now; many of our elderly relatives have home warranties because they can no longer do their own appliance repair; we have a couple good handymen on speed dial if we need help with painting or trimming our palm trees, etc). 
  7. If you take a bunch of prescription medication, you should keep an updated list of all medications (name, dosage, frequency) and take this with you each time you visit your doctor.  Since hubby takes several medications daily we use those little medicine holders to organize his daily meds so he doesn't forget to take them/forget if he already took them (sometimes we both forget and we don't want him to overdose!).
  8. Make sure your home is "senior safe".  Install grab bars if needed, make sure your fire detector/CO detector is in good working order, get rid of falls hazards, etc.
  9. If you are on your own, look for ways to protect yourself.  If you tend to fall, have a senior alert necklace or something like that; put a message on your cell phone that will tell EMTs what you are allergic to/major medical problems like you are a diabetic/and who to contact in an emergency; my cousin's son put a camera in her home and she waves to him through the camera each morning so he knows she is up and about even though he lives several thousand miles away.
  10. Give to others.  You can't take it with you so consider giving away things to loved ones instead of having them squabble over your jewelry and antiques after you die.  Spend time with the grandkids (this will benefit them for a lifetime).  Help others and allow them to help you (it's amazing how seniors who live in senior housing communities do things to help each other out).

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