I recently read a book from the library with the cheerful title “You Can Retire Sooner than You Think: the 5 Money Secrets of the Happiest Retirees” by Wes Moss. Right away I was a bit suspicious. The author’s credentials state he is “Chief Investment Strategist” for a company I have not heard of (Capital Investment Advisors) and the only back jacket testimonial was from another writer. It looks like the kind of book people self-publish to give to their clients rather than any sort of expert book. However, I did learn and think about a few things while reading the book, including his emphasis on planning what you will do after you retire.
My Personal Role Models for Retirement
As a teenager, I was fortunate enough to have 4 grandparents to watch and learn from, to visit and enjoy. My grandfathers taught me an extremely valuable lesson which I have never forgotten.
One grandfather worked till he was forced into retirement at the then mandatory age of 65. (Yes, for you young uns out there, employers used to forcibly retire staff at 65 to make jobs for younger workers. Be wary: it could happen again!)
He came home and basically gave up on life. He would go on vacations when my grandmother insisted, and he continued to do all his usual home maintenance and chores but he didn’t do much of anything else.
My grandmother, who was a whirlwind, had charity work, sports and gardening to keep her busy. And a bridge club, worship, and weaving. In fact, I could probably spend three paragraphs just listing some of her activities.
My grandfather smoked and watched TV.
Can you guess which of the two was happy? And which was in better health?
My other grandfather never worked for a large employer. He had a wide variety of jobs throughout his life including being Captain of a ferry, catching Swordfish, and working as a carpenter restoring a historically significant home. He never took a conventional vacation because he didn’t like to sit idle. He never completely retired, either. He kept doing carpentry and a variety of other tasks for pay or for love until the end.
My grandmother, his wife, was also living every moment. She was the social hub of a large family who loved to visit and exchange the news. For health reasons, she was restricted in her physical activities but she was mentally very active and a treasured part of the family.
So which grandfather do you think I would like to copy in retirement? The one who sat down and waited to die? Or the one who never stopped learning, doing and enjoying?
The Good Advice in Wes Moss’ Book
One of the key topics in the book is that you need to know what you want to do before you retire. Once you know that, you can plan how much money you will need in retirement. That will give you a basis for saving for retirement and knowing when you have saved enough.
It’s common sense but it’s not always emphasized in financial planning books.
The message is important.
For example, someone whose ideal retirement involves
- working two days a week at a local food bank,
- attending worship, faith activities and choir practices another two days,
- attending free lectures at the university, and
- using their home fitness equipment and bike to exercise
will not need as much money in retirement as someone who expects to
- spend 3 days a week golfing and socializing at the club,
- spend 2 days a week playing bridge and meeting friends for dinner out, and
- travelling 4 months a year to Paris.
If you are going to travel for 10 years in a RV you may need a different plan than if you want to buy an old home in the country and open a Bed and Breakfast.
Choose the life you want to lead
In Chapter 4, Moss goes into detail about the need to plan what you want to do when you are retired. He pushes you to consider that and offers the proposal that happy retirees
- Have 3 to 5 “core pursuits”
- Are involved with music
- Are physically active, and
- Are socially active
He is a big advocate of volunteering as one of the core pursuits.
He provides some suggestions for the types of lifestyles that may lead to happiness, based on a survey he organized of 1300 retirees.
Am I Ready to Retire? Do I Know What I Will Do?
I have always had a misty idea of what I would do after retiring. It morphs somewhat depending on health concerns and family responsibilities. (For example, I may decide to spend a fair amount of time helping older relatives if they need it, or helping my children’s families if they have ones.)
My husband’s dream is even harder to pin down because he tends to cycle through hobbies slowly. Each usually runs about a 10-year course. All of them share certain characteristics, though, which makes them reasonable to financially prepare for, even if the actual activity won’t be identified until the future.
Both of us expect we will keep working in small ways and probably earning some supplementary income. Our 4 parents have done this and it seems natural to us to do the same.
Reading the book has made me spend a bit more time thinking about our retirement goals. And that’s a good thing.
- Our Expectations for Retirement
- Retirement Planning: Testing the TD Retirement Savings Calculator
- Retirement Planning: How Much Do We Really Spend Now and How Much Will We Spend Then?
Have you considered what you will do after retiring from your conventional job? Yes, it can include continuing to work but for pleasure not for necessity. Please share your insights with a comment.