Retiree Regrets and Mistakes to Learn From and Avoid

“It’s good to learn from your mistakes. It is better to learn from other people’s mistakes.” — Warren Buffett

I recently watched a CBS Morning news segment entitled, ‘What would you tell your younger self?’ Great segway into planning for a long retirement, God willing, right? Stats say that many retirees are not happy with the way they prepared for retirement. The way I see it, today’s workers can learn from these regrets and avoid them by creating a retirement plan and sticking to it. Yep, I know, easier said than done.

Planning for retirement can seem confusing and complicated, so it’s not surprising that two-thirds of retirees say they have regrets about how they prepared for it, according to a recent survey. More worrisome is the fact that many of today’s workers continue to do the same things the retirees wish they had not. So, I suggest to younger people that they learn what can go wrong in retirement NOW, to avoid it later in life. Same old story: If I only knew what I know now, right? Anyway. Life is unpredictable. Help yourself. Do what you can to plan for a long life.

After 22 years of helping people with planning for a rewarding retirement, I hear a lot of the same things repeated from retirees about what they would have done differently. Many preretirees ask themselves questions like, ‘Have I saved enough money to retire?,’ or ‘Will I be able to maintain the standard of living I’ve grown accustomed to?’. Financial planners cite three retirement phases: Go-Go, Slow-Go and No-Go. In the Go-Go years, typically 65 to 75, healthy young retirees spend a lot on travel, hobbies, and scratching life-long dreams off their bucket list. Retirees are less active between 76 and 85 in the Slow-Go years and tend to spend their No-Go years of 86 to 100 quietly. More than more than half (55 percent) of retirees said they have retirement planning regrets. The Washington Post ran an article entitled, “The top regrets of retirees” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2018/12/10/top-regrets-retirees/). Citing a Global Atlantic survey (2018 survey of 4,200 pre-retirees and retirees in the United States), here are three (3) regrets of retirees:

1.               Being too reliant on Social Security.

2.               They did not pay down debt before retiring.

3.               They didn’t save enough.

See the article for more details. One point it made was that thirty-nine percent (39%) of retirees reported spending more than they expected. And consistent universally in the financial planning world, the article reiterated, “The risk of running out of money is real.” When you get right down it, why waste your energy mourning the past? Move on. You can’t change the past. And if you do have regrets, well, avoid spending too much time in what my mother (author, Dr. Linda Wheeler, https://www.drlindawheeler.com/) calls, ‘the tunnel of suffering.’ She tells audiences, ‘Don’t grow roots there…work to get out!’ So, the point is, adapt and take a page from the late poet and author Maya Angelou’s playbook. Angelou said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” What else is there, right?

Another idea is to focus on what really matters. At 88, Clint Eastwood was asked, “How do you remain so young and active?” The now 92 y.o. Clint replied, “I don’t let the old man in.” Yep, tough mindset for sure. Some fight the frailty aspect of aging. Others just give in, saying c’est la vie. All I know is that life is unpredictable. In my practice, we discuss risks in retirement. Longevity happens to be one of them. Optimists will comment, what is wrong with living a long life? Nada. It is about addressing the risks if you choose. My partners at St. Francis Healthcare are sponsoring a FREE virtual LTCi educ session I am conducting tomorrow evening via Zoom. Join us. Here is the link to register: https://www.stfrancishawaii.org/s/courses

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