Your retirement presents you with the opportunity to truly live your life on your own terms. You are no longer bound by the constraints of your job. You are now free to do the things you have wanted to do for years, limited only by your available resources and your mobility. It would be unfortunate to reach the end of your retirement journey, only to have regrets for the things you could have done, but didn’t.
With a little thoughtfulness and planning, you can avoid these twelve regrets during your retirement.
Neglecting your health. During your 30s and 40s, you may have picked up some extra pounds and some unhealthy habits. At the time, these issues were easy to ignore and you probably felt like you were getting along fine. But in your 50s and 60s, the years of neglect will take their toll in the form of expensive medical procedures, decreased mobility and a reduced life expectancy, all of which will result in a shortened, more constrained retirement. Make sure this doesn’t happen to you by including some physical activity in your routine. Get regular exams, screenings, dental checkups and colonoscopies. Monitor your cholesterol, blood pressure and weight.
Not traveling when you had the chance. If travel is a significant part of your retirement plans, as it is for many people, don’t postpone your dream trips too long. You never know when your health or mobility will start to decline. In the worst case scenario, you or your spouse could pass away unexpectedly. Aim to take your most eagerly anticipated trips within the first few years of retiring. If you remain healthy longer than that, so much the better. Just be careful not to overspend during your first few years of retirement. It’s a delicate balancing act.
Working too long. If you are approaching retirement with inadequate savings, working a few more years might be a necessity. But many people work longer than they need to, either because they are afraid that they will be miserable after they retire or because they may not realize that they have sufficient resources to retire. Working too long is one of the most common regrets of people who are approaching the end of their life. People rarely regret that they didn’t work longer.
Not planning for how you will spend your time. During your working years, much of your schedule and your priorities were dictated by your job and the requirements of raising a family and maintaining a home. Suddenly finding that you are completely in control of how you spend your time might be a major adjustment. Retirement brings endless possibilities for things to do, but you need to think about what will be most satisfying to you and take the initiative to create a lifestyle that you will enjoy. Ideally, that will include a mix of physical activity, social contact, mental stimulation and fulfillment.
Not downsizing earlier. While it may be difficult and time consuming to part with possessions you have accumulated over your lifetime, when you finally do get rid of things you no longer need it will feel liberating. Most retirees who declutter their lives wish they had done it sooner. Many people also come to the realization that they wish they hadn’t bought most of that stuff in the first place. Moving to a smaller house may be advantageous as well. You’ll have a smaller house to maintain and the proceeds from the sale of your larger house may give you more funds to enjoy your retirement.
Moving without doing thorough research. If you dream of moving after you retire to a place that is less expensive or features a climate that is more to your liking, be sure to thoroughly research your intended destination before you make the big move. Take several extended trips to the area you are considering at different times of the year, or better yet, rent a home for at least half a year before you totally commit. Favorite vacation destinations rarely make good choices for permanent day-to-day living.
Not becoming more financially astute. While you may not acquire as much knowledge as a professional financial advisor, it is beneficial to have a working knowledge of investment products and terminology. You will be in a better position to understand your options and make the best choices for your needs. Many people approach retirement without a full understanding of how Social Security and Medicare work, how much they will need to live on and how much they can safely withdraw each year. You don’t want to make costly mistakes you will regret later.
Not getting professional advice. Even if you are a reasonably astute investor, a financial advisor will probably be able to suggest investment options you might not be aware of that will help you save more money for retirement. He or she will have better insight into matters such as tax consequences and how much money you can safely withdraw after you retire.
Not creating an estate plan. It may be uncomfortable to think about what is going to happen to your remaining money and possessions after you are gone, but you’ll enjoy peace of mind after you create an estate plan. It’s tempting to put off this task for another day, but none of us knows how much time we have left. Creating a good estate plan is also a gift you are giving to your beneficiaries, because settling your estate will be faster and easier for them.
Not telling people you love them or how much they matter. Sadly, as you get older you will lose more of your friends and family members. Don’t wait until it’s time to deliver a eulogy or send a sympathy card to express how much someone meant to you. Tell them while they are still alive. Think of how wonderful it feels when someone tells you what a difference you have made in their life. Give that gift to others before it’s too late.
Carrying grudges. Life is too short. The time you spend focused on holding grudges is time you are depriving yourself of happiness. Make peace with people you would like to be on better terms with. Forgive people who have wronged you. Let go of disappointments, missed opportunities and past failures. As the ancient wisdom goes, when you hold onto a piece of hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else, you are the one who gets burned.
Not spending enough time with those you love. After you leave work, you won’t be surrounded by people on a day-to-day basis. You will have more time to spend with people, but you’ll find that you need to take more initiative to make that happen. It’s worthwhile to do so. Make the effort to stay in touch with your friends and spend time with them. If your parents and older relatives are still alive, visit them and ask them to tell you stories about their lives. You will find that your relationships and experiences are the most valuable things in your life.