Blame the Great Recession of 2008. Blame your inability to save any money. Blame divorce. Blame a death in the family. Blame whatever it is you want to blame but for many of us, our best laid retirement plans sometimes don’t work out. We find ourselves on the precipice of retirement with barely the money needed to fund a happy, successful retirement. In fact, ‘survival’ has become our new code word.
What to do?
As our code word suggests………we survive. We make the best of it. We make it work. We find a way. The first thing we do is NOT blame ourselves. These things happen. Rather than dwell on what might have been we need to concentrate of what is possible now. Know that you are not alone. Over 65% of Americans have saved nothing towards their retirements. How can they? With many of the expense challenges we all must meet, it’s nearly impossible for many Americans to save anything!
Look at these two charts:
For me, the 2008 Great Recession did a number on us. DH was out of work for a very long time. We tapped into our retirement funds till they were completely depleated. I very foolishly thought my real estate holdings would suffice. My original plan was to buy a low cost, cheap condo to retire in (which we did @$160K) and then sell our very expensive marital home ($400k) and use those proceeds to fund our retirement. That plan, after a year and a half did NOT work out! The condo and its location were a big disappointment. Thankfully, we never sold our expensive marital home and moved back in to it. We sold our less expensive condo instead and now have a much reduced retirement savings account. This new retirement living plan was NOT in our predictions. Nonetheless, it is now in our new future.
What to do?
Believe it or not, our original marital home has the lowest costs of living. It’s actually cheaper to live here in New York State (NYS) all year long than anywhere else in the country (especially Florida, where the condo was located). Yes, our property taxes are sort-of-high (but I get a reduction due to my age and low income) YET everything else, such as car insurance, health insurance, electricity, food and entertainment costs are very, very low. (car insurance, utility costs, HOA fees and property taxes in Florida were sky high! Who knew?) It only costs us $745 a month to insure our home, afford utilities, pay property taxes and maintenance here in NYS. Where else can we go and live for only $745 a month? (we have no mortgage or debt). Luckily also, thanks to rising interest rates, I’ve been able to take the cash proceeds from the sale of our inexpensive condo and invest them so that we receive a good monthly interest (4.21%) & dividend check from it.
The interest/dividend proceeds, the dual social security checks, a minor monthly pension payout and our drastic reduction in living expenses have made our retirement possible despite the drastic change in our planning. In other words, we’re surviving and IMHO we’re surviving quite nicely.
The biggest adjustment any of us can make to a retirement that didn’t turn out as we had planned has to do with our attitude. According to Bob Lowry, author of the very famous and prolific blog, A Satisfying Retirement latest post (click here) ‘A Satisfying Retirement With Limited Resources. Can That Work?’ addresses the new retirement reality like this:
My most important suggestion has nothing to do with money. It has to do with accepting adjustments. Maybe you thought your retirement would include travel, maybe even a vacation home, lots of meals out, season tickets to the ballgames or orchestra…..whatever you pictured in your mind.
That isn’t the way things turned out. That is the reality. But, it doesn’t have to dictate whether your retirement is happy or not. It shouldn’t make you feel like you’re “failing” retirement because you can’t do what others can. Your financial resources may set boundaries on retirement, but it absolutely doesn’t have to determine what happens within those boundaries. That is still within your control.
Nick and I have a roof over our heads, two paid-for cars in the driveway, food on the table, a smallish RV for travel, a steady secure monthly income, our health and a plethora of freebie things to do and entertain us. I’d say we have a ‘Satisfying Retirement’ indeed.
Live well and prosper, my friend. Live well and prosper.