Retired and Choosing to Live the Good Life

Tampa Bay Tammy and Daryl Johnson Tampa Bay Tammy and Daryl Johnson Jerry Brunson, Ben Gordon

When I retired at 57 from the US Postal Service as Plant Manager of Baton Rouge, I was a bit elated that I had actually reached a monetary goal that I had set for myself. I soon realized it was short sighted, hence the need for a plan B, to live the life I wanted for my wife and me.
I am 60 years old and I believe I have at least 15 good working years left in me (Lord willing). At worst case, I have ten years for sure. I thank God my wife was willing to maintain the newspaper in my absence or I would surely be working on someone else’s job by now. I am grateful to be able to say I am active, in good health, financially stable, however, not financially sufficient enough to sit back without downsizing to maintain the lifestyle that we have come accustom. I recently read an article by Suze Orman that was quite enlightening and I felt compelled to share with you, our readers. I have condensed it for brevity. The title of her story is “ Suze Orman Says This Is the Age You Should Retire—Not a Month or Year Before” Here are the three main points she made.
Step 1: Delay Tapping Social Security Until 70
When people tell me they plan to retire in their early 60s, part of their strategy is to start taking their Social Security retirement benefit at 62, the earliest claiming age. People, please listen to me: That is one of the biggest mistakes you will ever make!
Wait until 70 and your annual benefit will be 76% higher than what you’re eligible for at 62. That higher payment can be a huge help in supporting you through a long life.
My advice: If you’re married, the higher earner must, must, must delay Social Security until 70. If the other spouse wants to start earlier—I seriously hope not before age 67—I will allow it. (That said, if you have a medical condition that prevents you from working, or raises the likelihood you won’t live into your late 80s or 90s, then claiming earlier may make sense.)
All of you should absolutely know how much Social Security you are projected to get. I want you to go to the Social Security website, where you can get a personalized estimate of your potential benefits.
Step 2: Lay the Foundation Now to Work Longer Later
I am not shy about peppering my friends with questions concerning their retirement. And they always give me the same pat answer: “Oh, Suze, don’t worry. I am never going to stop working.” And these are people with office jobs, not entrepreneurs.
I worry. A lot! Working till you die is nuts, and even working into your 70s is a risky bet. Take a look around your office: How many 70-year-olds do you see at your company?
Even if you are self-employed and are not worried about anyone laying you off because you’re the boss, life can still get in the way. About 30% of people surveyed by the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies reported that they retired earlier than expected because of health issues.
I realize you may be getting annoyed with me right about now. I just told you to keep working until 70, and now I am commiserating with you that it can be very hard to pull that off. Hard—but not impossible.
This is not something you can just flip the switch on when you hit 60. The financial and employment planets don’t magically align to give you exactly what you want and need. It’s gonna take some work to be able to keep working on your terms.
Start a conversation with your employer—the right way. If you love your current employer (and they, you), it certainly makes sense to start talking at least two years or so out about what a reduced job might look like.
Don’t just tell your manager and HR you want to work part-time. That creates a headache for them. Present them with a vision of what roles you can fill and what problems you can solve as you downshift.
Stop the coasting. Right here. Right now. Doing just enough to get by
now. Doing just enough to get by puts a well-deserved target on your employment file. If you’re lucky enough to have a job that provides ongoing training opportunities, or continuing ed, you are insane not to squeeze out maximum value.
With the explosion of online education, you can polish existing skills or pick up valuable new ones from the comfort of your home computer. Does free fit your budget? Check out EdX, a consortium of colleges that offer free courses, as well as “MicroMasters” programs for a fraction of the cost of a full-blown on-site master’s. Your local community college can also be an economical way to pick up new skills.
Step 3: Truly Enjoy a Secure Retirement
I bet plenty of you found all this depressing. Cursing me a bit? No offense taken. I know this is a lot to digest. But here’s what I need you to know: If you’re fuming now, you’ve got it all wrong. Having a clear-eyed vision of how navigating your 60s can set you up for a worry-free retirement should make you feel empowered. It’s the difference between holding your breath that everything will work out okay, and taking the steps today so you can confidently breathe easy knowing you have a plan that will work out just great.

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| 508 views | October, 30th, 2017
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