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5 Things You Shouldn't Put Off Until You Retire

Delaying them can actually make retirement less enjoyable and comfortable

By Rosie Wolf Williams

Many of us dream about our eventual retirement when we’ll close the office door and have all the free time we want to do whatever we want. But don’t make the mistake of pushing off these five things until you finally retire:


Why not make plans to go on that long-awaited vacation now? Travel is easier when you are younger — and it’ll probably be cheaper, since the rates for airfares, cruises and hotel rooms are likely to go up, not down.

“The younger you are, the more you can bend in an airline seat to sleep, the more you can run between terminals, the more you can handle meals off schedule,” says Julie Sturgeon, owner of Curing Cold Feet Travel Agency in Indianapolis, Ind.

She suggests doing anything that is easy to say, but not so easy to do, as you get older. “That includes renting a car and driving through the Italian countryside, skiing in the Alps and traveling around the world,” says Sturgeon.

She and her husband, Ron, recently took a nine-day vacation to Rome. “We picked independent day tours. We got on the train one day and headed up to Pisa and spent another day in Capri near Naples. We walked 10 miles around the city, figured out subway systems and in general had complete freedom over our itinerary,” says Sturgeon. Total cost: around $8,000.

Living On a Reduced Budget

Robert Delamontagne, the retired author of The Retiring Mind: How to Make the Psychological Transition to Retirement, suggests creating a budget that would reflect your lower retirement income — and then live within your future means.

“Run the numbers. Have a realistic perspective on cash flow, because you may have to make some significant changes,” says Delamontagne.

One way to trim expenses, especially if the kids are out of the nest and costly home maintenance is taking over your weekends, is selling your oversized home and moving to a smaller, more efficient place rather than waiting until retirement. Not only can this slash your housing costs now, it’ll free up cash for you when you finally do retire.

Getting Exercise

Incorporating an exercise program of at least 30 minutes per day now could reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer and hypertension. This can then help you be healthier in retirement, which would mean lower-than-otherwise medical expenses.

“Mix walking with yoga or tai chi for balance,” says Vanessa Sink, public affairs manager at the National Council on Aging. “If you're looking for classes with your peers, check out local senior centers. They aren't just for bingo and meals.”


Creating Goals

Delamontagne says goals don’t have to be heroic or life altering. His personal list, written on an index card, included expanding his knowledge; biking and walking regularly; spending time with his dogs and writing books.

“In retirement, time is capital. Making decisions about how to spend your time in the most productive way is the most critical thing you can possibly do. In order to do that properly, you have to have a certain level of self-awareness,” Delamontagne notes.

Adjusting to Retirement

“When I retired, I had a hell of a psychological adjustment,” says Delamontagne. “Nobody ever mentioned the fact that retirement would require it.”

This is the time to get more comfortable with technology and social networking, start volunteering and join groups of people who share your interests. All of these will help keep you connected in retirement.

If you’re married or have a partner, talk out how you’d both like to spend your retirement days. You might even want to try out a few weeks together at home, if you can swing it, to head off any issues you’ll face as homebodies in retirement.

“Corporate executives, movers and shakers, high-energy types and perfectionists have no idea what it’s like to be retired,” Delamontagne says. “Sometimes, you have ‘marital compression,’ where you’re with your spouse 24/7. Before, you were separated by work and other things. Now, even minor incompatibilities can flare up and really cause problems.” But by readying yourselves for retired life, you can increase the chances that the real thing will be enjoyable, not infuriating.

Rosie Wolf Williams
Rosie Wolf Williams is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in USA Weekend, Woman's Day, AARP the Magazine and elsewhere. Read More
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