Answers to Your Questions
On March 30, 2017 I published the findings from my 2017 Pre-Retiree Survey. The final survey question (#10) was an invitation to ask a question. Here now are my answers to your questions.
- How to build a social group when you have been too busy working and raising family to pay attention to your social network?
We moved to a new state so we had to build a social network from scratch. We did so in several ways: our realtor introduced us to other clients; we met people through volunteer activities; and we joined a meetup group that focused on newly retired people. Over time several friends also relocated to our area. It’s taken several years but we now have a vibrant social network.
- How did you find and meet new people who shared your interests?
I think volunteering and meet up groups is a great way to meet like-minded people.
- For those who currently don’t have a passion, how do you find things to do in retirement?
In my case, I didn’t have a passion (other than running which is a solitary activity) when I retired. I was well aware of what I didn’t like: I’m not craft-oriented; not artistic; and not a collector. I always liked history. So I decided to volunteer at a local history museum. I feel that it ticked some of the boxes that work did: a physical place to go; the ability to establish a schedule; and the opportunity to contribute. I started out scanning documents for their archive. Over time I noticed that their website was outdated. I decided to ask whether I could try to help them update it (I had never done anything with websites before so I guess you could say that I took a risk). I had to learn a lot but I found that I enjoyed it and the additional responsibility (eventually I joined the Board). I next volunteered at a reading service for the visually impaired (Sun Sounds of Arizona). After a year of substitute reading, I eventually got my own weekly program. My work with Sun Sounds introduced me to audio (I record from a make-shift home studio). Eventually I combined what I learned at the museum (websites) with what I learned at Sun Sounds (audio) to create RetirementJourneys.com and its podcast. I never envisioned doing the things that I am doing currently. My lessons learned are to be open to new experiences, look for opportunities and be willing to try something different.
- How to maintain a good level of social interactions?
I think it comes down to having good relationships – spending time with people you get along with and them feeling the same. I think good conversation skills are a pre-requisite: listen; don’t interrupt; ask questions; remember the basics about them; and allow them to be the “star” of their narrative. Also, find areas of common ground, avoid religion and politics if you know that they could be divisive; be respectful if sensitive topics get raised; and resist being judgmental (trying to change someone’s mind is like trying to sell them a product that they don’t want).
- How did you adjust?
My adjustment consisted of developing new interests, meeting new people, continuing to do the things I always enjoyed (running, reading and some travel) and maintaining close relationships with friends and family in the Bay Area. Perhaps the most important adjustment was coming to terms with unresolved issues with my father that still affected me. I read Forgiveness is a Choice: A Step-by-Step Process for Resolving Anger and Restoring Hope by Robert D. Enright and worked through all of its exercises. Through this process I gained enough insight and perspective to face my issues, put them into context and understand who and how to forgive. My commitment and hard work helped me to resolve my issues and paved the way for me to give myself the freedom to be happy.
- For those that hadn’t mentally prepared to retire, how did you manage your way through to a positive experience?
I ended up in Stage 3 Disenchantment of The 6 Stages of Retirement. I worked my way out by following Stage 4 Reorientation which says to “take inventory of <your> retirement experience and outline ways that will improve <your> retirement role”. That led me to what I call Retirement 2.0.
- Does it get better?
Yes, but the journey is not linear or unfolds as expected. It took me several years to get to what I call Retirement 2.0. FYI, the top menu of the RJ website follows our journey: The Foundation, Pre-retirement, Decision, Arriving, Surviving and Thriving.
- Biggest surprise?
I had looked forward to having more time to spend on managing my investments. However, just the opposite happened. I found it stressful and frustrating to get caught up in all the daily drama and swings.
- What unexpected event caught you by complete surprise?
We experienced some unexpected medical issues and discovered just how inefficient medical and insurance providers are. We’ve had to spend a lot of time in this area and take control because the system does not work seamlessly. We learned that medical issues have the power to totally disrupt your lives (and retirement). Check out What Surprised Me About Retirement for more surprises.
- What is the one thing you didn’t do in preparation for retirement that you wish you had?
I wish we had slowed down our relocation time table. I think it would have given us more time to better understand the Phoenix metro housing market. It turns out that there is more inventory available in the fall than when we moved which would have given us more choice.
- What would you go back and do differently before retiring?
In addition to # 10, I would have considered renting out our house in the Bay Area.
- What would you have done differently at retirement?
Our retirement included relocation. We rented a condo for a couple of months while we house hunted. Even though we had done a lot of research before moving, in hindsight I would have stayed in the condo longer in order to develop more in-depth knowledge of our options. As you can judge from my answers to questions 10 – 12 relocation is challenging. Things worked out for us eventually but I think things could have gone smoother and more advantageously. I give us an 8 out of 10 which is still pretty good.
- Would you have retired at the time you did if you knew what you now know about retirement life?
Yes. While working longer would have been a good financial decision, giving those healthy years to ourselves, instead of our employers, has been priceless!
- How do you best try out new locales to determine if that’s the retirement spot for you?
In our case, we traveled to favorite places almost every year – Arizona and New Mexico. Over time we built up knowledge and a comfort level. When we decided that we were open to relocation, those two states topped our list. (We also considered California and Nevada.)
Check out Podcast RJ 014 Retirement Relocation with John Brady of TopRetirements.com. He also addresses your question.
- Is it worth relocating to a new state for a year just to take advantage of rolling $ to a Roth?
What an interesting question! Here’s my take on it. I assume that you’re interested in rolling a 401K into a Roth IRA and would like to minimize the tax hit. I further assume that you live in a high tax state. Let’s say that you move to one of the seven states that don’t have a personal income tax. When you covert a 401K to a Roth, tax is due when you do so. So yes you could lower the tax hit if you lived in a state with a lower tax rate. However, this strategy begs several considerations: moving costs; what to do with your current house; residency requirements; managing 2 properties and the disruption to your normal life (services, relationships and activities). Ultimately you have to do your own cost benefit analysis to determine if it is worth it.
- What is your greatest regret during retirement?
Taking so long to make the adjustments I needed to make in order to reboot my retirement (2.0). In my defense, I was unaware of the 6 Stages of Retirement. Perhaps if I had been, my adjustment might not have taken so long or been so difficult.
- What unexpected things happened that you didn’t plan for?
We were surprised by medical and health care issues including insurance. I’m amazed by how much time and effort we’ve had to dedicate to this area – and we’re relatively healthy.
- What’s been the biggest driver of a successful retirement?
We were fortunate to retire during a time of rising financial markets which I think is one of the fundamental pillars of a happy retirement. Financial security reduces stress and provides more options to enjoy life.
- Are you more or less happy now?
I assume that you mean now vs. when I was working. I am happier now because I am truly free.
- Are you truly happy in retirement?
Yes. I refer to it as Thriving in retirement. It didn’t come easy and it didn’t happen overnight. But I think that has heightened my appreciation.
- How did you reinvent yourself?
- .What is more enjoyable, a satisfying job or being retired?
When I retired I was happy and well adjusted with my work. I didn’t retire because “I had had enough”. I do miss several aspects of employment: getting paid; recognition; satisfaction with results; corporate culture; and social interaction. It took me a long time to find a new equally fulfilling life style. One of the biggest differences now is that I derive most of my satisfaction through my own thoughts. I have very little objective feedback or recognition. It’s actually a very close call. I think I lean towards being retired perhaps because I decide what I want to do, how to do and when to do it. I can align what I do more closely with personal goals which is harder to do in the corporate world. I think my article Live for Today – Routinely expresses how I feel about retirement life.
- How did you create your retirement income plan?
I used a detailed retirement income calculator from Fidelity (it has now been updated and is part of their Planning & Guidance Center). If you’d like more information, you can check out Part 6 of my 7 part YouTube series on Personal Budgeting. Part 6 is How to Create a Financial Plan.
- Did your financial plan meet your expectations?
Yes, in fact it has exceeded our expectations. We have exceeded our plan because of better market performance and spending less than planned when we retired. You might enjoy reading my article How Our Spending Changed in Retirement.
- What’s the proper asset allocation for a new retiree?
I think it’s dependent on the age that you retire, your income replacement requirements and your risk tolerance. The main thing is to be diversified and be sure to include equities which are a great hedge against longevity risk. I break my asset allocation into the following categories: cash and cash equivalents; equities; fixed income; and other (such as a REIT).
Putting together a retirement income plan (aka model) can help you figure out your asset allocation strategy. For example, let’s say your portfolio is currently 5 % cash; 25% equities; 50% fixed income and 20% other. After running the model you discover that your income falls short after 15 years. One way to rectify this is to change your allocations. So you may change them to 5% cast; 55% equities; 30% fixed income and 10% other. When you rerun the model and see that you have enough income per year to cover your expenses, then you have a good candidate asset allocation. I think this is a way to tailor your asset allocation to your needs instead of relying on an arbitrary heuristic.
- Do you interact with younger adults, not children?
Yes. I occasionally have younger guests on my podcast, sometimes friends include their children when we meet and we have younger nieces and nephews.
- Did you go back to school in retirement?
Neither I nor my wife has taken formal class room courses such as those offered by a university or community college. That said, I think we are continuously learning. In my wife’s case, she prefers to learn by doing. I have seen the quality of her quilting improve which I believe is the result of applying what she is learning. For me, I’ve learned a lot about web design, web site maintenance and audio through a combination of doing and YouTube videos.
- How did you know it was time to retire?
First and foremost was making sure that we would not outlive our savings. We used Fidelity’s retirement income calculator for that purpose. I describe what we did in Parts 6 and 7 of my Personal Budgeting series. Part 6 is about Creating a Financial Plan and Part 7 is about Financial Scenarios.
The timing of when we retired was a bit arbitrary but one driver of our decision was my wife’s desire to retire early. She had graduated from college in 3 years (she couldn’t wait to get out) and I think that she felt the same way about work.
Perhaps the final impetus came from observing several of our friends experience unexpected, catastrophic health issues. It made us realize that the future was not promised. We realized that given that we could afford to retire, we had a choice: continue to give good health years to the benefit of our employers or to ourselves. We chose to give those years to ourselves.
- What can you count on in retirement?
Having more time to yourself and being in control of what you do with it.
- Best Medicare supplement & why?
I enrolled in AARP’s United Health Care’s plan. It is classified as a Plan F. I can’t say that it’s the best because there are many plans that fit a variety of requirements. However, our insurance agent recommended it and I am 100% satisfied with it. For more information about Medicare you can listen to RJ 008 All Things Medicare.
- What things did you hope to do in retirement that you were unable to do?
My fantasy was to buy an RV and travel extensively. We spent a lot of time reading about RVs, attending shows and visiting RV dealers. You can read about what happened and why in To RV or Not to RV?
- What suggestions do you have for planning your days in retirement?
I have learned through experience, and several of my podcast guests concur, that having structure in retirement is a good thing. I structure a typical day as follows.
- Exercise in the morning (primarily I go out and run trails in a near-by preserve)
- Perform and manage tasks (usually done at my desk with my PC)
- Personal business, retirement journeys related, Sun Sounds related (Friday – Sunday)
- Wrap up day’s tasks, schedule new appointments, travel planning
- Read, listen to podcasts and generally relax
- Happy Hour (I usually have a beer) and surf the web
- Entertainment (it’s common for me to follow a baseball game on my phone while we watch recorded programming from the DVR)
- Read and sleep
I use Google calendar to schedule appointments, events, vacation time, etc.
I use Google’s task manager (appears in the right hand column on Google calendar) to manage my To-do list. I find that if I add a task that I will complete it.
If I think of something that I need or want to do, I send myself an email and then add it to my calendar or task list.
- How much is enough (assume savings)?
See my post titled Can You Afford to Retire?
- Are you still contributing to society?
I think so but in different ways, e.g. volunteering at Sun Sounds, via Retirement Journeys and supporting scholarships at the University of Houston. Also, I strive to always be a good citizen. And I still pay taxes – just not as much.