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My retirement is ruined! This scary thought comes to retired people who have done something only to have it go wrong for them. But is it true? Maybe not. Here are some ideas about what to do when your retirement plan hits a snag.
Find the size of the problem
The initial statement, “My retirement is ruined,” may be an exaggeration. Maybe the misfortune looks pretty big. But does it really sink the whole retirement experience? Or does it just mean a change in course is needed? Emotions running high are the usual culprit in exaggerating.
So, let’s get specific. Restate the problem by zeroing in on it. It may be clearer after you write out what happened to “ruin” your retirement. Then try to sum up what the problem you found is. For example:
- You miss work friends and don’t fit in with them any more.
- You’re bored and restless and you don’t know what to do with yourself.
- You decided to stay put and now wish you’d bought that RV and gone touring.
Here’s a story about a lady with a different experience that didn’t work out.
Mary Ann was a widow who lived in a big city where she could walk to everything and knew a whole neighborhood. But she was missing her kids, who lived in the suburbs of other cities. She was well fixed for money so she sold her place and bought a suburban home near one of her kids.
But she had problems with her new place. Sure, you could walk in the suburbs, but in places there weren’t sidewalks. You could walk miles in the suburbs and get nowhere. Everyone drove to doctors, grocery stores, pharmacies, and everything else because of this. Being suburbia, no public transportation. She wasn’t much of a driver.
Mary Ann knew nobody. This suburb wasn’t the happy block party type place. It was a hide behind the draperies and one-up the neighbors kind of place. She was miserable unless her son and his family fit her in. And that wasn’t often enough by far. Turns out she was used to living for her family but they didn’t live for her.
Mary Ann concluded that she had made a big mistake. Her retirement was ruined. But we know, looking at what happened, that it might not be. We don’t know what options she has, but she might, because she knows her family and finances and what she really wants. She just has to figure it out.
List your assets
Mary Ann sat down and listed what she had to work with. She had two other children in other towns that she might visit. The city was where she went to see her doctor, and he was a really good one, finally. The house she lived in was in a good neighborhood that a family could enjoy. And she had a pretty hefty nest egg still.
Still Mary Ann was stuck. So she called her daughter and told her what was up. And her daughter said, “Mom, why don’t you move into the city? You’ll still be in a central location so we can all see you. And you’ll have the conveniences you’re used to from back home.”
Well, since moving back home was going uphill financially, Mary Ann had already ruled that out, somewhat sadly. But the nearby city had a good reputation for safety and transportation. It would put her closer to her preferred medical help. And she’d really like the city life again!
Mary Ann made a project of it to learn about neighborhoods in the city. She paid more attention when she went into town and talked to the taxi drivers. Her computer, normally used only to Skype with grandchildren, now told her where the bus routes, libraries, stores and parks were. She checked out real estate and rentals in promising areas, and looked into museums too because she likes them.
She also checked her finances to be sure she could afford a change. Finally, she had a mover estimate what it would cost to move her belongings. When it looked like she could do it, she started to plan.
Make a plan
Mary Ann set up a goal to move into her new apartment by Christmas. She set up the steps she had to take to get there and checked off each step as she completed it.
- List the house.
- Find an apartment in one of her “good” neighborhoods.
- Sign a lease for the apartment.
- Set a date with the movers.
- Pack her belongings.
- Move into the apartment.
- Sell the car.
Now Mary Ann is living among a lot of people of all ages, which she wanted. She visits with them and sometimes even babysits. When she wants to shop there are stores to walk to, and her medical care is a short bus ride away.
Sometimes she meets her son downtown for lunch, to catch up. She met some people to have coffee with at the art museum where she’s in a painting class. And she still Skypes with the grandkids. She has fixed her ruined retirement and happily works on building a new life for herself.
Retirement is really just another stage of life into which some rain must fall. When Debby’s date dumped the punch bowl on her prom dress, her life wasn’t over. Not even her adolescence. (Imagine what she did to solve that problem.) Why should people fifty years her senior have more difficulty than she did?
When you first think “My retirement is ruined,” figure out what made you say that. Next, define the problem. Then list what you still have that is helpful and good in your life. Brainstorm some solutions. If you’re stuck, ask someone you trust to help brainstorm. Then when you have a goal, research it and plan it. Finally, work your plan step by step.
Not even the best-planned retirement escapes all problems. And with some care, your retirement life can go on and maybe even improve as you solve your problems as you go.
For more about planning, read about SMART Goals here.
Have you had an experience that threatened your happiness in retirement? What did you do to solve it?