With so much attention focused on the need for a gigantic nest egg for retirement, it's natural to feel jittery about leaving your job. Add in the warnings about Social Security's projected deficit, and you might feel downright scared about your chances for even a modest retirement.
Yet, if you talk to retirees, you're likely to get an entirely different picture of what is necessary for a satisfying retirement. Current retirees have plenty of wisdom to offer people on the verge of retirement, and very little of it involves delaying retirement. Here are a few statements that you won't hear from people who are already retired:
I wish I worked more so I could own even more possessions. The latest gadgets, handbags, and designer clothes are nice to have. But how hard are you working just to own them? What are you giving up so you can let someone swipe your credit card? There are always reasons to spend more money, but not when it will jeopardize your retirement finances. The stress that working longer causes is unlikely to be worth it.
I wish to die earlier. Building a nest egg involves saving enough to finance an unknown number of years of retirement. Many people make health and financial decisions based on how long they think they will live. When you are in your 20s, you might think you will only live until 65. But you will probably push that date back a bit by the time you are in your 50s. If you spend everything you make when you are young, you will be sorry when you are in your 90s.
I wish to have fewer family members around me. Retirees understand the importance of having family around when they are old. But not everyone takes the time to nurture their relationships with loved ones. Close relationships take time and care to flourish, which can be difficult when you are caught up in the rat race, especially if you move frequently for your job. Take the time to maintain personal relationships while you are working so that they will be there for you in old age. What good is retirement without friends and family to spend time with?
I wish I saved less. There are many retirees who wish they saved more. But you'll seldom meet retirees who wish they saved less when they were younger. It is a sacrifice to tuck away part of each paycheck for retirement instead of spending it on something fun. But a retiree flush with cash will be able to happily pursue hobbies, instead of stressing about how to pay monthly bills. If you end up saving more than you could ever spend, you'll be in the far more fortunate position of deciding which new retirement activities you want to try or which heirs or charities you wish to leave your extra savings to.
The key to a secure retirement is actually quite simple: Lower your expenses, and you will drastically improve your chances of financial independence.
David Ning runs MoneyNing, a personal finance site that shares money moves you can make to significantly increase your chances of having a comfortable retirement. He likes to share simple changes that anyone can make, such as picking the best online savings account and figuring out whether a 0 percent balance transfer credit card makes sense.
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