spending well

Old Guys, New Chapters?

photo shows the sun rising over a lake in Louisville, Nebraska

Friends, I’ve been struck by the number of widowers in my circle—and saddened by the number who have joined this club recently. Although we learn early that mortality is universal, we each travel quite personal, individual journeys through these transitions.

I’m noticing, however, that there are things that seem to come up often as I talk with those of you who are in this spot. I may be more aware of them because of my own experiences in the two years since Cathy’s passing. Let me talk through some of these issues.

A change in goals. We may embrace major life goals as a part of a couple that suddenly do not fit our new status. One person shared with me that what had been the couple’s “forever home” was not a good fit for a single retiree; renting a small place made more sense for this individual.

Another person told me their big retirement idea—to move to a warmer place where the spouse had connections—was not going to work anymore.

In my case, the dream home we bought to make Cathy’s last years better did not make sense for me anymore (although it took me more than a year to realize this). My overall vision was changing.

A change in spending. As a result of these changing goals and plans, often household spending decreases. The survivor requires less in the way of financial resources, so legacy issues may become more prominent: assets from one chapter turn into a surplus in the next. Some of you have elected to help adult children with major purchases that made their lives better; others clarified the details of their legacy planning.

A change in retirement plans. Our status can affect our vision for retirement, too. Retirement dates might change for some. One client shared his plan to sell his home and retire early, live in a motor home, and do more traveling. Another told me he was going to ‘’unretire” and go back to work for a while. He said the days were not easy to get through without more to do.

To each their own, of course. Those of us in new—sometimes unexpected—chapters face changes and challenges. It often takes time to sort out which next steps make sense. Please know I’m here for whatever conversations or perspectives might be helpful. We know life is filled with joy and pain. I can handle connecting with your story even as you are navigating painful transitions.

Please email me or call if you would like to talk.

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Play the audio version of this post below:

The Joy of Being Cheaply Amused

© Can Stock Photo / outsiderzone

Once upon a time, we went out on a Friday night – to the dollar theater. This was a discount affair, where good movies – not prime, first-run movies – could be seen on the big screen, for a dollar.

In the ticket line, we happened upon friends and clients, recently retired. They told us it was a regular part of their entertainment. They also hiked the trails at the state park, played cards with friends, read books from the library, and liked to watch the sun set over the river.

He said, “One of the things we had to learn early in my teaching career was the joy of being cheaply amused. We were not making much money, and did not really have a choice.” Even in retirement, on a good pension and with plenty of resources, those habits stuck.

That phrase struck a chord with me. I had long noticed that those who feel compelled to keep up with the Joneses, or whose happiness seemed to depend on shopping or acquiring things, were difficult clients to work with. Those traits are connected to a general desire to always want more.

In contrast, the joy of being cheaply amused seems to correlate with simpler lifestyles, longer-term orientation, and a greater sense of contentment.

This has a huge impact on lifestyles in retirement. The conundrum is, those who are cheaply amused tend to be the ones who can afford the bucket list trip to Europe or Alaskan cruise, to be generous in helping children and grandchildren, who have money for really significant activities.

In other words, some of the most successful retirees we know have grown into being able to spend well. Not having a lot of money starting out in life is good discipline for being thoughtful about spending later on.

Clients, if you would like to talk about this or anything else, please email us or call.