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Best If Shared

Dennis Friedman

I KEPT THE LANDLINE number that my mother had when she was alive. I thought there might be friends I wasn’t aware of who would try to phone her. Indeed, I received calls from people like Helen who lives in Arizona, Cheryl in Colorado and Jan from Michigan. Eventually, however, the phone went silent, except for those annoying sales calls.

But I still kept the phone number. I just couldn’t give it up. It was costing me an extra $50 a month, but I didn’t care. I would happily pay $500 to talk to anyone from my mother’s past, especially those who kept her company in her later years. They were an integral part of my mother’s retirement.

Maybe I’m too sentimental, but on my cell phone I still have three voicemails from my mother. I can’t bring myself to delete them—and yet I can’t listen to them, either. It would be too painful to hear her voice. Maybe one day, but not today. Since I was her primary caregiver, she was a big part of my life. I’m lucky to have been able to share the early years of my own retirement with her.

I got a phone call one day from the wife of one of my best friends. Leo, whom I’d known for 35 years, had passed away. He had been battling a chronic illness. As retirees, we used to have lunch every week, and sometimes we went fishing and hiking in Big Sur and Big Bear. I’ll miss our getaways and conversations that usually started with, “Do you remember when we….”

Just recently, Greg—my auto mechanic—called and informed me he was closing his business. He was emotional and said, “I wanted you to hear it from me since we’ve been friends for such a long time.” We would sometimes talk for hours while he worked on my car. We had many things in common. We both married later in life and recently that became our main topic of conversation. I’ll miss hanging out at his shop, but we’ll still remain good friends.

Why am I telling you this stuff? What does this have to do with retirement and money?

When I read articles about retirement, plenty of them focus on money. How much should you save? What mutual funds or exchange-traded funds should you invest in? Should you use the 4% rule when drawing down an investment portfolio? There are also a lot of articles about the best places to retire.

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I think most of these articles miss what retirement is all about. It’s about more than money and where you live. Instead, it’s about the people in your life. You can’t put a price tag on them, but these folks can be just as valuable as your investment portfolio.

They say two of the most precious commodities that money can buy is financial independence and time—a chance to live in the moment, to do the things you want to do when you want to do them. Isn’t that the essence of retirement? Isn’t that the true reason we save for retirement?

Problem is, those experiences aren’t nearly so valuable if you don’t have someone to share them with. I can tell you for certain that the wine you drink and the food you eat in retirement will taste better if you’re sharing them with friends.

You might feel there’s less need for friends because you have a large family. But having a supportive network of friends in old age has greater benefits. You tend to do things you enjoy with your friends, while many of the things you do with family are out of a sense of obligation.

While you’re planning your retirement, it would be wise to contemplate who you’re going to spend it with. That’s especially true if you don’t know what you’re going to do in retirement, because your friends and family can help you find your way.

I’m lucky to have a wonderful wife and a core group of friends who I would do anything for and who I believe would do the same for me. If you have enough good people in your life, you have the makings of a great retirement.

Dennis Friedman retired from Boeing Satellite Systems after a 30-year career in manufacturing. Born in Ohio, Dennis is a California transplant with a bachelor’s degree in history and an MBA. A self-described “humble investor,” he likes reading historical novels and about personal finance. Check out his earlier articles and follow him on Twitter @DMFrie.

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Ben
Ben
1 year ago

This is one of the best articles written on Humble Dollar in some time. And that is really saying something, because HD has a very high standard of content! Great wisdom here. I will be printing this out and adding it to my binder of great articles to revisit at a later date.

johny
johny
1 year ago

The one downside of FIRE is that one is free, but friends are not. Thus FIRE means free, but continuing to do something to be around people and possibly creating a new set of FIRE-friendly buddies.

In more and more societies the extended family culture is disappearing with the times and young folks see their elders as a burden. Single person households are also on the rise.

One way to keep the extended family involved in our lives is to be wealthy, but I don’t mean filthy rich, just enough to pay for vacation expenses and other benefits (i.e. beach house) for members of the extended family. In some cultures when kids visit their elders, they get some cash as pocket money. Visit all your aunts, uncles, grannies and grandaddies and you return with a tidy sum.

Will
Will
1 year ago

warm and wise. thanks, Dennis.

CJ
CJ
1 year ago

“You might feel there’s less need for friends because you have a large family. ”

I noticed a LOT of people seem to subscribe to this thinking…they don’t seem interested in building friendships. The people I know – their entire life revolves around kids and grandkids. Even those who I can coax out: that’s all they talk about or care about.

I’m happy that they love their family, but they don’t seem to care or understand that not everyone has children and maybe would like to talk about something else once in a while.

Guess I haven’t found my “tribe” yet lol

James Lee
James Lee
1 year ago

Why not port the number to a service like Ooma and pay only $6/month?

MarkP
MarkP
1 year ago
Reply to  James Lee

You can port the number to Google Voice and then forward it to your cell phone. No cost.

Dennis Friedman
Dennis Friedman
1 year ago
Reply to  James Lee

I had a difficult time trying to transfer the account to my name, so I could port the number to a low-cost service provider. It would have been easier and faster to cancel the service, but I was afraid I would lose the number.

Catherine
Catherine
1 year ago

I had a fond relationship with my in-laws. Instead of their phone number, I kept their Bell rotary phone. It has the loudest ring and the sound is excellent. Their number is still printed on the paper dial. I haven’t given up my land line, simply because I love this old phone. Nothing wrong with a little sentimentality, it’s a relatively inexpensive vice.

R Quinn
R Quinn
1 year ago

True words of wisdom indeed. And the last year has highlighted what you say. It’s brought new meaning to isolation.

I never had a large circle of friends and only one or two close friends. Most are gone already or moved south. I made the naive mistake of thinking people I worked with were friends, but upon retirement I quickly learned how easy it was to become invisible.

But the good news is I hooked up again with same employer retiree Facebook groups and it’s nice again to have people tell me how they appreciated my help in the past, and as a result of our former employer making benefit changes, I was able to help many again explaining the changes. Not the same as having lunch or a round of golf, but a connection.

While traveling we’ve made a few new friends who we visit and they us. But one couple is in the mid-west, another in England and a third in Paris. Since moving to a 55+ condo community I’ve found new golfing buddies, so that’s good.

Four children and thirteen grand children keep us busy, but as they grow up they have more focus on their friends and activities.

I do not worry about money in retirement, but as you point out there is much more to an enjoyable retirement, some you can plan for and some you can’t.

The longer retired and older you get, the more you appreciate and less you complain because it’s not hard to find people a lot worse off … in health, loneliness or wealth.

Ocher
Ocher
1 year ago

Dennis, thanks for the thoughtful discussion of the importance of friends and shared experiences in retirement.

Roboticus Aquarius
Roboticus Aquarius
1 year ago

A very sweet and wise post, thank you. Having recently lost my father, I understand the motivations at play.

I will add one comment. My mother fared better in retirement than my dad. She pursued new interests and made new friends, several of whom were a great comfort when my dad passed.

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