I MESSED UP MY retirement planning—but I have few regrets.
I don’t know if or when I’ll fully retire. Arguably, I’ve been at least semi-retired for the past nine years. That’s how long I’ve gone without a fulltime job. On the other hand, during those nine years, I’ve continued to earn enough to cover my living costs and I’ve worked longer hours than at any time in my life, thanks mostly to that insatiable mistress known as HumbleDollar.
So, how did I mess up? I’ve reached age 60 with more money than I need for retirement. That might sound like bragging, but the frugality that got me here had a downside. I’ll never know for sure, but I may have enjoyed my working years more if I’d opened my wallet a tad wider, perhaps owning a more comfortable home, taking more lavish vacations and driving cars that were more reliable.
Today, I’m better about spending. I eat out once or twice a week, and I take more expensive vacations. But with all that, I still spend less than I could. As I ponder this, I think there are four lessons for retirement savers.
Prudence almost inevitably leads to over-saving. Imagine you’re in your early 20s. Ahead lies all kinds of potential financial misfortunes: unemployment, ill-health, bad financial markets, divorce, family members in financial need and much more. How can you prepare yourself? The obvious answer: Start saving like crazy and don’t let up.
To be sure, most Americans don’t do this. But for the sort of folks who read HumbleDollar—the ones who care perhaps too passionately about their future self—this sort of manic saving behavior quickly becomes second nature. By your 50s, you might realize you’re on track to have plenty saved for retirement. But by then, if you’re like me, frugality will have become a way of life and you could find it awfully hard to change.
Don’t rely on the 80% rule. One rule of thumb says you can comfortably retire on 80% of your final salary. There’s some logic to this. Upon retirement, you no longer have to pay Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes, plus you no longer need to save perhaps 10% or 15% of income for retirement, so 80% of your old salary should suffice.
But what if you’ve been socking away 20% or 30% of your income, the kids are launched into the adult world and your mortgage is paid off? You might be comfortable living on half or less of your old salary. That’s certainly true for me.
Downsizing is a game changer. In 2020, I decamped from a relatively quiet town just north of New York City and moved to Philadelphia. I made the change for a host of reasons, including a desire to return to city living and to be closer to family. Cost of living wasn’t a consideration—but maybe it should have been.
Over the past two-and-a-half years, my monthly living expenses have fallen sharply, which means I’m now spending even less than I can afford. Philadelphia home prices are a bargain compared to the New York area. My property taxes are half what they were. I no longer own a car. Restaurant prices are noticeably lower.
To be sure, Philadelphia would hardly be considered a low-cost place to live. But it’s undoubtedly cheap compared to New York City and its more affluent suburbs. Indeed, I tell folks that Philadelphia is a smaller, mellower version of New York—where everything is one-third off.
My 2020 move has made me realize how much you can save by downsizing and relocating. I mention this reluctantly—because I feel folks often make a mistake when they trade their current circle of friends for a locale with a lower cost of living. But I must confess, based on my move to Philly, I can see the potential financial savings are huge.
Money buys happiness even if we don’t spend it. Yes, in my over-saving, I missed out on spending that might have brought me added happiness. But it’s hard to know how much additional happiness that spending would have delivered, if any.
Meanwhile, I know where I stand today—and I find the money I’ve accumulated brings me ample happiness. It’s not because I’m spending somewhat more these days, though I am, and it’s not because I regularly sit back and admire my account balances. Rather, the money I’ve amassed brings me happiness because it allows me the luxury of rarely thinking about my own money. I have no worries about how much I spend because I’m confident I have enough.
Could I potentially spend more in the years ahead? I’ve been working on a retirement wish list, something I’ll write about in the weeks ahead. But I’m not sure it’ll involve spending a whole lot more. There’s a tradeoff between spending today and leaving the money to grow, so there’s more tomorrow. We need to strike a balance between the two, something I haven’t been very good at.
Now that I’ve reached my 60s, is it time to change my ways? Perhaps. It’s something I regularly think about. But for now, I’m not sure additional spending would bring me much additional pleasure—but knowing my portfolio continues to grow leaves me with a warm, fuzzy feeling of financial contentment.
Jonathan Clements is the founder and editor of HumbleDollar. Follow him on Twitter @ClementsMoney and on Facebook, and check out his earlier articles.
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I currently geek out on planning vacations for my family and me. Once my daughters are out of the house and I have helped secure their education goals, I hope to achieve this same financial “safe space.”
I hope to engage more excitedly in “proximity charity,” where aid is given only to nearby locations (schools I drive by, libraries I frequent, etc.). Although I admit, grandkids (if I get them) could quickly become the proximity. I’d be ok with that…
Thanks for the thought-provoking post.
Perhaps we will have an old fashioned bear market and your portfolio will shrink by more than 20%. Will that make you feel like you planned better than it now appears. Good luck!
>> “I’m not sure additional spending would bring me much additional pleasure—but knowing my portfolio continues to grow leaves me with a warm, fuzzy feeling of financial contentment.”
A very balanced, circumspect statement. My thoughts exactly. Seems every financial planner these days thinks they’re a life coach, and I’ve about had it with the enjoyment police. Enjoyment is subjective. Last time I checked Ecclesiastes noted a futility in life, though it may make us uncomfortable now, whether or not one is chasing a bigger pile of money, more enjoyment, or better experiences, there are no free lunches.
I look at my portfolio as a source of strength for those I care about.
I wish I could make a statement like Jonathan about having more than enough for retirement. But then I wondered how much is considered more than enough. I have retired for four years and realized things were changing more than I could imagine. For example:
I remember 10 years ago, when I worked full-time, I got paid more than 2,000 every 2 weeks. I was frugal and tried to save as much as I could because I was a late-starter immigrant. I spent only one check of the month and invested the other check in savings.
Now as I retired, with a monthly income of 4,000 ( SS, RMD, pension)
I had to use my savings for big items such as property tax, insurance,
Ten years ago, I did not take any medications, even vitamins. Now I
am taking 6 pills in the morning and 3 at night. I am blessed with reasonably good health but those vitamins I needed for my eyes, my skin, and my bones. My immune system went off as I got old, and I developed asthma. One of the inhaler’s copays is $100 now. So things are adding up without me recognizing it.
I also have to pay for house cleaning, gardening, and all the other little things to maintain the house… Something that I would have DIY a few years ago.
I also found that it felt slow to accumulate funds, but when you started spending, money seemed to disappear much faster. I am grateful that I learned to live within my means from my parents. I love retirement much more than I thought I would. I am happy to continue living a frugal lifestyle, knowing that things can change unexpectedly, but I wholeheartedly enjoy a random luxury when it comes my way.
Great read, Jonathan. It’s often said in order to invest successfully you need to set a thesis with goals on future returns and what that money will be needed for. Retirement, purchase a home, kid’s college etc… That is all well and true. Sometimes however it just comes down to your last sentence, “but knowing my portfolio continues to grow leaves me with a warm, fuzzy feeling of financial contentment”
I appreciate the recognition that life is a balance, and that rules of thumb are useful guideposts, but everyone comes from different circumstances and has unique needs. Thank you for the nuance in this article and the many others you have written.
Just taking a contrarian view: for aging solos, not sure there’s ever really “enough” saved to ensure true peace of mind. (Unless someone is truly 1% wealthy.) The future can be scary.
Common help most people count on from adult kids or spouses – assisting with finances, advocating during doctor, hospital or assisted living/nursing home situations – must all be hired out and self-funded. Well rated CCRCs are expensive now, let alone in 10-20 yrs.
Frugality may still be the best path: loosening the purse strings, even with robust savings, may jeopardize health and safety when the senior is at their most vulnerable.
You need a river cruise, Jonathan! It will help you part with some cash, and knowing that you also enjoying biking, I can imagine that you’d really enjoy using the boat as your floating hotel and cycling each day along the rivers. It’s a wonderful combo that merits a place on the wish list you are compiling. I was fortunate to have used my journalism degree to become a travel writer, primarily for the trade in the early years and for the past couple of decades for consumers. I don’t sell cruises, just provide info, so here’s some about biking and river cruises, https://www.rivercruiseadvisor.com/bikes-riverboats/
took a one-day trip on the Rhine in the middle of a business trip, watched all the bikers along the river enviously..
a cruise with bikes is definitely on my list for someday..
Thanks for the link!
as immigrants, poor but honest, we’ve been saving about 20-25% of income annually since we got here. It wasn’t enough so I’m looking at another eight years of working until full SS benefits kick in at 70, a discouraging prospect. All that frugality was maybe not worth it. I’ve started spending more on vacations, particularly to see family, while we still can – $10 000 for the airplane tickets alone on the last trip to S. Africa over Christmas. That was worth it to see our nieces and old friends.
Still driving my 2004 Ford though 😉 I don’t hesitate to take it hundreds of miles into darkest Wyoming or Montana offroads, as I do all my own maintenance so I know where it’s going to break next.
I see nothing wrong with your retirement planning. You seem to be doing something you like, so why stop if there is nothing you are hungering to do instead? Having more money than you need also has probably added a few months to your life expectancy, because one of life’s major stress issues has been neutralized. Your overall approach to life seems pretty sound.
I can only make one suggestion. You should step back for a minute and recalibrate. Consider everything you’ve done in the past a little like a “sunk cost” – there is nothing you can do to change it now. But you can update your strategy for the remainder of your life. When I hit my low 60s, I realized that my life expectancy was about 30 more years. I also realized that I was likely to be able to do a lot more during the first 15 years than the 15 after that. Even if I stayed healthy, I might not be able to rent a car any more when I was over 70. And I might be a little more careful where I walked at night. Lots of small things like that start to intervene.
So, I concluded that it made sense to try to front-load the first half of what remained for me with things that I have always wanted to do, and that may require an investment of energy, but that I had postponed because of my work life. While that included a lot of big things – like lots of solo travel when my companion or kids couldn’t make it – it also included a lot of small things, too. Like taking a day to travel by train to see an art exhibit. Or visiting a few old friends I had not seen in many years. Or walking a part of the Appalachian Trail, or just the streets of New York or Washington, DC. Then there are also the easy things. Like just making a list of books I’ve always wanted to read, and starting to knock them off one by one. Or even looking around a restaurant for a couple who looked like they could use a boost, and then anonymously buying them their breakfast. I do all these things now because I can and because I elect to do them, with a smile.
Jonathan, you are certainly in an enviable position financially, but you earned it all through hard work, careful spending & investing. Well done! I am interested in knowing if you purchased long term care insurance? what your experience (if any) has been with premiums & rate increases or maybe you feel you don’t need it as you have sufficient assets & family nearby. I am also interested in knowing what your experience has been in purchasing health insurance, you said you don’t qualify for AA subsidies, are you charged 8.5% of income or possibly more? I & many others will be interested in hearing about your endeavor in buying annuities in the future. That topic is obfuscated for many ordinary people not schooled in the intricacies of purchasing annuities. Thank you for sharing your insight & for hosting HumbleDollar. I enjoy it immensely & have spent a couple of hours today & every Saturday reading the various articles published weekly.
Thanks for the kind comments. I haven’t bought long-term-care insurance because I have enough to self-insure. That said, though I have no current desire to live in anything that looks like senior housing, I also realize I may feel differently in 10 years and, at that juncture, I could potentially sign up for a continuing care retirement community, which is effectively a form of LTC insurance. My pretax health insurance premiums this year will be around 7% of income. I haven’t yet bought an immediate fixed annuity, but plan to do so when I no longer earn enough to cover my living costs.
The National Parks are on many folks list, and rightly so.
Anyone focusing on the The Yellowstone geyser should also consider Bryce & Zion canyons closer to UT. It’s out of the mainstream in all aspects, accommodations, crowds, transportation, reasonable costs, & certainly should not be overlooked if ones in the area. Its a enthralling weeks trip from anywhere inside the continental USA. -imo-
Your viewpoint is a good counterpoint to R. Quinn’s repeated recommendation that folks should save enough to be able to retire on 100% of their final salary.
I saw a number of parallels between your story and our experience. We started out quite frugal, maxed out our retirement contributions, saved my wife’s entire paycheck, purchased used cars, and often lived below our means. I retired at 63 but worked part-time for five years after retiring. However, I will say that I did so because I actually enjoyed the work (as a cybersecurity consultant) and only needed to work one day per week from home.
I indicated that we started out quite frugal (while still working). However, an event occurred that changed that. My mother died (at age 47) before my father retired and neither of them got to do any of the things they wanted to do in retirement (especially travel). My father also died relatively young. Their deaths caused me to reassess my “values” (or put another way, my “frugality”). Soon after, we started to take more trips and focus on what we wanted to do (other than work and earn money). In fact, before retiring, we had visited 20 countries. Since retiring, we managed to visit 27 more countries over the past 10 years.
Another event caused me to rethink our spending again. My wife got cancer (twice) over a two-year period soon after retiring. I almost lost her (in that her doctor told me she most likely wouldn’t make it through the night – but she did). That was eight years ago. Now, in her mid-70s, we are both very active and enjoy traveling. We have already traveled four out of the first eight weeks of this year and have seven additional weeks of (international) travel already paid for the remainder of the year. Also, when I turned 70 (and claimed my SS benefits), I started booking first-class airfare and upgraded cabin suites (when cruising). We spend a lot more than what we might have spent previously, but if we have the funds, why not enjoy it. Our children will still get a sizeable inheritance. Since we have sufficient lifetime income (SS benefits plus a self-funded pension) to cover most of our living costs, the RMDs are used for discretionary expenses. Half of the RMD is used for travel, QCDs, and gifting while the other half goes into a taxable brokerage account (which is basically discretionary use as well). We use the interest/dividend income from the taxable brokerage account to pay for our travel upgrades now. At least, this gives us an identifiable amount of how much we can spend (for “extras”). Additionally, our RMDs are withdrawals from our T-IRAs which constitute less than two-thirds of our investment portfolio (the other third being in Roth accounts with no RMDs). So even as we are spending (as much as we want to), our portfolio (barring 2022) generally tends to grow. This is in sharp contrast to the uncertainty we felt (when spending) in our early 60s.
Thinking back, I’m not sure I would have changed my behavior much. If we had started “splurging” earlier, would I have that “warm, fuzzy feeling of financial contentment” that I also currently experience? I’m not sure. However, those two “life events” I mentioned (my parents passing away before retirement and my spouse’s illness) did significantly affect my behavior (for the better, I think). There is definitely more uncertainty with finances when you are in your 50s and 60s (unless you are truly wealthy) and I can understand being more cautious. However, when you reach your 70s, you start to realize that life doesn’t go on “forever” and that time (and enjoying that time via some “splurges”) is much more important than wealth (as long as you have enough).
Jonathan – since you have “more money than I need for retirement” – I wonder if you have considered making more charitable contributions?
Definitely. I mentioned that in a piece three weeks ago — and I try not to repeat myself (or, at least, not too much).
That depends on whether or not you own your home and have paid off the mortgage in full.
I know people who live comfortably on far less, closer to 50% of their final salary, even in the high cost Maryland suburbs of DC.
I’d like to know exactly how that is possible especially if the mortgage was paid off several years before retirement. Does live comfortably mean frugally, not doing anything beyond paying living expenses?
Maybe because when they were making money their final salary was much higher than what they actually spent while working, or intend to spend in retirement? (Absolutely the case for us).
Your approach to saving and spending describes me to a T. Even after delivering newspapers during hot summer months back in eighth grade, I would rush home to put all my tips in a jar rather than spend it on (well-deserved) soda and snacks. I often wonder if I should have gone in with my friends on the beach house in the Hamptons or Jersey Shore, or taken more taxis instead of riding my bike. In hindsight, I realize I could have easily afforded those things. But that approach just went against my hard-wired nature. 30 years later, the time value of compound interest had worked its magic and I was able to step down from my full-time career at 55. I now volunteer for causes that are important to me, and after reading one of these posts, will consider starting a public trust or foundation to become a budding philanthropist! Thanks for the great read.
We were frugal while raising 4 kids, but not at the expense of enjoying life. Cut back on wasteful spending so you can do the things that are worth it.
We bought a timeshare right near Disney World and went there every year, starting back in the early 80’s. Now our kids use it.
We’ve taken some cruises with and without the kids. (as adults), and took a Viking River cruise to southern France when working and it was great.
We went to Europe with our kids when they were young adults, while still working. Why wait until retired?
Now retired, we moved to a bigger house because we like the space, and we don’t have a strong need to travel. Someone mentioned Yosemite, Grand Canyon, etc., but we have no desire to go there and sit in traffic with thousand of others.
Trick is to live in the moment. Not everyone can afford these things while working and raising kids, but for those fortunate enough to save for the future while also spending in the present, go for it. You may never make it to retirement healthy, or at all.
You’re the first person I’ve ever heard describe buying a timeshare as a positive experience. Glad it worked out for you and your family.
I also bought a timeshare and had a positive experience Being very frugal as well as enjoying our work, we bought a Maui timeshare in order to force us to take a vacation every year. Our frugality made it unacceptable to spend maintenance fees without enjoying Kaanapali. Twenty three years later and fully retired for the last 8, we still enjoy Maui.
You and me both, Jonathan. Midwestern recovering frugalista here – we were raised to never pay retail and always look for a “good deal.” It certainly was helpful in the accumulation years, and we now are in a similar position as you are – we have enough.
I can’t say I have any regrets about not spending on the way up – for the most part we did things we wanted to do. We just kept our wants in check and didn’t spend money on frivolous things.
One thing I’m finding now in the dawn of our first year of decumulation is that by setting a target budget amount for spending this year, and moving a large chunk of that into ready access checking and high interest online savings accounts, I’m feeling no pangs at all about spending. We’ve got all this money washing around in our accounts ready to be spent.
We’ll see how that works out come September or so. If we’ve blown through our budget I probably won’t be feeling so fat.
Great article, causes me to do self-reflection, suffer from the same malaise. Been saving for retirement, more money than I think we’ll need. 4 years into retirement in my early 60s I have a hard time loosening the reins and spending more. My wife keeps telling me, the options are clear, start spending or your leaving it all to the children(2), is that what you want? Lol!
It was a goal of my grandparents to leave money to their kids and grandkids. When my grandfather died a few months after my oldest child was born, I used the money he left me to buy a new car and my kid used that car through college before it finally died!
I think that if you have the money, helping kids now is a good thing to do. My mom has helped send our kids to college and grad school (tuition paid directly is exempt from gift taxes). It’s more valuable to use the money now than wait to inherit.
So it’s not LOL!
Before I retired I was saving 10% of income in a 401k – because I had a pension. I also saved proceeds from stock options and stock awards and a portion of bonuses so that did not impact my standard of living.
While retirement meant no more FICA, it also meant my health insurance premiums going from $197 a month for two to over $1,000 per month.
We had no desire to relocate or change our lifestyle except more travel. We wanted to maintain monthly contributions to 529 plans. Between pension, SS and RMDs our taxes for ongoing income has not declined- working I paid more taxes on total non cash income.
While we did eventually move to a condo less than a mile away, between the HOA and property taxes, there was no significant decrease in housing expenses.
Do we have more money than likely to need for expenses, probably yes, but it’s there for possible LTC, to assure my spouses survivor security without limit and to leave a legacy to family. When possible and not negatively impacting the retiree, I see a legacy to family as important as any other expense in life.
Most Americans don’t save more than 10%, many a lot less so I can’t see much saving in retirement for more average people. My annual income from pension and household SS is about the same as my working base pay. In other words, 100% income replacement.
Clearly everyone is different and there are many spending and income variables, but if the goal is to live as desired without compromise in lifestyle, how is that possible on less than near 100% income replacement especially for modest to lower income retirees who likely have less flexibility?
I hear you man. I’m also a skeptic on needing less income in retirement without radical changes in lifestyle. Seems to me some things will go down and some things will go up. It also doesn’t surprise me that your HOA and your home expenses are about the same. I always scratch my head when people assume owning your own home and having it paid off means super cheap living even if there is no HOA. You’re still paying for maintenance and taxes and it still comes out to a monthly amount that isn’t trivial. We long to believe we can escape payments we’ve made for decades, but the reality is something different.
Thanks for the insightful and interesting article. As a lifelong Philadelphian, I appreciate your enthusiasm for the town. Reading between the lines, I can tell you are well on your way to becoming a rabid Eagles fan.
If I become a rabid Eagles fan, am I guaranteed to get my heart broken every year??
You can always become a Cleveland Browns fan, like I am!
That’s just wrong.
It’s good to read about your personal situation, Jonathan, and that unsurprisingly, you’re in a good place in every way. My husband and I lived a similarly frugal lifestyle throughout our married life, downsized twice and moved to less costly areas, and thereby reduced our retirement living expenses. I’ll encourage your readers who may hesitate to make a big move by saying that we quickly built up new friendships where we retired through volunteering and joining a church. When my husband died less than two years after our arrival here, I was surrounded with support. I now continue my active volunteering and, I must admit, somewhat more lavish spending. But I think Doug would be okay with that.
I’m sure he would be..
Thank you for the encouraging note about downsizing to cheaper areas. We are reluctant to leave Denver and our church, but maybe that is the best plan.
our good friends and neighbors were frugal hoping to travel after he retired – but he had MS, and got rapidly worse, travel never happened. Now Chris is remodeling the whole house, my wife said Jeff would be turning in his grave, but as Chris said, “I think Jeff would want me to be happy”..
Thanks for the insights Jonathan! After reading this I ran a new scenario in our financial planning software….I upped our spending by 20 percent for the next 5 years. We would still be underspending. We have been retired going on four years. We started our post-covid revenge traveling last year and will continue to spend on travel for the foreseeable future, till our creaky joints take the fun away. After saving for so many years, it is a bit of a challenge to spend freely. I still think through even modest spending and have to ‘justify’ it as not being spendthrift.
How do you handle that spending? Just curious if you take travel spending from your planned income stream or do you take that expense separately from savings/investments?
We are fortunate to have around 20% more income (pension and SS) coming in than we spend. We had set aside some cash too before we retired. So we have been spending that down for traveling. In a couple years we will probably sell some assets in taxable accounts to spend on travel and build up another cash buffer. But if it were not for travel we would be saving money instead of spending.
We have done something similar. Basically we use SS for travel which we have done since 2008 although we are slowing down a bit – more road trips and less international. It goes into a separate bank account labeled travel. I have to say though inflation over the last two years has started to take its toll.
This was a really helpful “think” piece, Jonathan. As my wife and I approach the 11th hour of our working years, the obsession (addiction?) with deferring gratification via saving / investing has now become so embedded that I can’t see it changing much for us after retirement.
Your “from the trenches” insights regarding the percentage of income replacement that a super-saver might need to plan for in retirement was also very helpful. The bulk of online retirement income calculators typically default to 75% replacement, though they can usually be tweaked. For those currently squirreling away 20-30% (or more) of current earnings, there’s a strong chance they’ll not need that high a replacement percentage – at least in early retirement years – to sustain an already frugal lifestyle.
With that said, potential future costs associated with long-term care dictate that we might want to include an upside cushion in our income-replacement percentage planning, if only to provide some buffer for this significant added expense later in retirement. Buying long-term care insurance now is a wise consideration, assuming that we’re both still insurable. Sadly, the insurance marketplace for LTC coverage has kind of blown up over the last decade (as have LTC premiums for current policy owners).
another metric to ‘i missed out’ because of frugality is how you slept…
to me, a good night’s sleep is the only metric i use…i remember all the nights i worried but few of the restful ones, they string together.
an extra latte frapomochachino is forgotten but having sufficient insulation, no real surety but a comfortable illusion, to rest peacefully….that is my value and my metric.
the feeling of avoiding failure….because sufficient insulation from threats is comforting.
My wife and I are starting a public trust fund this year with the hopes that it will start paying out in 8-10 years and then increasingly fund more and more lessons for music students each year.
In our case, we haven’t over-saved for retirement, but a recent job change more than doubled our income, so there is plenty to go around and we’ve always been good spenders (sounds nice then being cheap…)
And we are increasing our expenses a little with the new income.
The thing I’ve been wondering is that now that I’m in a position to start this fund – how many more people could do so and what impact would that have on our world. How exciting! I encourage you all who think you have over-saved to put the money to a good use. We dreamed up this music lesson fund to help out our small town have a better band and provide a better musical experience for everyone.
I don’t know if all towns and cities are the same; I understand that our town has more trust funds than the average town.
It seems like a really great idea to me.
Thanks for this wonderful note to “the ones who care perhaps too passionately about their future self.” Are we built this way, or created? You do a great job of outlining the pluses and minuses of being this type.
In my family I am the “ant” (storing away for the future) and my 3 younger siblings are “the crickets” (fiddling away today). Same parents, very different ways of doing life. (And yes, the crickets have visited the ant looking for “help” over the years.) I’d like to become more crickety in my 60s and 70s now that the days of earning & saving are gliding to a close.
Thanks also for the nod to Philadelphia. I spent my 20s & 30s in Manhattan, then moved to a too-expensive suburb of the city. Now it’s time to make a change, and I’m collecting stories of others’ experiences.
May I offer a shameless plug for Pittsburgh? Cost of living and housing is very reasonable (very midwest-like) with top-tier healthcare, colleges, solid arts / museums / restaurants and 3 pro sports teams to boot.
Apparently like you, I have “over-saved.” Frugality has become a habit. While I suppose my wife and I could spend our accumulated savings/wealth during our remaining years, we won’t.
Do I regret that? Not one bit. I would much rather spend my final years having money and not needing it, than needing money and not having it.
I’ve decided to retire in Philadelphia, for all the reasons you mention. Philly has everything you could possibly want and then some. And if you need more, DC or NYC are only a quick train ride away. I look forward to settling in a nice condo on Washington Square with no car, and frequent meals out at my favorite restaurants.
Welcome to Philadelphia. My wife and I, along with her brother and sister-in-law, signed up for the Kimmel Center’s (Philadelphia’s Cultural Center) Broadway series this year. You get high quality theater locally, and we try a different restaurant before each show. In addition to the 2 more well known art museums, I’m a fan of the Rodin museum. The Franklin Institute is also a gem, especially for nerdy engineers.
Rick, we enjoyed a Rodin exhibit here in Atlanta last month. Several nice pieces were loaned from Philadelphia.
The restaurant scene in Philly is unbelievably good. The city also has two world-class art museums, great live entertainment and it’s an extraordinarily passionate sports town. Hope you enjoy it!
My neighbor is from PA and reminds me almost weekly how good the restaurants are in and around Philly. One of his favorites is the William Penn Inn. Makes me want to visit just to try out the food scene.
Good article, Jonathan, and one so many of us muse about. I do note that much is made of the age milestones we reach and many wonder if they are old at a certain age number. While the following is not written in stone, and certainly we all differ, here is my assumption, not to be taken too seriously.
60 to 72 —youth of old age
72 to 85 — Old
Over 85 — Old Old
There is good news. Some people never get old. I intend to remain in that category.
“If the list of things you can do when you’re young hasn’t changed much with age, then you’ve aged really well, congratulations!”
Travel. Think about it. Even now we are putting the finishing touches on 3 one month-long excursions this year, including a foreign river cruise. We’ve been able to do this for the past two years, and enjoyed every minute of it.
Was it worth it? Yes, without question, and I do not regret a penny spent. Great memories and experiences.
One day, time will run out for us, as it will for you. The old mind or body won’t be able to carry you to Yosemite, Grand Canyon, or the Blue Ridge Parkway.
What about the money? Planning will take care of it. You’re just as good with a spreadsheet as you ever were. Figure out where you will stay, enter the costs, allow for daily dining and fuel, and you’re done, on time and on budget.
I must also once again thank you for all your advice at the WSJ over the years, which helped us stay on track to meet our goals.
Often people work all their lives and dream of retirement when they can travel. It becomes a sort of romantic, hazy, someday deal. Then they retire, take one trip and decide they don’t love it at all. This is usually the case with people who never traveled during their working years. Do the things you know, from experience, that you get pleasure from.
Don’t hurry. Be happy.