When it comes to spending our hard-earned retirement savings, we may find ourselves somewhat reluctant to loosen the purse strings. Everything is so expensive these days that often there is not much left over for fun or extravagances. And the uncertainty of what the future may hold can lead us to even more thrifty behaviors. We may go so far as to question if we can really afford to live the retirement life we want.
But now that we are retired, aren't we supposed to be enjoying this new chapter in our life? Haven't we worked and scrimped to have enough saved so we can finally do what we want to now that we finally have the time? Isn't this supposed to be our time to travel, experience and enjoy? Here's how to balance living your retirement dreams while also making sure you won't run out of money too soon:
Try to prioritize. Assuming you are on a limited budget or just want to get the most for your money, you may have to accept that you cannot do everything your heart desires. But you do not necessarily want to deny yourself all of life's pleasures either. Try to be realistic about what you can afford and then make smart choices. Figure out what is most important, and put that at the top of your list. Realize you may have to sacrifice something else, but that is OK. By prioritizing the things most important to you, you end up doing first what you love best. If you don't get to the bottom of your list, at least you accomplished what was most important.
Make a fun budget. Many of us tend to maintain some kind of budget, whether it is a master spreadsheet or just a general knowledge of where the money comes from and where it goes. But do you have a budget for fun? All through our lives we have concentrated on building our savings and growing a nest egg for later life. But retirement is not just about making ends meet, but also enjoying our second act. Consider creating a budget with specific funds earmarked for travel, adventure and fun. After the bills are paid, some portion of what remains is what you have to play with. Use it for something fun, even if you may need to cut back somewhere else.
Focus on frugal versus extravagant. Without too much effort we can quickly drop some serious money on a vacation or cruise, especially if we choose a top of the line experience. Although many people cannot afford such extravagance, that does not mean there are not affordable options that can be just as much fun. Once you agree upon where you want to go, take the time to search for the best possible deal. Direct flights, though convenient, can be more expensive. Cruise lines offer specials throughout the year, so keep your eyes open for the deals. When you enjoy a dinner out, maybe a glass of wine instead of a bottle will work just fine. With limited funds, a little attention to details can help to stretch your buying power and increase your options for fun.
Find a part-time way to add to your savings. If having a little extra cash can make the difference in whether or not you enjoy your retired days, you may want to put your skills or hobbies to work for you. While you are not likely to make a huge amount of money, you may still be able to increase your bottom line. And since you are retired, you may not want to or be able to find full-time employment. But what about working a weekend at a local retail establishment, trying your hand at freelance writing, or selling your crafts at a local flea market. If you can find a way to make a little money while you pursue your hobby or passion, so much the better.
Don't save it all for retirement. It is important to factor into your retirement planning that you could be retired for 20 or more years. It would be a mistake to spend too fast in the early years of retirement. That said, you don't want to save everything for later in retirement because you may not be physically able to enjoy your dreams if you put them off for too long. By the time you reach 65 or older, the challenges of age may stand in the way of your travel to exotic places or experiencing adventures that 10 or 20 years earlier would have been a breeze. If possible, try to experience some of your dreams along the path to retirement rather than saving everything for after.
Dave Bernard is the author of I Want To Retire! Essential Considerations for the Retiree to Be. Although not yet retired, he focuses on identifying and understanding the essential components of a fulfilling and meaningful retirement. He shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement-Only The Beginning.