Retirement Regrets

  by Tyler Curtis

I was reading an article on Yahoo! a few weeks ago and author Mark Patterson closed his piece by saying, “The pain of financial discipline will be far less than the pain of retirement regrets.” The statement really struck me, and I started thinking about how many retirees look back on what they could have – or should have – done and have regrets. Do you have things you wish you could go back and change?

Save more.
Spend less.
Start sooner.
Plan better.
Retire later.
Learn more about personal finance and investing.
Get proper insurance coverage.
Wait longer to take Social Security benefits.
Invest differently.

And the list can continue. Hindsight is 20/20, but by the point you’re having regrets, it’s often too late. Did you retire right when the stock market plunged and move all of your assets to cash out of fear, permanently reducing your retirement savings? Did you take your Social Security right at 62? That’s a lifetime decision that you can’t go back and undo. Did you procrastinate on getting that long-term care insurance? Now, you’re declined and left with a big problem that could have had a simple solution had you not put it off.

Time is of the essence, and it is vitally important that the decisions you’re making now will best serve you in the long run. When planning, you have to keep your focus on the big picture and remember that no matter how old you are or where you find yourself in life, you will always be financially responsible for the future you. If you could talk to the older person that you will be in ten, twenty or thirty years, what would you tell yourself? Are you going to have regrets?

Jim Rohn famously quoted, “Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.” There are always exceptions, but more often than not, success requires discipline. A high school student knows that in order to get into a top university, he or she must make good grades and be involved in extracurricular activities. Then, to get a good job and be successful in the real world, that college student must be disciplined in his or her studies, perhaps also juggling a job or missing social events – all this to prepare them for a successful transition into adulthood.

You can think about retirement the same way. Retirement isn’t just about packing up your office and setting sail on a cruise around the world or playing tennis at the country club every day. It’s a life transition. You will have to spend your working years preparing yourself for that transition, and it will require a great deal of discipline in order to be successful.

This means consistent savings. This means more savings. You may have to cut discretionary items out of your budget, scale back, or give up some of the luxuries you enjoy. Not having a housekeeper might be a hassle for you, but not having groceries when you’re 85 is far worse. If you and your spouse do not have a comprehensive financial plan, you absolutely need one. Don’t leave any holes or expose yourself to unnecessary risks.

Don’t put important financial ‘to-do’s on the back burner. Invest for your objectives, risk tolerance, and time horizon. Not your financial advisor’s. Not your neighbor’s or your coworker’s. If you need your portfolio to produce a consistent monthly income for you after your paycheck stops, you better invest it to do just that. Don’t stall paying off high-interest debts. Create a withdrawal strategy. Evaluate your tax situation.

When you are working, you need to be covered by a solid disability insurance policy. If you haven’t revisited your will in several years, meet with a competent estate planning attorney to make sure it is up-to-date. Don’t procrastinate on applying for long-term care insurance; waiting may mean you’re no longer insurable or the premiums have become unaffordable.

Become financially educated so that you can make the most informed decisions. It’s your money and your life. Jim Rohn also said, “We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret.” Which one will be yours?

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