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Ready for retirement? Try a trial run

As I See It

hill country, texas — Several weeks ago I wrote a column suggesting that my generation had not prepared adequately for retirement. We will reach 65 still paying for our homes, automobiles and credit cards.

Plus, we have no willingness to curtail our lifestyle to accommodate a reduced income. The stock market crash is a factor but our propensity to spend is a bigger issue than the market averages.

A number of readers told me that I had burst their bubble and that reality was just too hard for them to deal with. Well, maybe retirement wouldn’t be so good anyway. How can one know whether their dreams will be everything they dreamed about?

Recently, I ran across a little tidbit suggesting that you should practice retirement before you get there so you can measure your happiness quotient in case your finances allow you to quit work before age 79.

So, here I am “on assignment” doing just that. Living it up in the beautiful Texas Hill Country. Our hunting camp is located about six miles from the nearest public road and 25 miles from the nearest gas station.

I come out here several times each year to enjoy the rugged terrain and spend some time with my hunting buddies. After the season ends, my wife comes out here with me to drink in the beauty and get some “white space” in our lives. It’s a three-mile four-wheeler ride to a point high enough to get a cell phone signal. You might say we are somewhat isolated from the humdrum of civilization.

Get in a little practice

Perhaps remote hunting camps are not everyone’s cup of tea. Lots of folks dream of a retirement filled with golfing or gardening or traveling. You can practice these retirement dreams just like I’m practicing mine.

About five years before you plan to stop working, try a simulated retirement. If you plan to play golf every day, take a two-week vacation and do just that. Same strategy works for fishing, travel or gardening. Conducting a trial run will tell you whether you’ll really enjoy doing it for years and years. Since you and your spouse will likely be spending more time together in retirement, take a week off together and spend it at home, without any specific plans.

Now comes the tough part. Calculate how much money you’ll have in retirement and try living on that amount for awhile. This is likely going to be a stumbling block for many of my fellow Baby Boomers. You may find full-time retirement impractical — part-time work may be necessary to make ends meet. If so, better to know it now and plan accordingly than to dream yourself into financial trouble.

Studies have shown that most middle-aged Americans expect to work after the traditional retirement age. I imagine that expectation will be fulfilled.

Actually, retirement absent physical limitations is a new phenomenon anyway. Rather than dreaming of retirement ecstasy, it might be a better strategy to position yourself where you enjoy what you do for a living and try to blend in the things you enjoy now.

One big advantage of being a publisher and a writer is that I can do much of what I do anywhere. Such as here. Last year I saw a golden eagle soaring across the sky. Maybe I’ll see another one this afternoon or tomorrow morning.

Thought for the Moment — I have found the best way to give advice to your children is to find out what they want and then advise them to do it.

— Harry S Truman, 33rd President

of the United States of America

Joe D. Jones, CPA, is publisher of the Mississippi Business Journal. Contact him at cpajones@msbusiness.com.


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