James Wright, WMU Foundation board chairman, joined us for a Q&A on retirement:
1. What is the one thing that surprised you the most about retirement?
I anticipated having a lot of “free” time to do things that I wanted to do, and not have to plan my days and weeks. I found very quickly that you can get busy, and there is a need to still plan and carefully maintain your calendar and commitments so you will have time to do the things you want to do. If you don’t take time to plan, you will find your days going by very quickly and you have not accomplished the things you planned to do.
2. What are the top three words of advice you would give to someone who is wondering when they should retire?
My three words are: Plan, Prepare, and Economize.
Plan: Knowing when you are financially prepared to retire requires a lot of planning. This includes knowing the income you will have in retirement such as Social Security, the amount available to withdrawal from retirement accounts, what other financial resources are available to you, and knowing your expenses in detail. Make a budget that includes monthly expense items, and be sure to include annual expenses such a property taxes, house and car insurance, etc. You need to know all of this to have a full view of all of your expenses for a year.
Prepare: There is the need to Prepare. My greatest suggestion for preparation is to begin retirement debt free. When you don’t have a house or car payment you greatly reduce your annual expenses. This takes a LOT of preparation, but gives a much higher level of assurance that you will have enough money in retirement.
Economize: Especially in the early years of retirement, it is wise to live on less than your income. Investment returns can vary greatly from year to year so spending less can take pressure off needing the best of investment results. I very simply call it living below your means.
3. What would you say to someone who is approaching retirement age and worries they do not have enough money saved?
If a person has this question, then they need to seek assistance from a person who can help them do the calculations to know for sure. I recommend a financial planner to review your personal financial situation and accurately assess when you can retire and maintain your lifestyle. If you don’t have as much as you need, consider working a few more years. Or if you are close to having enough, consider working part time.
4. Are there any books, websites, or other resources you would suggest for retirees or those planning to retire?
More Than Money by Calvin Partain is a great book about stewardship and helpful as you think about how you will spend your time, resources, and money. More Than Money is available through New Hope Publishers. Free Bible studies and leader guides based on the book are available on our website.
5. Tell us the most fun thing you’ve done since retiring?
Without a doubt it has been traveling. My favorite was a trip to Scotland visiting tourist sites in Edinburgh and Glasgow and being able to go to the home of golf, The Old Course in St. Andrews. The main part of our trip was hiking the West Highland Way which is a 100-mile trail over an eight-day period. We hiked during the day until we reached a village or a town and spent the night in a Bed and Breakfast. We enjoyed Scottish culture and food. It is a trip I will always remember.