(MoneyWatch) If you dread going to your family's annual Thanksgiving dinner and hearing -- again -- about Aunt Mary's quilting hobby or Uncle Joe's political views, here's a more constructive approach: Ask them how they're doing in their retirement. Most likely they'll be glad to talk about themselves, and you could learn some valuable lessons from their hard-won experience.
To help you break the ice, here are 10 questions you could ask:
- What is the best thing you did to prepare for retirement?
- What are your regrets -- specifically, what do you wish you had done differently to prepare for retirement?
- What do you enjoy the most about retirement?
- What do you like the least about retirement?
- When did you start Social Security? Why?
- Did you change your eating habits to improve your health? If so, how?
- What type of exercise do you do?
- Did you buy a medical plan to supplement Medicare? If yes, did you buy a Medigap plan or Medicare Advantage Plan? How do you like it?
- Did you move or downsize your home? If yes, how is that working?
- Have you made any lifestyle changes? For example, do you volunteer or devote some time to a cause you're passionate about?
These questions can just be conversation-starters. Also ask follow-up questions -- you might keep your relatives talking for hours. You'll not only find out more about them, but also might discover ways you can improve your own retirement. And you'll all feel better about the time you spend together.