The Best and Worst of Retirement

Last Updated Jun 8, 2010 6:10 PM EDT

Retirement community developer Del Webb recently released their 2010 Baby Boomer Survey, which contains a wealth of information on our attitudes about preparing financially for retirement, health, lifestyle, and moving in your retirement years.

Perusing the survey results, I picked up on two interesting questions that were posed to people who are already retired:

"What aspects of retirement have you particularly enjoyed?" Answers included:

  • No time clock
  • No alarm clock, sleeping in
  • Doing what I want, when I want
  • Less stress
"What aspects have been disappointing?" Answers included:
  • Not being around people
  • Missing co-workers
  • Finances, the economy
  • Getting lazy
  • Boredom
These are valuable insights for people who are not yet enjoying their retirement years. Whenever I'm planning for important aspects of my life, such as retirement or investing or travel, I pay attention to people who've already been there/done that.

When it comes to retirement, one way to address the disappointing aspects is to keep working but find work that suits you. Look for both the right kind of work and the right amount of work. It was a confirmation of my beliefs that almost three-fourths of the survey respondents reported that they intend to work in some manner during their retirement years. And if you work at a slower pace compared to your earlier years, you can achieve the more enjoyable aspects of retirement as well.

If you're lucky enough to have enough money so that you don't need to work, then volunteering can meet your goals for eliminating boredom and interacting with other people. And it might just improve your health, too.

The biggest mistake that I see people make regarding their retirement is a lack of planning. They simply think that retirement is "not working" and that the lack of a job will make them happy. But they don't think much beyond that.

A better approach is to start thinking about the best and worst aspects of retirement described above when you get within ten years of retirement. Keep your eyes and ears open for ways to achieve the best parts of retirement and avoid the worst parts. Talk with older friends and relatives who've been there. Not only will you better enjoy your retirement years, you'll also best deploy your financial resources, which are scarce and dear for most older Americans.

More on CBS MoneyWatch
Do the Downshift to Survive Your Retirement Years
Volunteer! You'll Improve Your Retirement
How to Retire Happy

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    Steve Vernon helped large employers design and manage their retirement programs for more than 35 years as a consulting actuary. Now he's a research scholar for the Stanford Center on Longevity, where he helps collect, direct and disseminate research that will improve the financial security of seniors. He's also president of Rest-of-Life Communications, delivers retirement planning workshops and authored Retirement Game-Changers: Strategies for a Healthy, Financially Secure and Fulfilling Long Life and Money for Life: Turn Your IRA and 401(k) Into a Lifetime Retirement Paycheck.