The day that your youngest child leaves the house, or graduates from university, is a bitter-sweet moment for most parents. On the one hand, you are faced with sadness, fear and loneliness. On the other hand, you finally have the opportunity to start living your life again.

On a practical level, many couples find themselves suddenly flush with more cash than they have seen in decades. Retirement may still be 10-20 years away. So, why not having a little fun now? After all, they deserve it!

It’s easy to see why so many couples fall into the “post kids spending spree” trap. Most of us have been trained to live within our means. It just doesn’t feel natural to do something boring like save a sudden financial windfall for a rainy day. Instead, we ignore the fact that our good fortune won’t last forever and spend like there is no tomorrow.

As the founder of Sixty and Me, a community of 500,000+ women over 60, I have a unique perspective on retirement. I have seen how the financial decisions that we make in our 40s and 50s come back to help or hurt us in our 60s and 70s.

So, if your kids have recently left the house, I want to play the role of the “party pooper” and encourage you to save just a little bit more for tomorrow.

Here are 3 reasons to avoid the “post kids spending spree” trap.

Retirement Isn’t What You Think it is

One of the reasons, consciously or subconsciously, that people rush to spend money in their 40s and 50s is that they think that retirement is a time of quiet contemplation and “aging gracefully.” Nothing could be further from the truth!

Baby boomers today are reaching retirement with wildly different dreams than their parents had when they were the same age. We want to travel, explore our passions, go back to school, start business and support our families. All of these activities take money!

If you are in your 40s or 50s today, chances are you will be even bolder than we are – especially when you consider that medical advances will keep you younger longer. In other words, there is no rush. While you should still have fun today, please make sure that you save enough for tomorrow.

Don’t Let Your Income Peak Too Early

One of my friends (we’ll call her Sarah) recently told me, “I just didn’t expect my life to turn out this way. When I was working, I used to take two or three international holidays a year. I used to drive a nice car. I didn’t think twice about buying healthy food, even if it was expensive. Now that I have reached retirement, everything has changed. My monthly income is about 50% what it was when I was working. Most of the decreases that I saw in my cost of living have been more than eaten up by increases in my medical expenses. So, basically, I’m looking at 20+ years of living in what feels like poverty… at least compared to how I used to live.”

Based on my conversations with other women in the Sixty and Me community, I can tell you that Sarah’s situation is common. If you still have time before retirement, you have a choice… experience peak spending now followed by a drop in your income in retirement or sacrifice a little comfort now to keep your income stable for longer.

Trust me when I say that, when you reach your 70s, you won’t remember the brand new mustang that you drove in your 50s. You won’t care about the gadgets, now hopelessly out of date, that are sitting somewhere in a box in your garage. All you will be thinking about is how to survive, pursue your passions, stay social and maintain your good health. Everything else is just noise.

Exceptions to the Rule – What to Invest in While You Are Young

You may not think of being in your 40s or 50s as being young. It is! Trust me, one day in the very near future, being 60 or 70 will be considered young.

While most of the things that people buy on their “post kids spending spree” are useless and won’t make them happier in the long term, there are a few exceptions.

The first area that it makes sense to invest in while you still have several years before retirement is skills. If you work for a large company, it’s easy to think that your job will be there forever. It won’t.

Most people think that they can choose when they retire, but, in my experience, ageism and social norms put a quick end to this. You may not be fired specifically because you are old. But, you will almost certainly find yourself without a corporate job in your 70s.

The best thing that you can do to give yourself the ability to earn money longer is to develop your skills. Take night classes at a local college. Take advantage of the thousands of inexpensive video classes on sites like Udemy and Coursera. Start a side business and get experience in the school of life. Yes, education can be expensive, but, unlike materials goods, it is an asset not a liability!

The other area that it makes sense to invest in financially is your health. It always amazes me when people have plenty of money for clothes and entertainment, but, no money for gym memberships and yoga classes.

Having more money in retirement isn’t just about how much you save. It is about how much you can avoid spending! And, one of the best places to invest is in your health.

Do you know anyone who went on a post kids spending spree? What are you doing to prepare for retirement? Please join the conversation!

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