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8 Powerful Retirement Lessons I Learned in a University Class

By Michele Meier Vosberg January 17, 2021 Lifestyle

Several years ago, my husband and I took a retirement class. This was not one of those fancy dinners in an expensive steak house given by investment firms looking to solicit business, but an actual class taught through a university extension.

We felt we were pretty savvy about our retirement, but we were ready to learn more. We also wanted to know if we were making any big mistakes with our retirement plans.

The class affirmed things we already knew, but was also enlightening. Here are some surprising lessons we learned about planning for retirement.

Life Span is Increasing

According to actuary experts, the first person who will live to 150 years of age has already been born. This probably isn’t any of us reading this, but isn’t it amazing to think about? Our life span has been increasing each year due to medical advances, better nutrition and healthier lifestyles.

Time in Retirement is Growing

The average retiree today can expect to spend one-fourth to one-third of their lifetime in retirement. Many people today spend 20, 30 or even 40 years in retirement. Retirement is no longer considered a downward cycling of life but a long period in which to create an exciting new chapter for ourselves.

Financial Independence is the Goal

Once, the goal of retirement planning was to accumulate enough money to be able to retire, leave work and focus on leisure. Today, the goal is often to achieve financial independence while continuing to engage in work that we love.

Many people choose never to retire. They explore new and different work, not out of necessity, but out of the desire to contribute in meaningful and fulfilling ways.

Older People Don’t Stop Growing

Many retirees go to school for advanced degrees or start new businesses. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “People do not grow old. When they cease to grow, they become old.”

Retirement Plans are More Expansive

Successful retirement planning is more than financial planning. It also involves health, fitness, leisure, spirituality, home, relationship and community planning.

Retirement Tax Planning is Complicated

The income tax implications of retirement are wide and varied. Interest rates, inflation, required withdrawal and income from part-time work or alternate careers impact taxes in strange and complicated ways. You may want to involve a tax advisor in your planning.

The Month You Retire is Important

A large percentage of people choose the end of the year, December, to retire. December may actually be the worst month to retire. Since people often receive extra or larger paychecks upon retirement, it is often to their best advantage to retire at the beginning of a new year since income will likely be less in that year.

Many people have not declared or updated beneficiaries of their retirement pensions, 401k plans, life insurance accounts and other income streams. After your death, money will then go to your estate, where survivors are left with fewer options for rollovers and disbursements. One advisor shared that if he could be sure we did only one thing it would be to make sure to update the beneficiaries on all of our accounts.

I was very happy to know that I am far from alone in starting a new business in retirement. I walked away feeling comfortable that our plans for retirement are basically sound. We were overwhelmed by the tax implications, and though I have always prepared our taxes, I realize that this might be a good time for tax advice from a professional. We are both checking our beneficiaries on all of our accounts.

What about you? Are you retired? What have you learned about retirement that you wish you had known before? If you are planning your retirement, what advice can you share from your experience? Retirement is a large topic, and we can all benefit from discussion with others. Please join the conversation.

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The Author

Michele Meier Vosberg, Ph.D. is a writer and freelance educator. She left her career of over thirty years in order to create the life of her dreams. She is passionate about helping others understand their unique personality and gifts and design their best lives. Michele is married, has two grown daughters and lives in Madison, Wisconsin. Connect with Michele at

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