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Lobster or Chicken? How to Spend Your Money in Retirement

By Elizabeth Dunkel January 20, 2020 Lifestyle

I saw this as a little blurb in an AARP article: “When you eat out, do you order lobster or chicken?” I stopped cold. I order the chicken, of course. And now I’m annoyed with myself.

The point of the AARP article is this: we spend all our lives saving money for retirement. We are bombarded with strategies for saving and constant messages about saving.

Then we retire and think of strategies to not spend all the money we’ve managed to save. We spend our time saving money again in retirement by stretching it, with the fear of running out always in our minds. Notice I’ve used the word spend four times so far.

Accumulation vs Decumulations

Saving money during our working years is called the accumulation phase. But we are not usually taught how to spend it once we get to retirement, which is called the decumulation phase. The message in retirement seems to be, “Don’t spend your money or you’ll run out.”

While I’m always giving tips on How To Live Like A Millionaire On A Retirement Budget, today I’m going to share a different message.

There are many ways to save money, but there are strategies to spend your money well and creatively as well. After all, isn’t retirement all about living as beautifully as we can?

Strategies for Decumulation

While I have an MBA in finance, I’m not a financial advisor or a fiduciary, and I don’t presume to give financial advice.

The advice I do want to give you is to talk to a fiduciary, or your accountant because there are real financial, legally accepted strategies for how you spend down the money that you’ve saved up your whole life.

Spending Down Is as Complicated as Saving Up

How you spend is a ‘recipe’ that is personally designed for every individual’s financial situation. To maximize your savings, there are tax implications and strategies that can make your money go further.

Add into the mix the IRAs you need to draw from at a certain time, accounts you should be tapping, accounts you shouldn’t be touching, investments you should still be making, and real estate decisions that can affect your bottom line and your lifestyle.

A fiduciary can give you the best strategy, or as I put it, the best recipe on how to spend your money. By investing an hour with a fiduciary you may find ways beneficial to your lifestyle that will help your money go further and last longer – while you have more fun.

Do You Want to Leave an Inheritance?

In decades past, leaving an inheritance for your children after you passed away was considered normal and desirable. Creating an inheritance was part of saving for retirement and living in retirement. You didn’t want to spend all your money because you wanted to leave something for your children.

Well, times have changed to the point where people don’t even have enough money to last through their retirement.

In fact, with the stock market so volatile, and downsizing from jobs before retirement age, the unemployment rate among older workers and the abolishment of most pensions from the workplace, we are living in a climate of fear. For many, the idea of inheritance has gone the way of Palm Pilots.

So if you want to leave your kids a little “somethin’ somethin’” that requires a certain retirement spending strategy, and if you feel you aren’t able to, that gives you another spend down scenario.

Splurge Is Not a Dirty Word

The secret word in a spend down strategy is: splurge. I’m not telling you to always order lobster over chicken. I am telling you that sometimes you should order lobster over chicken. Yes, you! Splurge!

Make splurge a part of your life. After all, you ate chicken most of your life to have the money for lobster. And you still eat chicken most nights of the week when you cook something delicious at home. But when you go out, splurge! You deserve the lobster.

Splurging for Less

Here I go again with my tips for living creatively in retirement! When I lived in the U.S., I could go to my local supermarket at a certain time of year and buy live lobsters for $8.99 a pound and cook them at home.

That seemed like a downright bargain given what restaurants charge for a lobster dinner. Same goes for buying fancy cuts of meat and grilling them yourself at home.

An orchid from a florist is unnecessarily and punishingly expensive. But an orchid from a supermarket is doable. What’s more, orchids last for weeks if not months so your ROI or return on investment is high. That brings lots of pleasure.

Same goes for ordering a fine wine in a restaurant which is marked up umpteen times. Buy your Champagne and drink it at home. Good bubbly for even less is Prosecco from Italy or Cava from Spain.

Let’s be smart and weigh the moments of our lives. Whatever the splurge – a chocolate bar, a lobster, a cruise, a Starbucks latte – you deserve it. Life is short and fragile. Treat yourself well, because if you don’t, who will?

Do you ever splurge? On what? Do you feel guilty about splurging? What about inheritance for your heirs: yay or nay? Waiting to hear what you have to say, so let’s have a chat!

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The Author

Elizabeth Dunkel is a writer and novelist who recently moved back to the U.S. after living in Merida, Mexico for 25 years. Elizabeth is the proud founder of the Merida English Library. As a Cambridge CELTA certified teacher of ESL, she considers herself not just a teacher but a dream maker. “Teaching English empowers people to reach their dreams.”

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