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We’re Looking at Retirement Planning All Wrong and People Are Going to Get Hurt

By Margaret Manning November 20, 2014 Managing Money

What is retirement planning? It’s a simple question, right? Doesn’t everyone know that getting ready for retirement is all about putting enough money away so that we can live comfortably on our investments? At least, that’s what we have been told. For decades, our employers have reminded us to max out our 401K. Our investment advisors, for those of us lucky enough to own stocks, have told us to keep our portfolios balanced and be ready to withdraw no more than 4% of our investments every year in retirement. But, there’s a problem…

We’re Looking at Retirement Planning All Wrong!

Despite the fact that we are, on paper at least, the wealthiest generation of all time, almost none of us are ready for retirement, in a traditional sense. Furthermore, even for Baby Boomers in their 50s, there is little chance that we will be able to make up the difference between what we have and what we need before our employers gently “encourage” us to leave.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be saving for life in our 60s and beyond. Far from it! If you’re not taking advantage of your 401K and other free money options, stop reading this now and start getting your financial house in order. On the other hand, there is so much more to retirement planning than just padding your bank account.

Here are 4 questions that everyone should ask themselves as they approach retirement:

Do I Have the Skills to Make Money After I Retire?

Unless you are one of the lucky few that have saved millions (yes millions) of dollars for retirement, you are probably going to have to face the unfortunate choice between lowering your lifestyle expectations or finding work after 65.

The problem, as many women in the Sixty and Me community have told me, finding a job after 60 is challenging. And, when you are able to find a job, it may be at a lower level of compensation than you enjoyed at the height of your career.

There is another option. If you are approaching retirement, the best advice that I can give you is to develop your marketable skills and prepare for life as a self-employed person. For most of us, this is more of a mental shift than anything else. After all, we have spent our entire lives building skills. We are teachers and accountants, marketing managers and sales professionals. We just need to learn how to work for ourselves.

It’s never too late to get started. Even if you have a full-time job now, start thinking about what you would like to do to make extra money in retirement. Start reading books on running your own business. Strengthen your network – trust me, you’ll need it! Most of all, start to prepare yourself mentally for working for yourself.

Do I Have a Plan for Staying Healthy After 60?

Retirement planning should not just be about how much we can save. It should also be about how we can keep our costs low. Fortunately, there is a simple way to lower our costs in retirement, while actually improving the quality of our life. All we have to do is keep our bodies in great shape.

Gentle Yoga For Seniors - Video SeriesBy the time we reach our 50s and 60s, it’s tempting to think that “what’s done is done” and that giving up bad habits isn’t worth the trouble. Nothing could be further from the truth! Quitting smoking and reducing the amount of alcohol that you consume can have a major impact on your health at any age. Reducing our risk factors for cancer and other chronic illnesses is one of the best ways that we can avoid high medical bills as we age.

Start to establish healthy patterns now, while your body is still in relatively good shape. Take a morning walk, with others, if possible. Join a gym and experiment with group classes. Try gentle yoga. Or, if formal exercise really isn’t your thing, here are 6 simple steps that you can take to get to a healthy weight.

Do I Have a Strategy to Avoid Loneliness in Retirement?

Loneliness can impact every aspect of life after 60. When we feel socially isolated, we are less likely to make healthy choices. We may be more likely to turn to comfort foods, alcohol and cigarettes. We may also find it harder to work, putting additional strain on our financial position.

For most of our lives, are relationships are defined by our roles in society. As children, we are surrounded by our peers at school. When we become parents, our lives are filled with football games, sleepovers, BBQs and family activities. As adults, we interact with our colleagues, partners and work friends.

The hard truth is that most of us are unprepared for how our social lives will change after 60. Some of us will experience extreme changes, like a divorce or the loss of a spouse. But, even if you have family, you will likely be less socially connected than at any other point of your life. For example, I recently surveyed the Sixty and Me community of 50,000 women over 60 and found that 75% of them feel lonely at least some of the time.

I don’t say this to depress you, but, to spur you to action! If you still have a few years before retirement, now is the time to start establishing social patterns that will get you through the decades ahead. Are there any clubs or sports that you are interested in? What skills have you always wanted to learn? Invest in your social life now so that you can avoid loneliness in the future.

Senior friends meeting

Where Do I Want to Live in Retirement?

A few generations ago, we could have expected our family to stay relatively close, providing a financial and social safety net for us in retirement. Most of us will not be so lucky. Our children are busy living their lives in far off places. So, perhaps it’s no surprise that more Boomers than ever are considering packing up their things and moving to another state, or even country.

As with so many aspects of retirement planning, the earlier you start thinking about where you want to live, the easier it will be to make the transition. Don’t limit yourself at the beginning of your search. Create a list of potential retirement locations and rank them according to the characteristics that matter most for you. If you plan on being self-employed, don’t forget to consider taxes, the business environment and the availability of high-speed Internet access.

Regardless of where you decide to settle, downsizing your home can be one of the best ways to save money in retirement. In addition to the direct savings in terms of energy and rent, downsizing frees up mental space and allows you to concentrate on making money, finding friends and enjoying your passions.

If you are 60-years-old today, you have a good chance of living for another two decades or more. How enjoyable this time is will depend on much more than how much money you have saved. Retirement is no longer a destination. With proper planning, it can be a journey, filled with people what we love, passions that we want to explore, and productive work that keeps us financially stable to the very end.

Do you agree that we need a new way of looking at retirement planning? Why or why not? Please add your thoughts in the comments section below.


If you are looking for options for flexible jobs for women over 60, this episode of the Sixty and Me Show is for you! My guest on this episode of the Sixty and Me Show is Nancy Collamer, the author of a wonderful book called “Second Act Careers: 50 Ways to Profit from Your Passions in Semi-Retirement”. Please enjoy!

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The Author

Margaret Manning is the founder of Sixty and Me. She is an entrepreneur, author and speaker. Margaret is passionate about building dynamic and engaged communities that improve lives and change perceptions. Margaret can be contacted at

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