How To Think About ‘Un-Retirement’ Planning

I’ll lay it out straight: I have no intention of retiring from meaningful work. As I celebrate another birthday, this is what I’m thinking about.

It’s not that I’m not going to work less or don’t think about how much money I will need when I am earning less. My wife and I talk about this constantly.

At this point, I’m pretty sure I will take Social Security at 70, when the highest-possible monthly benefit will be offered. That will be enough to pay most of our bills, although we will still have home-maintenance expenses living in a suburban home.

By the way, if you haven’t estimated your Social Security benefits by now, it’s a good idea. Use the government’s retirement benefits estimator. That will give you a ballpark on how much you can receive. Spoiler alert: The longer you wait, the higher the monthly payment (up until 70, of course).

No matter how old you are, penciling in a proposed retirement age with a Social Security payment number attached is an essential start. Surprisingly, though, nearly half of workers haven’t done this, according to a recent survey, which found:

  • 30% plan to begin taking Social Security between the ages of 62-65 
  • 14% plan to file between ages 66-69
  • 13% of non-retired respondents among the ages of 60-67 plan to wait until age 70 to take the benefits with just over a quarter of them remaining unsure of when they would take Social Security

The beauty of waiting as long as you can to dip into your nest egg and take Social Security is that compound interest will make your personal savings in a diversified portfolio grow. You don’t have to do anything. Just leave it alone for as long as you can and avoid brokers, day trading and insurance agents.

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Some Other Things to Consider

Here’s one dilemma: When I qualify for Medicare, how will I pay for my wife’s health insurance, who is younger than me? Medicare doesn’t offer group coverage, so I will probably get a policy through the Affordable Care Act marketplace. Still, that’s an out-of-pocket expense not covered by Social Security, so we need to plan for it.

I will have some out-of-pocket costs since Medicare doesn’t cover everything and has deductibles. It doesn’t cover dental, eye care or long-term care. So I will need to buy “Medigap,” or supplemental insurance.

We’re also penciling in my wife’s Social Security, which, like all retirement payments is based on her lifetime earnings or roughly half of my benefit. We need to do the numbers on those payments.

Like many of our contemporaries, we could save a lot of money by downsizing or moving to a less-expensive state. Our property taxes alone now are $1,000 a month, although our food, utility and car expenses will continue to drop. We love our community, so that’s still on the table. At the very least, we’d like to be able to travel and be somewhat close to our two daughters.

The bottom line is enjoying a dignified, comfortable life. I have no intention to stop writing or being engaged in my community. I’m doing everything I can to stay healthy and improve my overall wellbeing. I’m doing more bike rides and walks.

Most importantly, I love the idea of using my crystallized knowledge to take on new challenges. I know that sounds crazy, but I’m not going to be happy sitting around doing crossword puzzles and complaining about various ailments. I will be speaking and writing more books and articles while digging deeper into the mysteries of life, history, geography, the environment, science and great people like Abraham Lincoln.

There’s a lot of world left to see and explore. The world’s a buffet and I intend to keep on tasting. To me, age isn’t just about experience, it’s about experiencing.