Your 4 Biggest Worries About Retirement

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Since you’re reading this, I’m guessing you’re financially astute.  Responsible, even, and working your way down the path of Financial Independence, whatever that looks like to you.

So….what do you worry about when you think of retirement?

You kinda sorta have your money under control or will have by the time you retire.  If you are retired, you’re probably comfortable with your financial situation.  So, what are your biggest worries about retirement BESIDES money, since you’re not “normal” in today’s Society.  You’re part of a minority of folks who manage their money well.  You Are Them.  You pay attention to stuff, and you continue to learn.  How do I know?  Because you read this blog, and (I suspect) several others like it.  That’s all the evidence I need.

You're Not Normal. You Manage Money Well. So...what are your biggest non-$ retirement worries? Click To Tweet

Wouldn’t it be interesting if you could ask folks just like yourself that question?   Folks from the minority that manage their money well? Turns out someone did, and that’s the subject of today’s post.

My friend Ted Carr over at Retirement Journeys recently conducted a survey among his audience about “What worries you the most about retirement”.  You may remember Ted, he had me on his podcast a while back and we had a nice chat about retirement planning (listen to that episode here).  The results of his survey are interesting, and I’ve decided to share them with you today (thanks, Ted, for your permission to share your data!).

The 4 Biggest Worries About Retirement among folks who are financially savvy. Click To Tweet

Your 4 Biggest Worries About Retirement

To save you the work of analyzing the detail of the survey, I’ve pulled out what I consider to be the most interesting findings and discuss them below. I’ve also shared some of the steps I’m taking in my final countdown toward retirement to address these areas of concern (yes, seems I have the same concerns as you).

Health Care

Health care has gotten a lot of press lately, including my post “Obamacare Is Falling Apart”.  What I found surprising is that folks “like us” (folks who are paying attention, and doing serious planning for retirement) are more worried about Health Care than they are about Finances.  Only 32% of respondents were “Very Confident” in their preparation for Health Care vs. 43% for finances. There are many unknowns with health care, and most employers have discontinued health care coverage for retirees.  We’re on our own, and we’re not sure how it’s going to work out. It’s a huge risk and a valid worry.

What I’m Doing:  I’m reading as much as I can on the subject and tracking what other early retirees have chosen to do for their insurance (I even have a spreadsheet with links to all of their articles, I may have to share that on a future post).  We’re leaning toward paying for COBRA coverage from my employer for the first 18 months, with the hopes that the dust settles in the insurance market during that timeframe.  Once COBRA expires, we’ll make our final decision.  If I were to choose today, I’d be inclined toward faith based health cost sharing programs.

Having Enough To Do

Interestingly, concerns about “having enough to do” is an area where pre-retirees feel even less prepared than they are on the health care issue.  Starting at Age 5, our lives are pretty structured:

  • Go to school:   Ages 5 – 18
  • Go to college:  Ages 18 – 22+
  • Get a job:          Ages 22 – ?

For the first time in our lives, retirees no longer have a pre-ordained structure to their day.  That reality is both an excitement and a concern. WE are responsible, for the first time, to determine what we’re going to do, and how we’re going to fill our time.  Only 13% of “us” have a very high confidence level that we’re prepared in the area of “having enough to do”.

What I’m Doing:  My wife came up with an innovative idea, and we’re implementing it in this final year of my working career.  Every week, each of us put a note (or two) in a jar we keep for the purpose.  On the note is an activity that we’d like to do.  It’s typically a low-cost idea, and it can be close to home.  For example, she may put in “Kayak down the Toccoa River“, and I may put in “Hike on the Appalachian trail“.  Neither of us knows what the other is putting in.  After we retire, we’ll pull one note per week from the jar, and do that activity in the next 7 days.  This will give us 2+ years of weekly activities, with an even mix of things “He Wants” and “She Wants” to do.

Our Weekly Retirement Activity Jar
Fill a jar with ideas of things to do, then pull out 1 per week and Do It! Click To Tweet

In addition to this, I’m still working on my (Not) 50 By 50 Bucket List.  I need to write an update to that bucket list post, we’re generating some really great ideas for our retirement “dreams”, and enjoying the process of thinking about what we want our retirement to be.  Spend time dreaming.  Think about what you want to DO.

Social Interaction

Scoring even lower than both of the above (health care and activities) is social interaction, with only 6% of folks having a very high confidence level in their preparedness for this element in retirement.

A lot of folks get the majority of their social interaction through work, and many aren’t confident that they’ve prepared well for social interaction post-retirement.  This one takes work, and it’s not easy.  Friendships are a treasure.  They take work (and time) to develop, and they fade if you don’t keep them watered.  Plant some seeds, and water some roots.

What I’m Doing:  My wife and I decided to move to our retirement town two years before we retired.  We downsized from our house in the City and became Debt Free in the process.  The “early move to retirement town” is giving us an opportunity to develop connections in our “new” small mountain community before we retire.  We volunteer every Saturday at a local dog rescue, and we’re keeping watch for ways to get engaged throughout the community. I recently gave a Personal Finance presentation to a local Rotary group, which I’ll likely join post-retirement. (Thanks, Ed, for the invitation to speak – I appreciate our friendship). We’re also attending a local church, getting to know people, and looking for ways to get engaged. Be intentional, and start working on social interaction before you retire, with folks outside of work and near where you live.

Being Healthy

The #1 Worry!   In response to the question “Please rate your level of concern for each of these post-retirement issues” the issue titled “A change in your health that affects the quality of life” scored the highest response. 82% of “us” rate this a High or Medium level of concern, higher than any other post-retirement issue.

You’ve worked your whole life to achieve the freedom that retirement affords.  The biggest worry for those who are financially secure is having the physical health to enjoy the golden years you’ve worked so hard to achieve.  Do what you can to optimize your health, it’s an important requirement for a Great Retirement.

What I’m Doing:  If this is an area you worry about, I encourage you to do what I did and read Younger Next Year (or, you can cheat and read my review here).  That book has done more to motivate me to be consistent in physical activity than anything else I’ve read in my 54-year lifetime.  It’s even led me to create an online fitness diary to hold myself accountable. I’m doing everything within my power to be as healthy and active in my 70’s as I am in my 50’s, and this book tells you what works.  It’s not magic, but it does require a commitment. Try it, and put this worry to rest.

Conclusion

What do folks (like you!) who have their finances under control worry about for their post-retirement years?  Seems a lot of us have the same concerns, summarized below:

  • Health Care
  • Having Enough To Do
  • Social Interaction
  • Being Healthy

If you find yourself worrying, I encourage you to try a different approach.  The next time you find yourself worrying about an issue, try to redirect your thinking into developing some tactics you can use to address your area of concern. Develop a list of things you can do to address the specific area that worries you the most.  Be intentional in developing a plan, and then try to implement a few things.  Be creative, and embrace a trial and error mindset.

If you’re doing something that others could benefit from trying, please leave a comment with your suggestion. Let’s try to minimize the amount of worry we have in our lives, so  we can focus on:

Helping Others Achieve A Great Retirement (my byline).

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49 comments

  1. I think having a purpose – a way you can help others and give back – is SO important in retirement, and it sounds like you’ve got that down. For me personally health is a big deal too (and it is for Rick too, although he still isn’t quite fully aware of the impact that his high carb diet can have later in life 🙂 ) given I have a huge family history of diabetes, etc. Both financially and physically this is a concern so I’m working hard to get and stay in stellar shape now. You guys have a great plan – keep it up!

  2. It’s funny–my only retirement worry on this list would be healthcare. I can think of oh-so-many ways to have fun, socialize, and stay active (often combined!). If people are scared of retirement because they fear having too much time on their hands, that’s a very good problem to have. 😉

    1. Mrs PP, funny, I had the same discussion with a co-worker last week. He was worried about what to do after retirement. I stated that “it’s kinda sad to think we don’t have anything better to do than work. You’ve finally earned the opportunity to do whatever you want, whenever you want. Run with it, and don’t look back”.

      Seems a common perception among many that their primary Purpose comes from work. Glad I’m not the only one who does NOT feel that way.

  3. Funny how they are related. Social interaction impacts health which impacts the cost of health care…which impacts your ability to do things (okay maybe that last was a stretch). The health care is a big concern though and it does not seem like the government is going to come up with a feasible solution any time in the near future. COBRA is a great idea to extend your good health insurance…hadn’t thought of that one yet.

    As for moving to your community early, that is genius. I have lived in a lot of places and figure it takes 2 years to really get embedded into the lifestyle. Nice thinking on the front.

    1. DDD, nice addition to the discussion by bringing up the “linkage”. I hadn’t thought of that, but you’re spot on. Re COBRA, our hope is the 18 month “bridge” allows time for the markets to settle. Fingers crossed. Finally, moving early to your retirement home is definitely a big plus. We hadn’t necessarily planned it that way, but we’re glad it’s worked out.

  4. Now you got me worrying. Thanks a lot, Fritz! 😉
    Like you, I’m a watching the healthcare situation closely. A big swing in policy could put a real crimp in our post retirement cash flow.
    I look forward to devoting more time to health after cube land, but I’m a bit nervous about the social interactions. Might have to form a club here in Minneapolis – be like the old farmers who waste away the hours at the town diner?

  5. Your health is your #1 asset. Without good health, life is miserable. We are experiencing this with my wife’s father. Money, purpose, and having a social life are also important. It is probably best to focus on balancing all of these issues because they are closely connected.

  6. Would be really great to see your spreadsheet summary on healthcare options. Totally agree with your list that Healthcare is a huge concern (ie. #1). My wife and I are evaluating where to relocate and can’t, in good faith, relocate to an area that has poor Obamacare options as it it too risky. The worst that we have found are counties that have only one Obamacare option and that option is really poor whereby some providers don’t even accept them. We are now evaluating states/counties with at least 3 or more Obamacare insurance provider options such that we have choice.

      1. I have a different concern. Not having children, which one of the Fab Five” (our nieces and nephews) will step up to look over my or Mr. Groovy’s affairs when we’re much older? As Power of Attorneys for our aunt, my brother and I have seen some crazy things — including the head of her HOA Board trying to steal her condo out from under her. Seriously.

        Yayyyy Jackie. I love the jar idea. Talk to you tomorrow.

        1. Mrs G!! I recall some of your earlier posts about the concerns of facing old age without children to care for you. You[‘re lucky to have the Fab Five, just suck up to them and tell them they’re only in your Will if they promise to care for you! Looking forward to talking tomorrow. (and yes, Jackie’s a winner, isn’t she!)

  7. Good post, Fritz. I’m into my second year of retirement and I can testify that your list is pretty accurate. Health insurance is definitely my number one concern right now because my COBRA coverage is just about ready to expire. Good timing, huh? Financially, I think I’m okay, but I’m not willing to take it off my own list because there’s always the “what if” concerns. For example, 143 million people just had their personal information stolen in the Equifax cyberbreach. What if I wake up one morning and my bank account is empty? Can’t control all that stuff, I know, but “what if” is still a worry.

    1. Charles – GREAT to hear from you, my friend!! I remember your retirement party like it was yesterday, time flies. Looks like you’ve got a great setup in your new home, will be interested to see how you address the health care dilemma. As for folks stealing your money….there’s only so much you can do. If you haven’t already, I’d strongly encourage you to freeze your credit.

  8. Health care/staying healthy are the two biggies I struggle with. I’m trying a few different exercise classes…I do better at staying motivated in groups. There’s never enough time to do all the things I want to do (or need to do) and social activity worked itself out after a transition period. It did take a little time to get used to finding non-work socializing, but it does tend to be deeper and more meaningful. Church and volunteering easily fit that niche.

    1. Emily, thanks for your transparency. If groups work for you, find ways to make groups work! I find the same with my running, and strongly believe the only reason I was able to break 4 hours in a marathon is because I had a consistent training buddy for the 4+ month training effort!

  9. Like Mrs. PP I’m only worried about health care. There are oh so many things I want to do. I love Jackie’s idea for the Retirement Jar though. That should prove to be very interesting and fun.

    Do they know at work yet that you are leaving next year?

        1. Funny, my boss actually pulled me aside today after a meeting to ask my about my specific retirement plans. He’s working on succession planning and wanted to know his timeline. I “Went Transparent” and shared all. July 5, 2018 is now my official retirement date, with vacation from my last work day on June 8. Wow…it’s happening!

  10. Great post, Fritz.

    Having something to do is a concern many people don’t take seriously enough. I had been retired for a number a years before I realized that I had knowledge and information that could be of value to others. So, I write, and I tutor in a GED completion program, and do other things that could be considered quasi-vocational. Then there are avocational activities like performing in a concert band, playing bridge etc. I think that a balance between those two categories makes me feel whole and worthwhile.

    Another benefit has to do with gthe structuring of time. When I was pre-retirement, there was a built in structure provided by my job: the daily aspects like getting up, going to work, having lunch, etc. And there was a calendar, in my case an academic calendar with semesters and breaks. In retirement, those structures no longer pertain to me, so I make my own structure. E.g. Mondays and Wednesdays are physical training, Tuesday evening is band rehearsal, Thursday is bridge, etc. And in between these structural elements, there is reading, listening to music, visiting with family, etc.

    This works well for me. I’m never bored and I am using some of my talents.

  11. Very cool points, Fritz!

    I have some of the same worries, although regarding health care, I live in Denmark, a welfare state, so that’s covered for everyone.

    What really worries me is missing work. I know it sounds crazy – and most likely I’ll be just fine. It is not because I don’t think I have enough to do in post-retirement, but I might miss the intellectual stimulus that comes from the work and the excitement of being in a high-paced and high-performing work environment. I guess we’ll see in 6 years when I retire 🙂

    Oh, and by the way, I loved your activity jar – I showed it to my girlfriend right away, and we’ll try to implement it too.

    Onwards,
    Carl

    1. Carl, in general I’m against “welfare states”, but I’ve got to admit there’s a certain envy when it comes to retiree health care! Missing work doesn’t sound crazy at all, it’s a major issue for many folks and I’ve seen several of my friends who retired early return to work as a source of Purpose. Let me know in 6 years? (and, glad the activity jar is proving to be a popular concept from this article!)

  12. Just an FYI. When one first becomes eligible for Medicare at age 65, there is a time limit to sign up for it before you incur a life-time premium penalty, and you have to have continuing medical insurance coverage in the meantime. COBRA is not considered continuing coverage for Medicare. Just wanted to let you and your readers know. Thanks so much for your article.

    1. Virgene, thanks for filling in some important details on Medicare. I’m not too familiar with the details of Medicare, and appreciate you weighing in with your expertise! My COBRA won’t be a conflict with Medicare, since my COBRA will expire when I’m 56 years old. I think I’m safe, right (fingers crossed)?

  13. Fritz, another great post. After 15 months of retirement, I can say healthcare and staying healthy are my top two concerns. I will be at the end of COBRA early next year and I’ve been watching the whole healthcare debate closely. I counted on ACA as part of my overall retirement planning but that was before any serious talk about changing it. I wish there are more attention paid to the individual market in addition to all the discussion on Medicaid.

    Depending on how it changes, I may have to do “Medical GeoaArbitrage” and move to a state with good ACA options. This just goes to show that you have to have enough margin to absorb assumption changes.

    Exercising and better eating is a big part of my life now since I have the time to devote to both. It’s amazing how poorly I ate when I was under time stress before.

    So far, at least, I have more I want to do and learn than I have time for !!

    I do miss a few of the relationships at work, and have been keeping up with the ones I really want to keep up with, but one very wise manager told me 25 years ago — no one on their death bed wishes they spent more time at work — and I’ve never let work define me or my friendships.

    1. Sidney, wow. What a heartfelt and transparent disclosure of what you’re experiencing in your first 15 months of retirement. You’re ~2 years ahead of me, and I sincerely enjoy learning from your journey.

      Healthcare is a huge issue, and I’m planning a future post to share my spreadsheet on what other bloggers are doing re: insurance in early retirement (no promises of timing). “Medical GeoArbitrage” (love that name!) is a bit of a scary thought, but a realistic option in today’s crazy world. The problem – even if you move for better ACA coverage, there’s no guarantee that it will remain that way. It’s a concerning issue.

      In our life, we’re preparing for the retirement that is “Great” for us, and letting the $ issues fall where they may. We’re including “high” estimates for our health insurance costs in our retirement cash flow spreadsheet, and we’re pulling the trigger when the numbers make sense.

      Glad to hear retirement is being good to you in terms of fitness/nutrition, that’s a really important part of A Great retirement. Great advice from your “Wise Manager”, and a good reminder to us all. Thanks for stopping by (love your blog, by the way).

      1. I wonder how much your “younger than 65” readers are budgeting for healthcare. I am budgeting $25K per year based on current ACA pricing with some buffer for rate increases for the two of us.

  14. 15 months into early retirement and for me Pickleball has solved 3 of the 4 concerns you discuss. We play drop in three days a week, we run around, laugh and make new friends. It has led to hikes, dinner parties and card nights. Now, I’m even in a league. This is amazing for the girl who quit tennis after her coach said she was hopeless. Find a court near you on USAPA.org.

    Oh, and keep your fingers crossed on healthcare.

    1. PIckleball? Oh my, so many arrows with which to slay the Dragon! Great add to the discussion. Gotta admit, I LOVE pickleball, even tho I haven’t a clue what you’re talking about! “Hikes, dinner parties and card nights” is all I needed to hear. Kudos to you, Liz, for showing us how it’s done! Let me know when you sort our healthcare, I’ll add you to my spreadsheet (and, future post, already in “draft”!).

      1. And it’s a frugal sport! Tennis shoes and a $70 racquet and you are good to go–for years. It should catch on in our FIRE community. A great way to find your tribe!

  15. The activity-jar is such a sweet idea. Well done, your wife.

    I definitely worry about access to health care, but I worry about that now. I am a temp employee FT and have my own small business. I pay for my insurance on the marketplace. I don’t know what sort of premium I’ll have next year, but I’m guessing it will raise significantly.

    I think you were wise to move to retirement town early. Establishing community and finding ways to serve takes a lot of time.

  16. Folks are right to be concerned about health care, and their own personal health in retirement. We thought we were well-prepared on both fronts, but it’s amazing how things come out of nowhere to bite you.

    Two things we’ve run across in dealing with the health delivery system are coding issues and what I call the -ists–all of those pathologists, radiologists, anesthesiologist who come out of the woodwork and bill you for services you never knew they performed. Granted, it’s not strictly a “senior” problem, but it seems to hurt more financially the older you get. Even when you check with your insurance company beforehand to get a handle on all the “players,” you’re still in for some surprises.

    And then there are the coding issues. Here’s the most recent example from our lives, which will give y’all the flavor of what you can expect.

    My husband had a diagnosis of malignant melanoma about a year and a half ago. He’s dealing with THAT very well, mainly because he set a limit on what he was willing to do (scan- and surgery-wise). I’m happy to say everything’s fine on that front.

    But recently, he went for a routine eye exam. We have some vision insurance that covers $35 for the exam itself, and $150 towards eyeglasses. He told the folks that’s what he wanted to spend and no more.

    Well, because of the melanoma diagnosis, the doctor decided to do a few seconds’ worth extra testing. What we didn’t know is those extra seconds allowed him to code for a “medical” procedure instead of a “routine” exam. So, what would have been a $75 bill morphed into a $360 fee, on top of the money he got for the lenses and frames!

    It’s not the first time we’ve been burned by coding issues. When my husband had a heart attack and needed an emergency stent, the cardiologist’s office tried to say the doctor wasn’t acting as a hospital employee, so the “preferred provider” status didn’t apply. They wanted us to pay $3,000 or else they’d send the bill to a collection agency. But, if we “paid today with a credit card,” they’d knock $1,000 off. I decided to call the insurance company to complain, and surprisingly, they intervened. The bill got knocked down to $100!

    But those two incidents point out what’s wrong with the American healthcare delivery system. What frosts my fanny feathers is this: As patients, we shouldn’t HAVE to know anything about coding, or be on the lookout for coding errors. If a hospital is a “preferred provider,” then all of the doctors who do procedures there should be preferred providers, too.

    Senator Mitch McConnell once stated that we have the greatest healthcare delivery system in the world. Well, maybe HE does. Senators have a private doctor on call right where they work, and if their health does go haywire, they can get whisked off to Bethesda Naval Hospital. So, sure, Senator, you’re on the receiving end of a GREAT system. The rest of us, not so much.

    My advice is simple. Allow twice as much for unexpected out-of-pocket healthcare expenses as you think you’ll need. Healthcare “gotchas” pinch a lot worse after you’ve stopped working. Even if you enter retirement in great health, which my husband did, stuff happens. With the system so broken, and politicians and employers changing the rules of the game every time you turn around, have a fat pot of money to ensure peace of mind.

    On a happier note, finding things to do was no problem at all!

  17. Good post, Fritz. The biggest reason for Americans to worry about RE is indeed healthcare. This is why having flexibility for medical arbitrage is very useful – I explain one example here.

    With a reasonable plan for long term healthcare in place, most ER folks will find that the rest of the worries are a lot more manageable. There are many FI folks I know who can RE right now, the only reason holding them back is job-provided health insurance. Waiting for Medicare to kick in seems like a long punishment (decade or longer) these guys endure in boring or stressful jobs that don’t serve their interests or have long quenched their passion.

    1. 10!, thanks for stopping by! Medical arbitrage is certainly an option, but I just can’t “see” myself (bad pun) having eye surgery done in India. You’re a braver man than I!

      To me, being “FI” means you’ve got the $$ to cover all of your living expenses, including whatever route you choose to pursue on health care. If you can’t cover your insurance costs, you’re not (be definition) FI. We built $24k/yr into our retirement cash flow, and we achieved “FI” this summer. We’re holding off “One More Year” to be safe, and will “RE” next summer.

      1. Good to hear that your FI is padded up by $24/year for medical alone! That’s $600K of additional assets to be accumulated to cover this alone. You are fortunate indeed to be in that position that others may not be in. For me, it’s not just the cost savings – actually, that’s incidental – but the consistent quality of results that top class medical institutions in India and other parts of Asia deliver that give me the confidence. So, it’s not bravery, but simple logic. Did you read that surgeon’s quote in my article link? Surgery is a skill that only improves with practice. For any surgery, it’s better to go with a surgeon who has done 500 of the same surgery you are planning to get done, than another who has done only 50 of them.

  18. Another health care expense to plan for is dental. If you and a “significant other” both need root canals or implants at the same time, for example, that can suck a couple thousand from your yearly budget in one swoop:( There don’t seem to be any really good dental plans out there, either, from what I can see…or from what dentists tell me.

    A lot of folks living close to the Mexico cut dental costs by crossing the border. When I was a fulltime RVer, I heard about some excellent, US-trained dentists who provide stellar service there. (Some of the RV forums “name names,” if you’re interested).

    But if Mexico’s not an option for you, be sure to tuck a couple extra grand aside for this expenditure.

    1. Great point, Ann. Dental is a potential $$ sucker, and I agree that there don’t see to be any great plans out there. Again, like 10! talking about eye surgery in India, I struggle with thinking of going to Mexico for a root canal. Maybe it’s just me, but I think I’ll plan a few extra grand and see my local dentist! Thanks for stopping by (twice!), much appreciated!

  19. I think everybody should have a meaningful activity to do, either a job or some other, which he feels gives him a purpose. This, I think, is the key. Other parts of life must be also in shape. What retired people must do more, is to be active on contacting social things and planning their lives, because they do not have “natural contacts” so much anymore.

  20. What a great article! Thanks for sharing. My biggest concern is maintaining health after seeing what a recent hip replacement diagnosis can do to life/mobility at age 54. Fitness has just risen to my #1 priority! I also just love your activity jar idea. I’m going to remember that tip for my clients as a tool for retirement lifestyle planning. Thanks again!

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