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5 Steps To Learn To Spend In Retirement

There’s a common problem that hits many people in retirement.

After years of saving in order to achieve their retirement dreams, many retirees have a hard time breaking old habits.  This seems to be particularly true of those who have been diligent savers throughout their working years.

Many retirees spend too little money.

As I learned reading this article, there’s actually a name for the problem:  Chrometophobia. It’s a difficult problem to solve, but today we’re going to look at how to encourage folks to exercise their freedom to spend in retirement. You’ve worked your whole life to reach this point, don’t let fear and anxiety crash your retirement party.  My wife and I have been intentional in trying to learn how to spend in retirement without worry, and I’m hoping some of the lessons we’ve learned will help those of you who are also trying to learn to spend in retirement, like Brian who recently sent me this comment in an email:

“Amazing to me that trying to sensibly increase the spend rate actually seems like work!  We are going to make a concerted effort to spend more this year with most of it coming from travel.”  Brian – a reader of this blog

This post is for all of you “Brian’s” out there.  My thoughts and lessons on how to learn to spend in retirement.  It’s time to enjoy life, while we still can.

Many retirees spend less than they could. Don't let fear and anxiety impact the best years of your life, apply these 5 steps to learn to spend. Click To Tweet

5 steps to learn to spend in retirement

I have a persistent memory from childhood. 

I was a young man, still in elementary school.  Between some odd jobs and my weekly allowance, my savings were starting to grow.  I remember emptying my piggy bank and counting how much change I had saved.  I’d carefully stack the coins into $1 increments and build the piles on a card table in my room.  Once they were all stacked, I’d count them all up.  

I enjoyed watching the numbers grow.

From the age of 10 until my retirement at age 55, that habit became deeply ingrained.  Automated savings, careful spending, consistent tracking of our annual net worth.  Decade after decade.  Starting with nothing, I was successful in achieving a dream.  I was able to retire early. The diligence has now been rewarded.  I realize many never enjoy that luxury and I consider myself blessed, but I also realize the fact that my situation today is a result of a decades-long commitment to make savings a priority. 

My heart goes out to those who face a life of poverty, and I realize the topic of today’s post could cause some animosity among those who are struggling.  I’m sorry for your situation, and I respect how these words could make you feel.  I also ask that you recognize the decades of sacrifice I’ve made to arrive at my current situation.  I suspect many readers can relate and have made saving a priority over the decades.  We each have our own journey, and today’s post is focused on those who have a deeply engrained “savings habit” they’re now struggling to break.  If that doesn’t apply to you, focus on my other posts that can help you, such as “How To Retire in 5 Simple Steps.”


What’s Your Why?

It’s appropriate, at times, to ask “Why?” 

This is one of those times, and it’s an important question to ask before we get into the 5 lessons on learning how to spend in retirement.  Why did it matter if those numbers were growing when I was younger?  For most of my working life, the answer was, of course, “So I can retire someday.”  

Now that I’ve retired, there’s value in revisiting “The Why.”  It’s changed, and it’s important to recognize that fact.  

My goal is no longer to “build a bigger pile.”  I’ve achieved the goal, I’ve won the game.  It’s time to change the strategy for my “second half.”  As I think about my “Why” for my retirement, I’d summarize it as follows:

  • My goal is not to die with a big number. 
  • At the same time, I want to ensure we don’t run out of money before we die.
  • My goal is to enjoy life, especially the limited number of active years we have remaining. 
  • I’ve broken the chains that once tied me to a desk.  It’s time to enjoy the freedom I’ve earned.
  • I also want to become more generous, to leave a legacy of helping others.

The seed for today’s article was planted when I read a recent article in which I was featured.  The article from Vested Magazine titled Striking A Balance on Spending contained the following quote.


freedom to spend in retirement - example


As I read those words, I realized my “Why” has changed.  The article helped solidify in my mind the importance of that change and led me to write the words you’re now reading.  My dedication to the new “Why” was reinforced when I lost my Dad last month.  He lived a good life and made a big impact on me. I realize our time on earth is limited, and it’s important to identify our priorities and live life accordingly.  I hope my Dad would be proud.

Both factors led to my decision to summarize the changes we’ve made to support our new “Why” in the hopes they can help others who face a similar situation.


What’s your “Why?”  It’s an important question to answer, and I encourage you to think about it.  More importantly, I encourage you to be intentional in aligning the steps you’re taking with the goals you’ve identified.  If you, like me, have decided your “Why” is no longer focused on increasing your net worth, what steps are you taking to align your activities with your new priorities? 


5 Steps to Learn To Spend In Retirement

5 ways to learn to spend in retirement

As I reflect back on the changes we’ve made to support our decision to spend in retirement without worry, the following 5 steps come to mind.  Pick a few that resonate with you and find ways to apply them in your life.  Before we cover those, I’d like to share the following quote I read in Retirement Starts Today weekly email – it’s a relevant reminder of the need to change your skill-set to learn to spend in retirement:


“The skill-set required to create a nest egg is the exact opposite of the one you need to spend it.”

– David Blanchett, head of retirement research at the PGIM unit of Prudential Financial.


1) Make An Intentional Decision To Spend

In the month I retired, I wrote: “It’s Time To Live Like No One Else”.  Looking back, I realize that post was my “line in the sand,” the point at which my wife and I decided we wanted to change our “Why” and focus on maximizing our enjoyment in our retirement years.  We wanted to break our spendthrift habits and learn how to spend in retirement without worry. The article outlines some of the key steps we took to reflect our new priorities, summarized below: 

  • We recognized we no longer needed to save, we were free to spend.
  • We automated our spending as a means of breaking our thrifty habits.
  • We built a “maintenance reserve” to defend against surprise expenses.
  • We intentionally changed our mentality from “Saver” to “Spender.” 

In line with this “spending mindset”, I’ll share a bit of advice I left as a comment on my friend Jim’s recent post on RouteToRetire, “Stop Counting Pennies:”

“Jim, after years of aggressively pursuing FIRE, it’s only natural to count the pennies. Here’s one for you: challenge yourself to start intentionally buying the more expensive option. LOOK for that peanut butter that costs $2 more. ORDER that meal choice that’s $1.50 more expensive. Smile every time you do it. It’s time to break the habit. Remind yourself, every time, that “we’re fine,” and enjoy those small luxuries along the way. It worked for me, maybe it’ll work for you.”

One additional thought:  if you happen to earn any unexpected income in retirement, recognize that you’re 100% free to spend 100% of that money.  It wasn’t in your original numbers when you made the decision to retire, it’s not included in your safe withdrawal rate, and there’s no longer a reason to save.  Test yourself, and see if you can spend any “extra” money without guilt.


2) Develop A System To Keep You On Track

It would be irresponsible to spend recklessly in retirement.  At the same time, spending less than we can safely spend in retirement could lead us to live a life of unnecessary sacrifice.  How do you balance those two extremes?

In our case, we rely on our Bucket Strategy and the automatic monthly paycheck we establish every January during our Annual Financial Review.  By developing a system to help us easily determine how much we can safely spend in retirement, we can reduce our worry when we’re actually spending money within those previously defined limits.

In our case, we simply transfer a fixed amount every month from our money market fund to our checking account.  If the checking account continues to grow for several months, we know we can increase our spending.  If it starts to dip, we know to cut back.  It doesn’t get much easier than that.


3) Ensure Your Money Will Last Your Lifetime

The biggest fear holding retirees back from spending money is the concern that they’ll outlive their money, become a burden to their children, or face unexpected spending shocks later in life.  Valid concerns, all, but not a reason to sacrifice the potential experiences you’d like to pursue in your retirement.

I’ve written extensively on strategies you can follow to ensure your money will last, so rather than rehash that content I’ve provided several links below for those who would like to dig deeper on this one:

Determine how much you can safely spend and build a system to keep you on track.  Once you’ve completed those two tasks, you know you can spend without worry.  At that point, it’s just a matter of breaking a deeply ingrained habit. 


The Completed Purpose Full Workshop

4) Build A New Dream

Speaking from personal experience, it’s easier to spend in retirement if you know it’s supporting a retirement dream.  As I wrote in Building A Dream, my wife and I had a dream of building a “Purpose Full Workshop” on our property, both to support her growing charity (Freedom For Fido) and to provide a writing studio for my work on this blog.  The dream was 100% driven by the Purposes we were both pursuing in retirement, and we’ve never regretted spending the money required to build the Treehouse Writing Studio where I’m currently writing these words.  If you’d like a look inside, feel free to take A Tour of my Woodworking Shop.

As I mentioned in my “additional thought” on #1 above, if you have some unexpected income in retirement, challenge yourself to spend it.  That’s exactly what drove our decision to proceed with the Purpose Full Workshop, and it’s created more fulfillment in our retirement than we could have ever achieved by simply saving that extra money. 

If your dream, like Brian’s, is to increase your travel, find a way to take an extra trip.  Buy a first-class ticket instead of flying coach.  Buy an RV, or rent one for a few weeks.  

Spend your money on retirement dreams.  If you’re struggling with that one, consider giving it away.  This leads us to #5…


5) If You Don’t Want To Spend It, Give It Away

I’ve heard from numerous readers who have stated “But we don’t need or want to spend any more money, we’re content with what we have.”  That’s an enviable position to be in, and I applaud those who have tackled the challenge of being content. (Ah, contentment, the topic of my very first post!)

Regardless, being content is not necessarily an excuse to spend less than you safely can in retirement.  If you fall into the “contentment camp”, I challenge you to find a way to give more money away.  There’s a certain satisfaction that results from being generous that’s hard to explain. 

My Dad was the model of generosity.  He’d often pay for people’s meals at restaurants, provide low-cost rent to folks in need in a second home he owned, or help people out who he knew were struggling.  His Will stated that 25% of his assets were to go to charity at his death, and it was a perfect statement of who he was as a man.  I suspect he had been giving away 25% of his retirement income for years.

I’m trying to learn from my Dad and increase our giving.  When the COVID restrictions started to lift, we routinely tipped 100% on our restaurant bill for the first few months to help out the employees who had been hard-hit during the shutdowns.  When we saw the need in Ukraine, we decided to give a “stretch donation” since we had a bit of extra money in our checking account.  When our niece became a missionary, we strongly supported her with an automatic monthly donation that will continue for as long as she has the need. 

There are a lot of folks with serious needs.  Are you struggling with finding a way to spend in retirement?  Consider spending more money on those who can use it the most.  From experience, the statement that “the gift goes to the giver” is accurate.  Give some away and see for yourself.

You won’t regret it.


Conclusion

If you’ve not yet retired, you’re likely puzzled over the reality that many folks struggle to spend what they can safely spend in retirement.  It is, however, a well-documented reality that many retirees face.  If you’re already retired and facing this reality in your own life, it’s my hope that the lessons we’ve learned on our journey can help you on yours.

You’ve sacrificed for years to cross The Starting Line. 

You’ve lived like no one else.

It’s time to ask yourself why.


Your Turn:  Are you spending what you can safely spend in retirement?  If you’re spending less, what’s holding you back?  If you’ve been successful in transitioning from a “Saver” to a “Spender”, what tips can you provide to other readers who may be struggling with the issue?  Let’s chat…  

59 comments

  1. Hey Fritz,

    Great article. My wife and I are planning to retire in 2 years. Your piece on spending was well timed for us. After decades of earning and saving, it’s time to methodically spend that money!

    We enjoy your articles and feedback from others.

    Blessings

    Paul And

  2. Great post again Fritz! Totally agree with your last point on giving….remember folks, to give away your RMD when 72 is a great way to also reduce your taxable income. But don’t wait until then if you are spending less than you can in retirement. To help others less fortunate is a blessing to one’s heart. It warms your innards to give of your talents, time and treasure. God bless all of you. We are truly blessed and fortunate to have been born in this wonderful country!

  3. I am so glad I found your blog Fritz! I am pulling the trigger on retirement this June. And I know that I need to be comfortable to spend. We have built in a big bucket of discretionary funds in our annual needs, and I need to exercise that muscle. My first step – I just booked a mini vacation, our first in over two years where we actually will get on a PLANE, and I upgraded to business class seats. Will I do this on every trip? Probably not, I am still a frugal New Englander at heart. But it did not freak me out booking this. Thanks for the reminder to enjoy!

  4. This is a great article for those of us “on the fence” of actually retiring. Personally struggling with the “I’ll do one more year” syndrome. I think this thought process goes hand in hand with this article. Looking forward to hearing how others spend which may help me jump off this sharp and uncomfortable fence that I am on. Very thankful for this community that you built. Cheers,

  5. Timely article, thanks Fritz! I am now in my sixth year of retirement — it took me three full years to simply figure out how much I really had and how much I annually spend. I love the line,

    we each have our own journey

    and my path was a college education achieved through discipline and done 100% on my own. To this end I support the education goals of several nieces and their children and will continue to do so well after I die. I have greatly bumped up charitable giving through a donor advised trust because, for me, it was easier to simply move a chunk of $$ than think about the total amt each year. Eighteen months into the pandemic my husband & I challenged each other for find a singular way to support a family member impacted by lay-offs and school closures – we paid off a student loan, paid off a medical debt, supported a niece going through a tough divorce and I bought that first class air ticket!! Learning to spend takes time and reflection, enjoy the process.

  6. A very interesting article about a surprisingly common issue.
    IIRC you mentioned your additional thought to 1) in a comment to a previous post (three year drawdown strategy review) – as it caught my eye at the time.
    If I may, how do you feel your decision to draw – rather than defer – your employer pension has influenced your thinking on this issue?

    1. In the broader sense of things, I don’t the “spender” vs. “saver” was impacted by whether or not a pension is deferred, since the numbers work out to be pretty close over the course of a retirement with either option (defer or not). That said, I suspect having a steady baseline pension coming in does reduce the worry about spending to some extent, since the entire amount of spending isn’t coming from investments like it would be if we were doing a pension deferral.

      1. Thanks for the helpful reply.
        I was basically wondering about the “psychology” of having a baseline income.
        FWIW, I used to be wholly convinced that holding out for the optimal amount from DB/social security was the prudent strategy but I am coming round to the view that if you are in a fortunate position then when you hit “enough” then that may be the more sensible approach.

  7. Once again, another interesting topic you address. We are in year 5 of retirement after hanging it at 54. At first, we struggled with our spend rate. But after carefully considering how we wanted to live in retirement, we focused on “What” we were going to spend on and less about “How” we were spending. A few events, hip replacements and a health scare, have completely eliminated any concerns. These events made us realize we need to front-end load our retirement spending/living and go while we can. We’re in Scottsdale for the winter for our 5th year and will be heading out to hike Piestawa Peak followed by happy hour with friends. We’re also returning to Italy this fall since Covid. We have increased our charitable donations with both time and money. And tipping at restaurants is always at least 25%. Even after we established our spend rate, we have more money now than we did when we retired in 2017. Focus on the “What” when it comes to your spending in retirement. Who knows, we may not be able to hike next year. Better get my hiking boots on. Cheers.

    1. “These events made us realize we need to front-end load our retirement spending/living and go while we can.”

      Glad to see the events, though clearly traumatic, made an impact for good. Thanks for sharing your experience, I hope other readers can learn from your experience, and realize the importance of “front-end loading” their retirement living. Strap those hiking boots on, and get outside while you still can!

  8. Great article! I’ve been retired early for a whole year now 😜. I have been noticing that I still have a natural tendency to figure what I could reduce from my budget to accommodate a new spend. Then I catch myself, take a deep breath and relax – I have plenty and if this will bring me happiness then why not. All this talk of down markets and rocketing inflation kind of want to trigger me, but I haven’t noticed much change in my spending so not worried about that either. Feel grateful I was frugal all those years and now have plenty of cushion to ride these things out now 🙏

    1. A whole year, I bet that flew by! Wink. It’s interesting to read how many have commented that it takes a while to make the transition, I think that’s a valuable lesson for all of us. The transition into retirement is a huge shift, and moving from “Saver” to “Spender” is just one element of a huge life change. Enjoy those deep breaths, and don’t let the “noise” distract you from that pursuit of happiness.

  9. Old habits die hard, as they say. Even (theoretically) positive ones like saving and frugality.

    To be honest, I think this post applies to the accumulation phase as well. RE is great, but value-based spending is an important skill no matter what FI stage you’re in.

    All of that to say, I think this post has an even wider audience than intended!

    Great read 🙂

    1. Marc – great point about the lesson applying to the pre-retirement years, as well. My biggest warning to the FIRE community has always been to make sure you’re enjoying the journey as you live it, and find a balance between the future and today. Thanks for making that critical point. Ironically, I initially titled this post “Freedom To Spend”. Kinda wish I would have stuck with that now, and added the point about pre-retirement balance. You’re right, there is a broader audience for the message than just those who have already achieved Financial Independence.

  10. This article really resonates with me. I recently retired and with the current markets and price of goods and gas I am a little worried . Actually lowered the amount from my RRIF monthly temporarily . Not doing things because I feel I can’t afford to . You have made me rethink my strategy. I really liked what you said about the extra in your account so simple but great advice .

  11. Love the post Fritz. I felt like you were talking about me. It was tough for us to make the transition from the saving mind set to knowing we could spend more and be fine, mostly because we fall into the “contentment” camp. That’s why point number 5 hits home for us the most. We found ‘Strongholdhold.org’ and ‘T2T.org’ to be charity’s we could strongly support and we felt good about it. We also have been volunteering and supporting our local organizations which has really been a benefit to us with connecting with our community. Keep up the good work, really enjoy your blog. I hope you get out this summer and enjoy driving your jeep around.

  12. Thanks Fritz for another great post! It’s so relevant to start with the “why”. It’s a great question and one we’ve put time into figuring out after both retiring in the past few years. A benefit of diligent saving and planning prior to retirement is that during retirement we have been able to adjust to some unexpected costs. giving back is a big focus for us. One area that has really been wonderful is to be able to help our niece with college tuition in grad school while she is also starting a family. We had not originally planned to do this after retirement, but one of the financial programs she used to cover tuition in undergrad did not apply in grad school. So we made adjustments to help. The long term impact that can have for her and her family is something we highly value and are grateful we can help with.

  13. Nice post, I can see me having a struggle with this when I fully FIRE. As a naturally frugal person spending more just feels weird and wrong.

    And I would have thought “Chrometophobia” would mean fear of using the Chrome browser because Google egregiously spies on you and sells all of your personal data.

  14. Thanks Fritz. We’re only on year 2 of retirement (defined as drawing down savings) but have yet to reach a real spending equilibrium. I am sure we overspent last year after helping with a first house down payment but what were we doing with it anyway? I do like buying “up” – especially when buying stuff for the kids (the really nice cookware vs. just an adequate set, a better appliance, etc). But I still do savings – a home repair account is the best example – so I know we have the cash to paint or re-roof when the time comes. I don’t expect to really see equilibrium until later this year but we’ll get there. Still buying good wine….

  15. Fritz,

    Great post!

    My wife (who is 7 years older than I am) has been retired for 4 years now, and I’ve got less than 4 years until retirement.

    Our age differential has enabled us to have the best of both worlds, learning to live without her salary while I’m still working at my peak earning years.

    I’ve built my Excel Retirement models and have already made plans to flip the switch to spending in retirement in 2026. Can’t wait.

    I’ve heard something about a “Fido” charity that’s doing a great work in the North Georgia mountains. Know anything bout that? I would encourage everyone to contribute to this charity if possible.

    Again, my sympathies on your Dad’s passing, and hope you’re doing well.

    1. Fido, huh? I’ll have to check that out. Wink. Actually spent all day today doing “Fido Stuff”, rewarding beyond words. Thanks for encouraging folks to contribute, we’ve been surprised by the number of readers who have actually contributed to our charity. Encouraging, to say the least. Thanks also for your words regarding my Dad, I’m doing ok, helps knowing he’s in a better place.

  16. Great post Fritz. Do you think though that the unusually strong returns for the cohort of retirees in the last 10 years has made the transition easier. My wife and I look to get out at 55 which is in 4 years. I wonder how that experience may feel different with potentially lower returns in those crucial pre-retirement years. Fingers crossed that the markets rebound well and we see another run up as we reach that line. I worry a great deal about not spending adequately in those first 10 years and regretting it down the road while also solving for longevity, particularly for my wife.

    1. Good question, Jamie. The reality of retirement spending is you never know what returns you’ll be getting in the year you’re spending the money, so it’s biggest impact is likely on the Safe Withdrawal Rate calculation going up as the net worth increases based on the strong returns. I appreciate your worry about that difficult balance between longevity and spending, it’s an ongoing challenge for all of us.

  17. From my point of view, here in the UK – rather bad timing for your article!

    I have always had a bit of a worry, re inflation, and hoped I had hedged against it well enough. (10 years into retirement)
    However in just 6 weeks, our world has gone mad. My husband and I have moved from a ‘very safe/comfortable’ position, (unlikely to ever use our savings, and living on half our income, saving the rest.) To – my goodness, we need to look at our spending…

    The reason –>
    The war in Ukraine – Gasoline now heading for $10-12 a gallon, from $6 just a few weeks ago.
    We have been warned our heating costs are likely to triple in the next few months. (They have been price-capped by the government, they are increasing the price cap!)
    Food – Ukraine supplied Europe with wheat, sunflower oil etc. We await the financial hit.
    We are looking at double digit inflation almost immediately. I was only a teenager,/young adult in the 1970’s, when we last faced inflation like this. Hopefully it is a blip…
    However, using a strange reverse logic, we are also getting quotes for solar panels and a bathroom upgrade. We are cash rich, and cash loses its value quickly in inflationary times… So spending, is almost saving!!
    Here’s hoping!

    So suddenly, I am determined to save, save etc. Our heating has been turned down, we aren’t using the car as much. Our investments have dropped like a stone. (Fortunately

  18. It should have continued, fortunately I have no need to sell anything, any time soon. Time for it to recover…

    1. Erith, $10-$12 gasoline (petrol) – OUCH! And we thought WE had it bad in the USA when it went from $2.50 to $4.00. Thanks for putting things in perspective, you’re certainly going to get hit harder given the UK’s supply dependencies on Russia, hoping with you that it’s only a temporary blip. At least it’s the end of winter instead of the beginning, right? (Always looking for the ray of sun coming through the clouds). Hang in there, my friend.

  19. Fritz: Another great post! This is my first comment to any of your posts, but I’ve been a follower of yours for several years now. My wife and I retired last year at the age of 49. Like many others, we (mostly I) were challenged to transition from the savings phase to spending. This article was about a month too late, LOL :).
    Last month, I surprised my wife by booking a long weekend trip this summer to Bainbridge Island and I decided to purchase first class tickets. One, because my wife deserves it, and two, because we want to live and enjoy the fruits of our labors and sacrifices over the years. So to see your words in your article……”Buy a first-class ticket instead of flying coach.” was music to my ears!!! Congrats on your retirement, book, and blog. P.S. so sorry to read about the loss of your dad. It sounds like he was a great man and father.

    1. Thanks for emerging from “the shadows,” Rick, and congratulations on crossing The Starting Line in your 40’s! Glad you took my advice (before I even wrote it) and bought those first class tickets. Enjoy Bainbridge Island, we’ve enjoyed our time in the PNW the past few years (we’ve stayed at an AirBnB on Anderson Island in southern Puget Sound several times while visiting our daughter who was living near Tacoma at the time). Thanks for the words about my dad. He was, indeed, a great man and father.

  20. Once you have crossed over the FI milestone, visually think of money as a vehicle that drive you to anywhere, whatever or whenever your shiny objects.

    Hopefully, most of your shiny objects have purpose along with few indulgences.

    You do not want to duffel-bag money behind you and drag it to your grave. This road is harder than the earlier FI path.

    1. “This road is harder than the earlier FI path.”

      Interesting thought. Which is harder, achieving FI or transitioning to being a Spender? There could be some great debates on that one! Both are difficult, in different ways. Fortunately, both can be accomplished!

  21. Wow, there really is a name for the disease I have. I guess the first step is recognizing the problem. I still need to work on the first step in fixing the problem. Even during the recent market drops whereas we lost multiple six figures of NW, I’m not really phased about not having enough for retirement. But I’m still not willing to replace our 17 year old car because I don’t want to pay $5k – 10k more than “I’m suppose to”. My gut reation for the reason is that I hate getting “ripped off” but I also understand that I’m robbing ourselves (my wife more than me) of the extra years of enjoyment of a new car now.

    I’ll have to try the peanut butter and waiter tip suggestions. Baby steps …

  22. Thanks for the mention, amigo!

    Your additional thought about being free to spend any unexpected income in retirement is another area that was a learning curve as well for us in early retirement. As the blog is starting to earn some income (not a lot), I’m finally starting to get in the habit of moving that over and making that some additional spending money. I still save some of it (old habits!), but it’s still a nice bonus to have that money. 🙂

    Great post as always, Fritz!

  23. Really enjoyed your post today Fritz.

    My wife retired a little over 3 years ago and I’m essentially retired now (work when I want to, not because I need to). We’re now just 12-15 months away from being able to start social security. It’s very tempting to ‘front load’ retirement with that extra (to us) income but that’s not the recommendation of most financial planners. Most recommend only starting social security for the lower earner and then waiting for the higher earner to reach full retirement age. For us, if we both started social security at 62, that would fund 60% of our annual expenses, maybe more. That would allow us to not spend as much of our retirement savings and instead, use it for more ‘fun’ things. That’s tempting, especially when you think about the utility of that money being much higher when you’re younger and able to do more (travel for example). It also would make it easier to make the switch from a saver to a spender!

    Deciding on when to start social security is a tough decision and depending on the day of the week, you’ll get a different answer from me on what we’re going to do. 😉

  24. Fritz,
    Enjoyed the article as usual. After 2 years of retirement, the world is much different than the day I left
    my paycheck behind. My natural behavior has always been a spender but restrained by the reality of retirement. I stay on budget but am always pushing the upper limits when I can. When questioned by my wife on spending I tend to blame an earlier post from you. It all comes back to “Someday Came”.
    Thanks for all the food for thought you provide, and it was a pleasure to meet you and your wife last week.
    It truly is a small and wonderful world.

    1. It was great running into you at “Grumpy’s”, Blue Ridge really is a small town! LMK if you’d ever like to join a Freedom For Fido build, we’d love to have you at a build!

      Also, I hope your wife isn’t too mad at me for justifying your spending behavior. Wink.

  25. I really like when you say “You’ve made it to the starting line” . I’m thinking I want a t-shirt.

  26. Well said. Its not as easy to part with a lifetime of saving as some may anticipate. Hopeful that COVID is about to go away and can travel like we had wanted to. But now have to deal with inflation.

  27. I suffer from this disease, which ironically includes the word “chrome”. I’ve been lusting after a Spyder motorcycle but told myself I need to clear my dad’s and my junk out of the garage first.

    Left the day job for good last July but still have a horse farm to run, so I stay busy but now have time for catching up around the house and property on deferred maintenance and general cleaning, repairing and decluttering, with an eye towards putting up for sale soon. Have basically been living off of the horse farm income, and have too much in cash savings, so I am nowhere near needing to tap retirement accounts and have not filed for SS (waiting until 70).

    I have started the small steps to increase spending – treating friends to meals out as often as they’ll let me, tipping very generously (I know they need it, and can see they are so overworked), the $10-15 bottle of wine instead of the $7 version (years of frugality are REALLY hard to break).

    Like Fritz, seeing my parents become disabled and die has convinced me that I need to get moving on travel and other life enjoyment plans while I’m still physically able. The clock is ticking…

    1. Ironically, we talked about getting a horse farm as a potential retirement dream at one point, but decided the “anchor” of having to run it was too big a negative for us. Best of luck with the sale (hey, when it sells, splurge a little and go for that $20 bottle of wine!).

  28. Fritz,
    I really enjoyed this article. The other path to spending, which one can begin before retirement, is to start giving relatives their “inheritance” while you are still alive. If I read the US tax codes correctly, a couple can gift up to $30K per year per individual without reporting (that’s $15K from each person in the couple). This allows the over savers to see their offspring enjoy the extra flexibility by giving away some money which just isn’t needed. This can be done with a caveat– make sure the recipient knows that if you ever need the money, the gifts will be paused. The recipient can’t start depending on the money– it has to be a true gift that may not continue year on year.

    1. Great addition to the discussion, Scott. My Dad did that for me and my sister’s for a few Christmases before he entered the assisted living facility, it was much appreciated and more useful at that point in our lives than if he’d waited to give it to us upon his death. Great suggestion for those with “extra” to spend.

  29. Great Article Fritz. My wife retired last year and I have 9 weeks to go before I hang it up too. We have a solid retirement financial plan confirmed by a fee only retirement advisor so we know our spending limit and plan to stay within it.
    Bought a small motor home two years ago ( built into our plan) and plan to see all North America has to offer starting as soon as I retire because “You’ll never see a hearse towing a U-haul”. Enjoy it while you can.

  30. Excellent article. My wife and I FIREd just over 7 years ago, and we’ve been working on this “problem” ever since. We’ve definitely enjoyed our early retirement and feel like we haven’t neglected ourselves at all, but our net worth keeps going up (with some dips here and there). For lifetime frugal spenders, spending more is always hard!

    Reading “Die with Zero” really hit home about being more open to spending on experiences and being more generous. One thing that’s helped is creating long term goals for travel, projects, connecting, etc. We have a spreadsheet that carves out our goals on a quarterly basis for the next couple years.

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