The Zen of Pondering a Happy Retirement

By Barbara Miller, Financial Counselling Supervisor with LSS Financial Counseling

This blog post starts with a broad disclaimer: I am not, and never will be, a financial planner. Don’t get me wrong, I firmly believe that financial planners play a crucial role in guiding clients to a more prosperous future. And, I truly respect, and often follow, the advice of my own personal financial planner.


But this blog post is not about how much money you need to retire comfortably. Surely that information is important, but plenty of other blogs go there. Instead, I want to know how to live a more rewarding retirement, not just how to pay my bills.

Retirement is very different from your current lifestyle. Just think about it: no more alarm clocks jolting you awake each morning. No more stressful drives to the office in rush hour traffic. No more deadlines or performance reviews. “Just what I’m looking for!” you may say. But what will you do with the 50 hours a week you now spend on the job and commuting?


How would you really like to spend your golden years? Will you travel the world, or stay at home to garden and play with your grandkids? Do you have hobbies you enjoy but don’t seem to have time for now? Or, is your life so devoid of personal time you need to find new interests? It is common knowledge that those who retire to nothing are often dissatisfied, and don’t live as long. So, keep that in mind as you dream about your ideal retirement.

Retirement is also an opportunity to make a positive contribution to your community. You can work part-time for extra cash and socialization. Or, volunteer at something you always wanted to do but never had the time. Many organizations could use your help and expertise, whatever it may be.


You may know exactly how you want to spend your time when you retire. But, have you discussed your plans with your spouse or partner? Now is the time to think about how you as a couple can have a fulfilling retirement - without driving each other crazy.

If your goals are similar, planning is a cinch. But if your plans diverge, think about how to achieve the best of each. Or, once you talk, your own goals may change to reflect those of your loved one.


OK. So, I had to write about something related to money. Employer retirement plans like 401Ks and 403Bs can help you reach your retirement goals for the future, yet benefit you financially today. The money you contribute is withheld before taxes are deducted, which means you pay less income tax. That means more money in your pocket.

And, contributions made by your employer amount to free money for your retirement nest egg. So as long as it’s affordable in your budget, always contribute at least the minimum needed to earn the employer match.


I don’t know about you, but when I retire I don’t want any more debts. That means no mortgage payments and definitely no more car loans or credit cards. I talk with so many retired clients who have large mortgage and credit card balances, and are struggling to make ends meet.

Some may argue you can benefit from the mortgage interest tax deduction. But that’s not good enough for me to justify ongoing mortgage debt. Although you should consult your tax professional about how paying off your mortgage will affect your tax liability, remember no one but you can decide what is best for your financial future.

And once my partner and I are both retired, I would like to eliminate one car to reduce overall transportation costs, like gas, maintenance, and insurance. To make one car do-able, we will need to coordinate our schedules, but that is a minor inconvenience compared to the money we will save.

As far as credit cards go, we currently pay any balances in full every month. That way, we never pay interest and never carry balances forward.

With no debt payments in retirement, we should have more cash for leisure activities and increased medical costs, which I see as the biggest financial challenge for everyone.

Retirement should be your time to enjoy life, not to worry about finances. For more information about retirement planning, check out Look Ahead: 3 Steps to Live Today and Save for Your Future.


Author Barbara Miller is a Certified Financial Counselor with LSS Financial Counseling and she specializes in Bankruptcy Counseling/Education and Student Loans.

Financial Counsellors at LSS are available to help you create a budget and plan of action to conquer your debt. Just like visiting the doctor to maintain your health, we all need a financial check-up at some point. So call us today at 888.577.2227 to schedule yours.

Tip of the Day

  • Written by Guest Blogger | September 30, 2014

    Participate in the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) - a retirement savings and investment plan for Federal employees and members of the Uniformed Services. It offers the same types of savings and tax benefits that many private corporations offer their employees under 401(k) plans. More info at

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