Sense & Centsibility Blog
America Saves Week - Save to Retire photo of man carrying boxes for moving

Live Your Best Life Before and After Retirement

America Saves Week 2022, February 21–25, is an annual call to action for everyday Americans to commit to saving successfully.

LSS Financial Counseling is among the participating organizations that are encouraging savers nationwide to set a goal for savings and make a plan to maintain or improve financial wellness.

When it comes to retirement planning, the first thing that comes to mind for most people is money. Financial advisors talk about setting a goal and making a plan to save and invest to meet that goal. What’s as equally important as saving money is imagining what you want your retirement years to look like. Or maybe you aren’t thinking about your retirement, but are imagining a life with little to no financial stress. So, rather than focus on the traditional retirement monetary goal approach, I am going to focus on building and saving for a lifestyle that addresses the present and the future equally. It’s an approach to retirement planning that is more about living your best life now AND into the future, whether you choose to “retire” or never stop working.

Saving and Investing Your Money

First, I want to acknowledge the importance of saving money for retirement. No matter where you are with your retirement savings goals, make sure you take something out of each paycheck, and either set aside enough to receive your full match on any employer-sponsored retirement plan or work towards that goal. The employer match is free money.

As for how to invest, consider putting the money into a Target Date Retirement Fund. Target Date Retirement Funds are an easy, low-cost way to grow your savings. These plans appropriately invest your money depending how far out you are from your retirement age. If you are not sure how to do this or how much to save, please seek out a certified financial planner to work with you on a comprehensive financial plan and/or to manage your plan for you. To find a financial planner, check out the Financial Planning Association. A financial plan is well worth the cost if you are unsure how to proceed. If you don’t have enough time to execute the plan, hiring someone to manage your money can help. 

Enough about how to save. Let’s dive into reimagining your lifestyle. 

Evaluating Your Current Finances and Lifestyle

The first step is to evaluate your current lifestyle and decide if changes would be beneficial. Are you living simply, living large or somewhere in the middle? If you are living large and beyond your means, look at your level of debt, and determine the best plan to eliminate it. LSS Financial Counseling can support you in reaching this goal.

Another possible change is living a simpler lifestyle. Our culture of consumption teaches us that buying, accumulating and having possessions will make us happy. In reality this often fails to bring happiness and encourages us to buy what we don’t need with money we don’t have. This leads to a cycle of debt and the stress that comes with it. Lee Schafer, a recently retired Star Tribune columnist on business and finances, put it this way in his final column: “You don’t need to have a lot of money, or a lot of the stuff money buys, to have a good life.” A good life can include enjoying simple, low- or no-cost activities like a walk in nature, trying a new craft or learning new skills like cooking or fixing things.

By gradually simplifying your life and your finances, you can find peace, freedom and independence that will enrich your life now, instead of hoping one day you’ll be able to “retire” and relax. It’s a wise choice to live your best life now and every day.

Taking Care of Your Health

Taking care of yourself is also part of creating a good life. I see many people reach retirement and see their choices limited by a preventable illness or, tragically, the death of a loved one with whom they had planned to spend more time.

It is not too late to take care of your physical and mental health. Eating a nutritious diet, getting adequate sleep and increasing your physical activity are all crucial. Also, learn more about self-care, and find resources and a community to support you in building healthy habits. I recommend the book Atomic Habits by James Clear to the people I serve at LSS, friends and family. Invest in your health to improve your chances of living well with vitality now and in the future.

Finding Meaningful Work

Often overlooked in retirement planning is the option of continuing to work. This can include reinventing yourself with a new career that might bring passion and satisfaction that are missing in your current or past occupations. If you love what you do, good for you! But if you have your doubts, start exploring other ways to earn income doing what you enjoy. 

You might be thinking, “I would love to do that, but I can’t afford to!” However, it’s possible to create a life that requires much less money than you might be living on right now. Paying off and staying out of debt; living a simple, frugal life focused on people and experiences; and learning to live on less and knowing that it is enough can all help make that life a reality.

A friend recently shared with me their experience. They moved to a less populated area with a lower cost of living, and they found a job they love where they are giving back. My friend has no debt and abundant access to nature and family. They have everything they need and much more. They have decided not to chase the next best thing and live in peace knowing there is and always will be enough, even with a smaller paycheck. My friend’s move took courage and action. But it happened. And life for them — in a good way — will never be the same.

Realizing Dreams Sooner Than Later

Don’t put off for tomorrow what can be done today or in the near future. If you have dreams that require money, like travel, save for that dream and make it happen sooner than later. If you put off many of your goals until retirement, you might never reach them. Strike a balance of living for now and preparing for the future.

No matter where you are in life right now, you have choices to work toward making your current life your best life. When you do that, your life before and after retirement takes on a whole different meaning.    

If you would like assistance with creating a plan to be debt-free and increase your short-, intermediate- and long-term savings, LSS Financial Counseling is here for you. Our team of certified financial counselors will provide the support, tools and guidance you need to manage your debt, lower expenses and meet savings goals. Call us at 888.577.2227 to schedule a phone or virtual appointment, or get all your support online.

Bryan Brown

 

Author Bryan Brown is a Certified Financial Counselor with LSS Financial Counseling.