Now that you’re finally retired, don’t be afraid to spend money


Many people who have saved millions of dollars to retire comfortably are now scared to spend it.

A recently retired client, a woman with approximately $1 million in savings, was asked to join a group of friends on a girls’ getaway vacation costing approximately $3,000. Even though she had plenty of money to take the trip, she felt uneasy because it meant breaking her lifetime habit of saving for the future. She’s lived a financially disciplined life for so long that she didn’t know how to handle this expense without any earnings to pay for it.

Despite sobering statistics about most Americans’ lack of retirement savings, many people have done an admirable job of socking away enough money. Through a combination of disciplined savings habits, moderate lifestyles and maybe a little luck, they find themselves able to retire comfortably. For these individuals, the move from saver to spender can feel like an abandonment of all of the principles they have known for more than 30 years.

Additionally, many retirees can seem paralyzed by what I call the “what if” syndrome. Some are uncomfortable spending money unless all of the possible calamitous outcomes, regardless of how remote, are considered. They live in a prison of fear of what might happen, building a wide moat of protection around themselves and their money. In all likelihood, they will come to the end of their days with an abundance of caution, wealth and unfulfilled dreams.

More from Advice and the Advisor:
7 retirement-planning mistakes to avoid
How to avoid costly 401(k) rollover mistakes
7 ways to make sure you don’t outlive your savings

Yet retirees do not have to be undisciplined in their approach to money or live irresponsibly to enjoy their retirement years to the fullest. Here are some steps that people can take to have a fulfilling retirement while staying true to who they are.

Retirement spending requires discipline. Start by understanding what is important to you so you can make wise decisions. What inspires you? What relationships are the most fulfilling? What brings you joy? Over my nearly 20 years’ working with clients, most answers revolve around a combination of family relationships, ongoing personal growth, making an impact in the world and leisure activities.

Take time to think about personal goals, the legacy you’d like to leave your family and how to enjoy the second half of your life. This exercise will help you put a finer point on your retirement cash-flow planning.

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