August 30, 2016 — One of our longstanding Members, Robert M, suggested that we interview our early subscribers who are still members and see how Topretirements and its community have helped them over the years. This is his and his wife Jan’s retirement planning story – which is still going on. Even though they have been with Topretirements almost 10 years, they are still 5 years away from pulling the trigger. We admire their planning spirit! We hope that their experience will prove useful to all of our members in suggesting ways to improve their retirement planning. Thanks Robert and Jan, it has been great to read how real people manage the retirement process (and thank you for your many kind comments)! Several other folks who responded to our interview request will be publishing their retirement stories in the near future.
Take it away Robert. We have tried to provide links to some of the features mentioned for your convenience.
Q: When and how did you discover Topretirements?
A: Looking at my files where I printed stuff off it looks like I found your site in late 2007/early 2008. I found it through looking for information on retirement and various states. Back then we decided we need to start thinking about places to visit that we might like to retire to. We both grew up in Kentucky (me-Paris & Jan-Lexington) and moved to Wisconsin 21 years ago for work. We have been fortunate to travel to different places for work, but those trips probably give you an unrealistic view of actually living there. Also with Broadband and the internet you can learn more about places and experience more local information than we could of just 10 years ago. So we started talking about the future and how to figure this out.
Q: How did you use Topretirements in the quest for your best place to retire?
A: Our quest began with us discussing places we have visited and places we would like to learn more about. I found your site looking for information about retirement in Tennessee. We knew about the lack of a state income tax, but that’s about it. Your state Tennessee page was nice in it provided a lot of general information about economics and life style of living in a state and many of its cities. I really liked that and while I looked beyond your site’s information I think for many folks its really a great place to start.
Q: Were there some features you used more than others?
A: I like your site a lot, and there is more than just your information. You are a good aggregator of information from a lot of sources and that is valuable. We all are busy and while thinking about retirement is important, its not our day job and its not something we think about daily. Your daily email is nice in that its not intrusive and it easily shows things that have been updated on the site, so someone doesn’t have to actively crawl through your pages. Also, you occasionally interact with your members in conversations and are open to them providing information that can be shared with others.
Your site is also free and doesn’t try to sell you stuff. We all get too may solicitations as it is and so I kind of view your site as a stroll through the library or as a conversation in a coffee shop… its enjoyable. Also your site is easy to navigate and easy to search on.
Q: What are some of the subject areas you have been concerned about in retirement?
A: Yes, you have a lot about places to retire, there is also information about Social Security, Medicare, and Long Term Care, which are all complicated. In addition, you have lots of lifestyle information like “downsizing”, living cost effectively, working during retirement, retirement & divorce, retirement & your children and retirement activities. And one of the big pluses is that you try to update your information from sources beyond your own knowledge and thinking.
Most people understand the concept of saving for retirement, but a lot fewer understand that they need to consider how much they will need to live on. I think your site and its members provides some realistic views about how think about the cost of living during retirement. Its something that most people struggle with understanding. For instance, you really may not need 2 cars or if you like to travel then you need to think about this additional cost after you retire.
Q: Any specific ways the Topretirements community has helped?
A: Well, its definitely helped us narrow our search of places we would consider retiring to. That’s the easy one. Your site has also given me a better understanding of our Social Security options. I say a better understanding because your site is an information website and only we know our own circumstances and so I used the information your site provided to ascertain when Jan should begin drawing her Social Security, but confirmed it with a professional consultation. In addition, I knew little about the various Medicare supplement plans and how they worked and wasn’t sure how this cost would effect us in the future. Also, the articles and blog comments on downsizing has been helpful. While we won’t be retiring soon, it has helped us begin the work necessary to downsize and understand that making these decisions now will make our life easier in the future.
Q: What changes would you like us to consider in the future?
A: I have thought several times that your site could host a 2 hour chat with an expert from time to time. You could cover the normal issues like Social Security and Medicare, but also other topics like conversations about different parts of the country. Maybe do this type of think 4 to 6 times a year. The Chat could be in a blog forum or more as a Webex event.
Another thought I had was doing a section on retirement mistakes. They aren’t something that people like to admit, but we learn more our mistakes than we do our successes. For instance I am amazed how many take their social security early. I am sure it work for many, but I wonder how many after 10 and 15 years wish they would have waited and kept working. Or how many people have relocated to a different place only to be unhappy because of (?????).
I tell people that retirement is more than just attitude and income. Its about understand you now are driving on a trip with one tank of gas. You can get a flat tire along they way or even be in a car wreck and where you end up may not be where you planned on going. Its a corny analogy, but it creates a mental picture that people can relate to. When you go on a long trip you plan and take a lot of stuff with you and you deal with whatever happens along the way.
The national push to stop smoking probably is the single biggest factor that has changed the dynamics of retirement for people – I am a little amazed to see how many people I know that retired in the last 15 years that are still alive and living in their 80s. My old boss will be 90 in 2 years… and my wife’s father just passed last your at almost 97.
John thanks for all you do. I am glad you have had success beyond your expectations with the site. I realize how much work it takes.
Your Comments? We hope you found Robert’s observations useful. Have you changed your retirement plans over time – and if so, how did that happen and what changed? What do you think of Robert’s suggestions for improvement? Any thing you would like to add about your own retirement adventure? Please share them in the Comments section below.