Sept. 17, 2012 — The fun thing about this series of member surveys on retirement is that the results never come out exactly like we predict. Our most recent one, “The Best and Worst Things About Your Retirement” is no different. Its most pleasant surprise: the runaway worst thing about retirement is… “Nothing”! That makes us happy that so many of you are enjoying your retirements. Equally interesting were the hundreds of write-in comments provided by our members, full of insights about the best and the worst aspects of retirement planning. One typical example of a planning tip: “Find meaningful activity you absolutely adore doing and develop a circle of uplifting friends”.
But we need to start by thanking the more than 250 members/subscribers who took a few minutes to answer our most recent 8 questions. Without your input, these incredible retirement insights wouldn’t have happened – thanks! And to you who are coasting along on this input from your fellow members – next time it’s your turn! As a matter of fact, here is your chance, our current survey on Medicare and what you think are the best ways to fix it.
The information herein should be very useful for anyone who has not yet retired. It reflects the collective wisdom of 250+ of our peers, real life advice that we ignore at our peril.
1. Financial issues are the top ranked things to prepare for if you want a healthy retirement. Participate in your company’s retirement plan, and start saving early!
2. Most people filling out this survey are very happy with their retirements. They appreciate the freedom it gives them, as well their reduced stress.
3. Responding members seem to be conflicted over the conventional wisdom that living near children and grandchildren is a top retirement priority. Although that issue was the least important rated item under “best” thing about retirement, and “living too near/too far from family/friends, it was the highest rated choice for “worst” thing about retirement. All we can conclude from this is that it seems like the issue can cut 2 ways. In retrospect we wished we had split “living too close” from “living too far” – although we suspect there are folks who are in both camps.
1. Are You Retired Yet?
Most of you taking the survey are retired (55% yes, 31% no, 11% partially). There might have been some self-selection here, as many people contacted us to say they couldn’t fill out the survey because they are not yet retired.
2.Best Thing You Did to Prepare for Retirement
Three choices emerged as the top things you did to prepare for retirement (rating is in parentheses, the lower the more important):
Participated in company retirement plan (2.84)
Saved enough money (2.98)
Planned and discussed before retirement (3.13)
Following those choices were… retiring at the right time…. researched where to live. Not having a hobby was the least picked choice with a rating of 4.91.
3. Best thing you did to prepare for retirement NOT on our list.
As always, our members’ comments are more instructive than anything we could come up with. There were an amazing 149 write in comments covering a variety of topics. Here were some of the most frequently mentioned (See end of article for link to all comments, which make for highly recommended reading!):
– Finances (saved a lot, downsized possession and interests, paid off debts and mortgages, kept track of expenses, talked to investment advisor, planned when to take social security etc.)
– Personal (married the right woman, looked forward not back)
– Planning (talked with spouse, friends, or co-workers; visited different retirement spots, researched weather conditions, developed a hobby)
– Health (tried to stay healthy, started exercising)
Here were some of the more interesting comments:
– Visited the retirement communities and asked a lot of questions and looked at different size houses and prices
– Find the right person to retire with
– Be a minimalist. Buy only what you need. Saves you money and keeps your head clear.
– Listened to other people’s experience and there opinions on where to retire, then ignored it all, did our own research.
– Have been taking extended visits to various retirement destination options
– Had a part time enjoyable job ready when I retired
– I was so out of shape and stressed that the most important plan I set up was how to get into shape and take care of my health.
Plus, there were so many positive and interesting comments we can’t even begin to mention them all here. A personal favorite: “Dared to think about retirement as a new adventure after a life of responsibility”.
4. Is there anything you would NOT do again in your retirement planning?
There were 96 thought-provoking write-in comments on this question. Top mentions were:
– Financial (waited too long to start saving/didn’t save enough, too much in aggressive stocks or in my company stock, took social security too soon)
– Planning (waited too long to start, not buy a 3000 sq. ft. house in my 50’s, not rush into buying big ticket item like RV or second home, pick a different neighborhood, retired too early, locked ourselves into location based on children/grandchildren)
5. Best thing about your retirement.
Three choices were clustered together as the best things about your retirements:
– Less stress (3.43)
– Get to do what I want (3.56)
– More time (3.80)
Following those 3 choices were “Having enough money” and “travel”. Surprisingly, the least highly rated choice was “living near family and friends”.
6. Best thing about your retirement not on our list.
There were 62 write-in suggestions for the best thing about retirement. Many of you must have strong marriages, because the number 1 write-in item was “getting to spend more time with my spouse” – nice! Others mentioned spending time with grandchildren, time for volunteering, freedom, time to work on hobbies, less stress, meeting new people, or just relaxing. (See end of article for entire list)
7. What is the worst thing about your retirement?
It’s interesting that we started out this survey with 8 choices, including “Other”. But as soon as the first write-in responses started coming in it became apparent that we had overlooked what would become the number 1 choice – “Nothing”! We quickly added that as a choice, and in the end it was the runaway favorite (with a rating of 3.85). All of which makes us happy that so many of you feel great about your retirements.
Following “nothing”, the next highly ranked “worst” things about retirement were:
– Living too far/near from family and friends (4.58)
– Poor health or medical care (4.78)
– Not having enough money (4.80)
– Not having enough to do (4.81)
More distant rankings came up for this next cluster of worst reasons:
– Wish I had picked different city/community (5.13)
– Should have moved and didn’t (5.24)
– Wish I was still working (5.43)
8. Worst things about retirement not listed here.
Once again there was a long list (70) of worst things about retirement not on our list of choices. The range of items is so diverse it is hard to summarize, but here are a few consistent themes: retirement is hard because it involves so many choices, nothing wrong with retirement, paying for children’s education/caring for elderly parents, expensive medical insurance, poor economy, getting older. Others found it hard to meet new people, one person had too much time with spouse (!)
For further reference
Here is the link to an Excel doc of the complete BestandWorst-survey2012-Topretirements-excel, which include hundreds of interesting comments. For those without Excel, this is a csv.doc with the full BestandWorst-survey-Topretirements, which are incredibly interesting!
Other member surveys in this series:
Retirement Housing Preferences
Your Bucket Lists Are Amazing!
Top Concerns about Retirement from Our Members (Finding the Right Active Community)
Topretirements Members Not Worried: Better Prepared Than Most
Comments? How do these best and worst things about retirement resonate with you? Are you enjoying your retirement, or do you wish you were still working? Any additional advice for people who haven’t yet retired? Can you add anything to the question of living too close or too far away from family and grandchildren? Please let us know in the Comments section below.