The adjustment period

Even if you have a smart plan for retirement, there’s still an adjustment period where leaving the labor force means far less money coming in and more going out. And let’s face it, pre-retirement habits and assumptions can be difficult to change.

If money from government sources and investments represents the upside, then spending habits — with an emphasis on “habits” — are the other. And the two must exist in balance.

Look over your budget before retirement, not after. Where and what do you spend on? What’s your projected cash inflow? Which cuts make sense, especially if they don’t impact your quality of life?

Review everything from subscriptions you stopped using long ago to exorbitant rates for wireless and mobile phone usage. Such moves can bolster your savings cushion when you’re ready to move ahead.

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Having to prioritize expenses

Want to travel? It’s a delicious luxury but it’s incredibly expensive when you factor in food, lodging, flights and frequency of trips. Want to renovate your home or buy a seaside getaway? Interest rates on first and second mortgages these days are literally through the roof.

Want to stay healthy? Treadmills and gym memberships cost money — though certainly, prevention is a big bargain compared to a lengthy hospital stay.

Before you break open the coffers and live it up, get a sense of your “nice to haves” versus your “need to haves.” If visiting family you miss comes far ahead of a two-week trip to Paris as priorities go, allow your wallet to follow your heart.

Needing to keep saving

Once it’s time to retire, many folks throw the savings plan out the window of the cruise ship or dream home. That’s the wrong way to go. Saving not only offers a buffer but also a means to make even more aspirations possible.

If you once put 10% of each paycheck aside, you could now aim for 10% of each Social Security check. Even just 5% is better than nothing, especially if you invest it wisely. Yes, the stock market is down these days, but as billionaire Warren Buffett advises, it’s also the ideal time to buy stocks that are undervalued and overly punished by nervous investors.

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Having a Social Security strategy

If you take your Social Security starting at age 62, you’ll miss out on additional funds you’d reap at a later retirement age, according to the Social Security Administration (SSA).

If you wait until you hit 66, the SSA calculates that you’d reap $1,000 instead of $750. Further, you could receive delayed retirement credits should you wait until full retirement age, which stops when you reach 70.

To be certain, eliminating debt and dealing with health issues might not make deferment possible. But otherwise, it’s ideal.

Requiring a professional's input

Do you really know more than your doctor, lawyer or home contractor? Just as you take all those answers for granted, nothing replaces a capable financial adviser. Yearly visits should be a given, especially in periods of market volatility.

Your adviser can identify spending problems, assist with your bucket list items and help you shoot for the retirement lifestyle of your dreams. Many also specialize in creating a detailed, three-dimensional view of your situation.

The only caveat here is that some charge frequent fees for frequent, unnecessary trades or might try to sell you financial products you don’t need. It’s important to find an adviser who takes their fiduciary responsibility seriously — meaning that they’ll always put your best interests first.

Putting it all together

It’s understandable, but often regrettable, that new retirees feel an urgency to pack all their living into a do-it-now package. Not only does that make it harder to savor the moment — it also creates an undue stress to do it all, no matter the cost or stress.

No retiree needs to live under that kind of pressure. Financially, emotionally, even spiritually: Pacing yourself makes room for gratitude and decreases the odds that you’ll wind up spent before your time.

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About the Author

Amy Legate-Wolfe

Amy Legate-Wolfe

Freelance contributor

Amy Legate-Wolfe is an investment junkie, who aims to help others get hooked by providing well-researched advice. After receiving a masters in journalism from Western University, Amy worked for Huff Post and CTVNews.ca, while freelancing for organizations such as the CBC, Motley Fool Canada and Financial Post. Amy Legate-Wolfe is an experienced personal finance writer and freelance contributor working with MoneyWise.com.

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