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Writing your Unique Retirement Success Story

Reading about other people’s retirement success stories can inspire and give you real-world guidance on your retirement goals. But everyone is unique and so is their story. So, while it’s important to watch how others navigate retirement, you have to set your own course. And that course could change over the years.

The following retirement stories are good examples of retirees being flexible with the challenges of retirement plans. Sometimes because they had no choice.

Early Retirement

The first example is a guy who sold automotive parts wholesale for 30 years. He was a high-earner and he and his wife saved their money wisely over that time. His industry took a downturn a few years before he planned to retire though, and his commissions bottomed out. Did he panic or look for another job?

No, he just retired a little early. Because he could afford to and he didn’t want the hassle of going to work for another company. Though he was a super salesperson and would have hit the ground running with his natural skill. He and his wife were good investors and on the same page about financial goals. Plus, they were in a great position because he could go back to work today if he wanted. After all, sales is a skill that every company needs.

Traveling Retirement Story

The next retirement success story is about a couple who was more organized than Marie Kondo when it came to planning and saving. They were ready for retirement when they turned 61 and were going to use the 4% Rule (withdraw 4% from savings in the first year and adjust for inflation in subsequent years).

But they had bought a nice RV to visit family across the U.S. and take the grandkids to several national parks. So they decided to adjust their withdrawals and take out 5% the first few years to cover extra travel costs. Then they would drop down to 4% in year five.

They wanted to travel while their health was good and had the energy to do so. They were flexible and it has made their retirement story awesome so far.

Retirement Story Alternate Ending

To contrast the traveling story, this next retirement example is a result of dealing with family illness. According to the Social Security Administration, "About one out of every four 65-year-olds today will live past age 90, and one out of 10 will live past age 95." And that means health problems can last for years.

This couple’s example highlights that fact as they have spent a chunk of personal savings for 24-hour care for a loved one. They also personally provide care themselves. That has altered what the husband had planned for his retirement. He says dealing with the medical industry has been a brutal and often impersonal experience. Fishing and camping trips have been forgotten as they deal with this situation seven days a week.

Health issues can derail the best-laid plans. And it is wise to guard against these costly tragedies with the right medical coverage, including long-term health care. *The average cost for 44 hours of weekly in-home assisted living care is over $3,800 per month, which does not include a skilled nurse.

Retirement Success Story Exit

Another possibility to consider besides health issues is how to exit your job or your business. A job is easy…just turn in a notice. Or leave a note: ”Gone fishing, forever!” But how do you leave your business?

It can be difficult as this next retirement story points out. This couple went out on a limb and bought a business that took a couple years to build up. But then it starts booming and they make more money than they had ever made. The retail business becomes valuable as a result, and they try to sell so they can move to Florida sooner than they had hoped.

The problem is finding a buyer willing to put in crazy hours or the ability to find employees to do it. So the husband is stuck working nights and weekends with no relief in sight until the business is sold. He and his wife have lived frugally and invested steadily, but buying a business has chained them to it in a sense. Their freedom has been limited even though the financial rewards have been tremendous.

Keep that in mind if you own a business. Multiple exit strategies need to be developed so your retirement is a success story.

*Over 60% of small business owners say they worry about missing their role in the business after retiring.

Simple Retirement Success

This next story is powerful in its simplicity. The retiree had worked in the same place for 42 years and knew he still wanted to work some in retirement. So he began helping a guy with a delivery business post-retirement.

Since he had been inside the same four walls for 42 years he enjoyed being “on the road” with local deliveries. And he would eventually take over the business from the man who had hired him. The little business generated more income part-time than he had made at his full-time job.

The key here was the gentleman knew he wanted to do something in retirement that involved work. He didn’t know what that would be but was open and flexible and tested the waters. For him, just getting out and seeing other people along his route was enjoyable. Then he would tend to his garden at home as a hobby. Simple, content, and a success story by any definition.

By the way, this couple’s frugality was their superpower. They didn’t earn giant salaries but knew how to stretch a dollar like nobody’s business. I doubt they kept the first dollar they ever made but I bet they know where it went!

Retirement Success Story Patience

The main ingredients to a successful retirement story are patience, flexibility, and awareness. Investing and saving will pay off with a long-term view and patience. Flexibility is crucial to changing your plans with little pivots and tweaks when life tosses jabs or haymakers at you.

Awareness is vital to keeping outside influences from trying to write your retirement success story. You and your spouse have to protect your future dreams and be on the same page. There is a world of options out there for how to approach your retirement - what to do and how to spend your time. But it is you two who know what makes you happiest and it takes contemplation and awareness to hold onto that.

These are a hypothetical situations based on real-life examples. Names and circumstances have been changed. The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. To determine which investments or strategies may be appropriate for you, consult your financial advisor prior to investing.

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