Retirees: Go Ahead and Spend More in the Go-Go Years
The investment industry is famous for focusing on "return on investment," but when it comes to your retirement nest egg, there's more to consider than simply saving money and earning a return on investments.
This singular focus has a significant flaw, because I believe anything that saves money or helps you squeeze the most enjoyment possible out of your time can be viewed as a return on investment during retirement.
Expenses as a Return on Investment
Even an expense can be viewed as an "investment" if that expense saves money in other ways. Take energy-efficient home upgrades, for example. If it costs $3,000 to insulate a home with new technology and that saves $50 per month on the power bill, then that $3,000 cost should not be viewed just as an expense. It should also be considered an investment. That $50 saving per month equates to annual savings of $600, which goes directly back into the homeowner's pocket.
You can think about it like investing $3,000 in a bond or CD that pays interest of $600 per year, which is the same as earning a 20% return. It shouldn't matter whether that $600 comes from interest on an investment or savings from an expense. At the end of the day, it's money back in your pocket.
Time as a Return on Investment
Any return on investment, whether it is the purchase of a stock or bond or simply an expense that results in savings, can help investors reach their long-term financial goals. By the same logic, anything that helps you make the most out of your time can also be viewed as an "investment." Retirees often focus on how much money they need to save and how much income they need to generate from investments, but they shouldn't overlook considering their return on time. Everyone needs to know what a "return on retirement" really means to them.
One challenge in quantifying a return on time, especially as it relates to retirement, is that retirement is not a single, consistent block of time. Breaking it down into decades can serve to evaluate what a return on time really means during the retirement years:
- The Go-Go Years (age 65 to 75) is a decade to focus on family, friends, travel, hobbies and anything else on the bucket list that requires an active lifestyle.
- The Slower-Go Years (age 76 to 85) will be different. They may still be "go" years, but they will likely be slower-go years in many respects.
- The Won't-Go Years (age 86 to 100) are a time when it may be more difficult to sustain as active a lifestyle as in the prior two decades.
Return on Time: The Go-Go Years (age 65 to 75)
The Go-Go Years may cost more because this decade is likely to include dining out, travel, social events and other potentially expensive activities. However, if planned appropriately, these expenses may yield a much greater return on time. This time will be filled with making more memories and surrounding ourselves with the things we enjoy most, so it is OK that it may lead to higher expenses if the planning has been done to support that. The return on time, while still not completely quantifiable, is easier to understand in this context.
Return on Time: The Slower-Go Years (age 76 to 85)
The Slower-Go Years may still involve an active lifestyle, social events and many of the activities associated with the go-go years, but travel and other costlier expenses may start to decline. This can still be a time to focus on hobbies, outings and friends and family, but the return on time may not be as impactful as in earlier years.
Focusing on lower expenses during this time to make up for higher expenses during the previous decade can make sense, because each dollar spent is likely to yield a lower return on time anyway.
Return on Time: The Won't Go Years (age 86 to 100)
The Won't-Go Years can be slightly more difficult to assess in terms of living expenses and return on time. That's because medical costs and other health-related expenses are more likely to increase. However, those are inevitable, so there often is no choice about how that money is spent. For that reason, each dollar spent during these years is less likely to result in a positive return on time.
It does not mean there aren't still ways to earn a significant return on time during these years, but it is more likely to be accomplished through the activities that are less expensive, like surrounding ourselves with family and friends. A return on time in these years can be achieved by more face-to-to face time with loved ones without the expenses of travel and other costly activities.
What a Return on Time Means to Your Health
Multiple studies have shown a direct correlation between social activities, friendships and overall health. It should not come as a surprise, but a study cited in a Medical News Today article shows that enjoying close ties with family, friends and other loved ones makes us happier and improves overall life satisfaction.
Getting a Return on Retirement
Spending money on travel and events during the Go-Go Years, focusing on less-expensive hobbies and activities during the Slower-Go Years, and simply spending time with those close to us and staying social during the Won't-Go Years will all serve to generate a return on time during retirement in their own ways.
You want permission to spend your money and see a bigger future than your past, but I believe you won't get there without focusing on a return on retirement and what that really means to you. Focus on that future.
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