5 lessons learned from actual retirees

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Experience is the mother of knowledge, the saying goes. In that case, a great way to learn about retirement should be to talk with those who have already retired. Recently, New York Life surveyed 500 retired octogenarians about what they had found. The results hold interesting lessons for all of us.

While retirement projections and estimates are great, nothing beats actual experience. Although there are no do-overs in life, you can learn from the experiences of those who have gone before you. Here’s some of what the survey respondents said.

You might live longer than you expect

People are living longer nowadays than before, and this should be factored into retirement plans. Over half (54%) of survey respondents said that when they were planning for retirement, they were not expecting to live as long as they have.

If you don’t have a pension, create one

Although most companies now offer self-managed retirement accounts to their workers, most of the survey respondents preferred a steady income stream. Nearly 90% would advise younger people to create pension-like income for their retirement. A majority (52%) feel that their predictable income sources have given them greater peace of mind than accounts that they managed themselves. Just 55% of respondents had traditional pensions. Forty-five percent of respondents said they wished they had a traditional pension, while 36 percent wished for annuities.

But it’s not just pensions and Social Security

Many people think older generations rely on pensions and Social Security for all of their retirement income. Although 90% of the survey respondents received Social Security retirement benefits, in fact they had other income sources. Savings accounts provided funds for 57 percent; other sources of income were permanent life insurance policies (46 percent), managed investment accounts (34 percent) income annuities (29 percent); investment annuities (28 percent) and 401(k)/403(b) accounts (22 percent).

The first few years are the best

Nearly three-quarters of respondents indicated that the first years of their retirement were the best years. About half said that their best and happiest year of retirement was in the first five years, including 24% who said that the first year was their favorite. When deciding when to retire, the majority of respondents (68%) said they based their decision on their financial situation, more than their state of health (53%) or their age (42%).

Stay active

Respondents pointed to physical activity and a sense of purpose as keys to a happy retirement. Former business owner Jim Herst, 88, sold his business nine years ago and now maintains a coaching practice in between rounds of golf. “Surprisingly, I’m working harder and enjoy it more than when ‘running’ the business in my last years there,” he says. “I think keeping busy is the best advice I can offer to others in retirement.”

Retired psychologist and author Dr. Kenneth Herman exercises every day and still gives lectures on lifestyles. “The mind and the body need to be stimulated,” he says. “I have always had the discipline to eat healthy and to remain in shape.”

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