One surprise that hits retirees in their first few years is that even without the costs of working and contributing to retirement accounts, they end up spending more than when they held down a job.
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Financial planners cite three retirement phases: Go-Go, Slow-Go, and No-Go. In the Go-Go years, typically 65 to 75, healthy young retirees spend big on travel, hobbies, and scratching life-long dreams off their bucket list. Retirees are less active between 76 and 85 in the Slow-Go years and tend to spend their No-Go years of 86 to 100 quietly.
And it’s during those early Go-Go years that retirees with pent-up dreams for their golden years often make big purchases that they can end up regretting.
Regular lavish travel
The first years of retirement can be a never-ending vacation, but endless expensive trips can create a serious crack in your nest egg.
Travelers tend to underestimate daily costs, such as meals, tips, resort fees, costs of excursions, airport costs, and more, as well as paying for someone to care for your home while you’re gone.
A four-day vacation within the U.S. costs on average $144 a day, while a 12-night international jaunt costs around $271 per day, based on analysis from ValuePenguin.
And several big trips at the start of your retirement mean big withdrawals that limit the growth of your investments for the next 20 or 30 years. That can mean you’ll have less to rely on when health care expenses typically rise.
The dream home
It seems like a reasonable reward to retire to the house you’ve always wanted but a dream home can become a financial nightmare. After the initial expense, you’ll need to continue spending big on upkeep, maintenance, and repairs that will eat into your retirement savings.
And you may end up moving anyway.
A 2021 survey from the National Association of Realtors found that, among people between 66 and 74, 16% would move because of life changes such as a birth, death, or marriage; 25% for a change in a household member’s health, and 8% would move to downsize.
A luxury car, boat, or RV
Whether it’s a fancy boat, a sleek sports car, or an opulent recreational vehicle, these fancy toys come with a hefty price tag. Then there are expensive and frequent maintenance, storage, and insurance costs.
Don’t forget about operating costs, either: RVs quickly burn through expensive diesel fuel, a Maserati won’t run on regular and boats need a marina slip to call home.
And while fun, these purchases rapidly depreciate in value. And the eventual physical limitations of aging can make operating them just plain uncomfortable.
Too much help for adult children
A 2020 Merrill Lynch study found that 79% of parents of early adults offer them some financial support. But more shockingly, what they spend on their adult children is twice as much as what they set aside for their own retirement.
And once the pandemic hit to disrupt everyone’s finances, 71% of retirees in an Edward Jones study said they’d be willing to jeopardize their own financial future to help their family.
Before heading down that path, any financial adviser worth their salt will remind you to put on your oxygen mask first. Set firm financial boundaries or you’ll drain your retirement assets and may end up depending on them for support.
Instead of making withdrawals from your account, set the kids up with a budget or debt counselor, a career coach, or even therapy.
A vacation, resort, or second home
Vacation homes are often in coveted locations, which generally means not only will the home and taxes be expensive, but so will service and the cost of living, too.
And besides having two places to insure, heat, and maintain, you’ll need someone to take care of whichever property is empty. And then there’s the cost and hassle of traveling between two homes.
You may find as you age, your dream locale loses its appeal, whether because you get tired of the place, find it hard to find the health care or services you need or that remote getaway is simply too far from your family.