Introducing my latest book – a big departure from the usual financial view of retirement
For years I’ve been walking around with an idea in my head. Well, maybe more than one idea. But a particular one kept coming back. It was nagging at me. I wanted to make getting ready to retire more fun and fanciful using a familiar format: a cookbook. The financial and retirement industries have tried for decades to get more people engaged in planning for the realities of retirement. But in a “Wall Street Journal” sort of way. Black and white. Numbers and charts oriented. Nothing like what many of us do every day: Cooking in our kitchens. Hanging out at our tables having great conversations. And watching cooking shows for new recipes to spice up dinner. That compilation of thoughts turned into my first self-published book: Cookin’ Up Your Retirement Plan.
And I couldn’t be more delighted to share it with you now!
What Problem Brought on This Idea?
Simply put, it was how unaware people near retirement were about life in retirement. They wanted to quit their jobs. Some were counting down the days till retirement. But few had any concept of what they would do when they had nowhere to go every day.
It was also the answer to a question I asked near-retirees, “What are you going to do when you retire?” To a fault, I got the same answer 100% of the time. “I’m going to travel.”
Well now, that is great. You’re going to travel. “Where are you going to travel?” I’d follow up.
Everyone had their sights set on somewhere, whether in the US or abroad. Most travel plans were not exotic. I heard about the Grand Canyon and other National Parks. Most common travel destination was western Europe, especially Italy, Greece, and Portugal. A few times people were planning an adventure to Iceland or to kick off retirement by trekking to see the polar bears up in northern Canada.
Some even plan to camp, birdwatch, or hike a number of peaks in the Rockies or the White Mountains. Or spend some of the winter in Florida, Costa Rica, or a Caribbean Island.
Time Is a Strange Phenomenon
My next question, “How long, exactly, will you be traveling?” always caught folks off guard. They were truly stumped. And would cock their heads to one side, or look at their spouse or partner. Then cock their head to the other side. As if contemplating great thoughts.
Some would be able to answer. With a big smile they’d say, “We’re going for two weeks.” Or “We’re not sure, but probably at least three weeks.”
What was missing for these soon-to-be-retirees was the sense and scope of time. They were still anchored in their schedules, routines, and jobs that came with only a few weeks of vacation every year. They had not yet given thought to the seemingly endless number of days, weeks, and years spread out before them.
When asked about the other 45 or 50 weeks in the year? And how they will fill those days in a productive way? They were well and truly stumped. It is generally hard, if not impossible, to fathom your future of 30 or more years. As a retired person.
A 30-Year Outlook Seems a Tad Bit Out of Reach
In fact, forecasting your next 30 years is a rather a far-fetched idea. It’s filled with all kinds of uncertainty, instability, and plain old-fashioned I-don’t-knows. No one should be asked to stand in one place today and predict their next 30 years. Yet, that is what the financial services and retirement industries need to do.
Their focus, of course, is first helping you figure out how much to save and invest for retirement. Then, helping you know if you’ve amassed enough money to create income for 30 years. That is really important information for each person to know. But it is a far cry from embracing your retirement years.
Add to the equation here that only about half of people are excited to retire. The other half totally dread the very idea. Plus, not everyone gets to call their shot when they retire. A whole lot of older workers are shown the door in their mid-to-late 50s. They rarely return to the level of income they had when they were asked to leave.
If you have no idea what you’re going to do with 30-years of free time, it’s rather hard to get excited about retirement.
Well Then, What Can You Do to Get Ready?
I often watch The Pioneer Woman or Trisha’s Southern Kitchen on Food Network. Or check out episodes of Chopped or Guys Grocery Games. From my couch, I watch all kinds of people pull together all kinds of ingredients. Sometimes really strange ingredients. And create amazing dishes.
In my own kitchen, I am the family chef. Well-known among my family are “freezer challenge” weeks and taco Tuesdays. I’d put my chocolate chip cookies up against anyone else’s. My many varieties of lasagna are always a big hit.
It was all of this: The daily cooking and planning meals. Watching others do the same on TV. Always trying out a new recipe or relying on a family favorite. My kitchen seemed to hold what is missing when we talk about planning for retirement: a recipe with instructions.
There is no structure to retirement. No instructions. There’s no one to watch on TV helping you experiment with your retirement recipes. No one is cookin’ up your retirement plan. That’s on you. With no guide or framework.
Giving You a Recipe for Cookin’ Up Your Retirement Plan
Today, the resources for retirement planning are about the money. Not about time. And not how the money you have will help you have the retirement you want. Or how the ingredients on your shelf will work together to concoct a good-to-great retirement.
But now, I’m bringing something new to the party! My new “cookbook.” It’s designed to be friendly and fun by my incredible designer, Geralyn Miller. We wanted to help you make the jump from work life to retirement. Or, if you’re already retired, to help you make the most of your next decade.
Because everyone’s retirement is a little bit different, so is the approach of this new book. It’s a guidebook or discussion guide. You’ll see your “ingredients,” walk through some logical steps, and get new ideas for cookin’ up your retirement plan. Like a cookbook, you can sit down at your own kitchen table and flip through the pages for ideas.
It is meant to be a discussion guide for you and someone you’re planning to hang out with in retirement. There are lots of questions and topics you may find helpful. It’s amazing what you’ll talk about if you just get a nudge. When you know the questions to ask.
There are also plenty of worksheets to fill in with your personal information, ideas, and possibilities.
Whether Part of a Couple or Single, You Need a Recipe
One of the thoughts behind Cookin’ Up Your Retirement Plan is that it gives couples the opportunities to talk about topics they may have been avoiding. Or topics they didn’t even know they needed to think about. It provides a framework for how to organize all kinds of things you need to consider before you retire. And afterwards.
For single people planning retirement years on their own, they have plenty to think about. Cookin’ Up Your Retirement Plan can help them focus on what you want to do for their retirement years. As well as identify any holes they need to fill as they age.
What You’ll Find Inside
There are six different sections. Each starts with a discussion guide plus lots of facts you may need to create your retirement menu. Talk about these topics as you’re sitting at your table after dinner. Then take a look at the corresponding worksheets. You’ll want to fill in worksheet with your specific information.
You can spend as much or as little time in each section as you’d like in these sections:
- Thinking about my retirement and my future as a “retiree.”
- Planning “3 squares” a day.
- Plan for 10 essential ingredients in your retirement menu.
- How much will I spend each year in retirement?
- Build a retirement income “paycheck” with your ingredients.
- Estate planning or family legacy planning? You need both.
There is space to makes notes and jot down your ideas. And doodle pages to color as you think about what you want retirement to be.
No need to do each section in order. But like making a lasagna, you need all parts. But they can be made in a different order. In the end, it’s about assembling the layers with the right ingredients to give you the best final product.
And Speaking of Lasagna…
…there’s nothing better than a Sunday dinner at your own kitchen table with something delicious right from the oven. (Or from the local take-out place.) It’s a time to close off one week and begin the next. It’s a great time to talk about what’s coming, what the possibilities might be, and the tasks to accomplish. (That’s my spinach and mushroom lasagna with bechamel sauce.)
You’re the chef here. You have the ingredients you need for retirement, or you’ll see where you need to stock up the pantry. You’ll know your key milestones that are important for retirement (age 65 for Medicare; age 67 for Social Security, etc.). And you’ve talked about what you want to do and what your future might hold.
Cookin’ Up Your Retirement Plan’s “Plan A, B, +C”
This is where you pull together all your layers to your lasagna. What’s your ideal menu for the next 10 years? Write down your ideas simply and in one place. That’s Plan A. It’s quite remarkable what happens when you see the opportunities that lie ahead.
Next, lay out Plan B. What could change your ideas of retirement if something favorable happens? What would your plan look like if you retire early, for example? Could you afford to do so? How about if you decide to get an early start traveling? Or, if grandbabies are on the way? It’s fun to think about the good stuff life has to offer. And make sure your menu can accommodate such changes.
And last, lay out your Plan C. This is a reality check that has you considering how things could change if something unfavorable happens. It’s like burning that dinner you spent hours preparing. Situations can change quickly if someone gets sick. If you lose your job unexpectedly. If Mother Nature targets your area and your house or community suffers severe losses. Not so fun, but a necessary part of thinking through retirement realities.
Seeing Is Believing
I wasn’t sure how this approach would work. I tested it on several willing participants. But the real test was working on it with Dan. So, I roped in my wonderful husband for a trial run. We sat down at the kitchen table to experiment with our own Plan A, B, +C.
We gave ourselves an hour to map out our own Plan A, B, +C. The conversation was so rich we ended up spending an entire Sunday afternoon looking at our own options. And playing with our ingredients.
Right from the start, it was shocking to see where we’ll be in 10 years. I mean, we know we’ll be 10 years older. But a 7 will be the first number in our ages in just ten short years! It stopped us in our tracks to see age 70.
Then, there were all the milestones we’re going to hit. We’ve already surpassed 50 and 55, so we’re well into the “catch up” part of our savings options for IRAs, 401(k)s, and HSAs. We’re past 59 ½ so withdrawals from IRAs no longer carry a 10% early withdrawal penalty. Dan’s now 62 so he’s eligible for Social Security. OMG. Really? How did that happen?
The Visual “Retirement Menu” Opened Up Possibilities
We tried several ideas about continuing to work versus retiring. We talked about what we want to do with and for our daughters. Traveling is also on our to-do list. Probably don’t want to wait until 70 to get started on that.
Having a framework to guide the conversation took all the heat out of unpleasant Plan C discussion. What if Dan loses his job this year? Will we starve? What if Marcia gets sick? Who the heck is going to cook? (We laughed about that one!) If a tree falls on the house, will we repair and stay? Or repair and get outta Dodge?
It was a remarkable afternoon. Dan got more out of the process than expected. He even talks to others about it. I consider that a big win. I hope you will try laying out your own Plan A, B, +C.
So many folks I talk to are completely unprepared for the realities of being a retiree. Or new retirees are not so happy about having nothing to do. I would say it’s because all the tools and information we have to work with are so boring. And unfamiliar. And in black and white.
It’s not enough to tell people they should prepare for retirement. Prepare how? Where to start? What information do I need to know about?
Cookin’ Up Your Retirement Plan focuses on the common, comfortable, and convenient things we do every day. It allows the familiar to be the foundation for your future. And it should take some of the pressure off. You really don’t need to plan the next 30 years.
A million things will change between now and then. So, let’s rein retirement in a bit. Take a look at just the next 10 years. Or even five. And do it in a familiar and fun way.