Investor Psychology

4 Reasons to Hold a Retirement Dress Rehearsal

Before you sell your house and buy that golf course condo or move down the street from your grandkids, take some time to try it out to see if reality lives up to the dream.

One of my clients fell in love with Belize. He and his wife had vacationed there and thought it would be the perfect tropical retirement paradise. They decided to move, but luckily they also took my advice to hold a “rehearsal” before making the move permanent.

They rented a home for six months before buying, and soon found that the reality of living in Belize was much different than their romanticized vacation memories. They didn’t actually enjoy living the resort lifestyle year-round, and more important, they didn’t like being so far away from family.

Another client had retirement dreams closer to home. An avid tennis player, he decided to work as a tennis instructor at his local club after retiring. Again, I suggested he try out his new job before fully committing. He soon learned that his knees weren’t happy with full-time tennis, and the rest of him wasn’t crazy about having to be on the courts during the hottest days of a Texas summer.

I think everyone who wants to make a substantial change after retirement should hold a “dress rehearsal.” By trying out your new lifestyle, you can:

1. Get a better idea of your new expenses.

Sure, once you quit work you won’t have to pay for a career wardrobe or work lunches or gas for the commute, but there will probably be new expenses. You may want to travel, or to join a gym or a club. You may want to buy season passes to the zoo for you and the grandkids, or season tickets to the opera for you and your spouse. You may need to add a cushion for extra health care expenses or insurance payments into your budget, too.

2. See if your body agrees with your retirement plans.

You may want to sail your own boat to the Bahamas, or watch the grandkids full-time, or play tennis all day, but you may be basing your expectations on the way you felt in your 40s, not your 60s. By rehearsing, you’ll be able to determine your current energy level and plan accordingly.

3. Find out if your hobbies are still fun full-time.

Golfing all day may sound like bliss until you actually do it. You may find out that you get too tired to pursue certain hobbies full time, or need some variety, or just want to pursue your activities in smaller doses, so they remain special to you.

4. Learn how much closeness or distance you want from family.

I’ve known retirees who moved away from their families only to learn they missed them more than they anticipated. I’ve known others who found themselves worn out by too much togetherness. A trial period can help you decide how much family time you want.

If you’re thinking about moving to a new town (or country), there are even more reasons to rehearse. You can learn for yourself about:

  • Expenses
  • Availability of health care
  • Climate
  • Recreational opportunities
  • Access to transportation (area airports, major highways, etc.)
  • Community and potential friendships
  • Ease of visiting family (or visa versa)

I believe your retirement should be fun, like a second childhood without parental supervision, but change is always difficult. Skip the stress as much as possible by rehearsing your retirement ahead of time. I bet you’ll be happy you did.

About the Author

Ken Moraif, CFP®

CEO and Senior Adviser, Retirement Planners of America

Ken Moraif, CFP, is CEO and senior adviser at Retirement Planners of America, a Dallas-based wealth management and investment firm with over $4.3 billion in AUM and serving over 8,000 households (as of May 2019). He is also the host of the radio show "Money Matters with Ken Moraif," which has offered listeners retirement, investing and personal finance advice since 1996.

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