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Planning vs. over-planning for retirement
Old 10-25-2013, 12:58 PM   #1
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Planning vs. over-planning for retirement

I wonder if anyone else has had the experience of realizing that their planning for retirement was taking the fun out of retirement?

Here's what I mean. I'm sure everyone has read that the people who are happiest in retirement are those who plan for it. So, planning is good. I'm a planner by nature, a rather organized and analytical person, so I dove in. I prepared.

And prepared ... and prepared. I analyzed my financial situation multiple times. I repeatedly looked at the issue of how I would occupy my time. I analyzed where I should live, from a variety of different angles. I thought about multiple different lifestyle options. I won't go into the details of all analyses, because I'd bore you. Suffice to say, I prepared for retirement ... a lot.

A week ago, it occurred to me that all this analysis and preparation was taking a lot of the fun out of it.

When I think about retirement, which is about 45 weeks away, what I most love about the idea is the freedom of it, combined with the idea that this is a time in your life to re-explore who you are, what really matters to you, to rest and then go deep again and find what you want to do next. To explore. To discover.

But all of that is something you make up or find out along the way. It is not something that you plan and arrange in advance. If you do, you've taken the exploration and discovery out of it.

All my planning and list-making and analysis were helpful -- don't get me wrong, I'm not saying "Don't prepare," especially from the financial angle -- but at a certain point, all the planning started to drain the life out of my sense of retirement, to constrict and restrict my view of the future. Others may feel differently, but for me, that sense that things are wide open, that there are multiple roads you can take and a sense of mystery about what lies around the next bend ... that's all a very important part of what I hope my retirement years to be.

It was an odd thing, to realize that my retirement planning was actually draining the life out of my retirement, robbing it of its sense of adventure and exploration.

So, I have learned to put down the lists, the analyses, the multiple files and documents ... to stop over-planning for retirement. I am leaving well enough alone. The rest, I will make up along the way, once I get there.

Ever since I made that shift, I have felt a sense of joy again about anticipating retirement. Lesson learned: you can definitely over-plan for retirement, to the point where you drain the fun out of it.

Anyway, just thought I'd share.
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Old 10-25-2013, 01:14 PM   #2
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Some of us plan, plot and scheme for fun. Having your plans foiled and starting new plans is just like going back to a save point in your favorite game and trying something different. I'm just exercising my evil overload persona in a socially acceptable way.
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Old 10-25-2013, 01:25 PM   #3
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I'm a planner, list maker and 'alternate scenario thinker' by nature and have the 1000 Excel sheets to prove it!

My planning didn't take the fun out of it, but I did find that a lot of my hard work, research and models were a waste of time. Either I had misunderstood the original premise/concept or it just became overkill by virtue of different variations of the same theme. I also found that a lot of my models, slick as they were, were eventually available online from some other source.

Hurts to hit "delete" on a project/model that you spent hundreds of hours developing but...thankfully, I have the free time to waste on such craziness!
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Old 10-25-2013, 02:26 PM   #4
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What has helped me with this 'problem', is the realization that if you have a conservative WR, all the various 'methods' pretty much converge. Something in the low 3% WR is pretty much 'living off dividends and not touching principal', or any other method.

That, and the fact that historically a wide range of AA has succeeded ( ~ 45/55 to 95/5?), I don't feel the need to micro-manage this. Or pay much attention to re-balancing.

Taxes and spending might be a better place to invest time?

-ERD50
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Old 10-25-2013, 02:46 PM   #5
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Don't know if my over planning is draining all the fun out of my retirement (yet--heaven knows I've read enough books) as much as it's reassuring me I'm doing the right thing closer I get to FIRE date. From reading (and rereading) the many threads on here, I've learned successfuls remain flexible, moderately diligent, and cautious (although not overly so).

I, too, am spending a (currently inordinate) amount of time on taxes (timing of roth conversions, among other things) and spending (evaluating past/current expenses to project future ones) mostly because my particular situation has more variables than usual.
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Old 10-25-2013, 03:47 PM   #6
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all the various 'methods' pretty much converge.
If you're on this board for any amount of time at all, you'll avoid most of the big mistakes. If you do that, you're better off than half of the population. If you concentrate a little on it, you'll probably do better than 90% of the population. But I get the feeling that for a given set of inputs, a lot of folks on this board want to "optimize", and so be in that top tenth of a percent for those same inputs. It seems to be more for the challenge and fun of it than for necessity.
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Old 10-25-2013, 04:46 PM   #7
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I am sure that I was the poster child for overplanning one's retirement. I planned, and planned, and planned. I modeled scenarios of every kind. I had an Excel file with 22 well filled and active pages that I worked on and updated every day, and numerous other related files and documents.

Now that I am retired, I know I have already thought of everything that matters to me and have dealt with it, so now I can let go and RELAX!!! Bye-bye to that overplanning phase now that I have stepped over the threshold into retirement. Now is the time for doing, and relaxing, and enjoying.

I have been coasting through retirement and having a great time with it. I am enjoying life immensely these days, and life is not lacking in spontaneity at all. Quite the opposite, since I know what I want out of retirement, and what I can afford, so I have a loose framework within which spontaneity makes sense, KWIM?

Hope this helps!
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Old 10-25-2013, 05:10 PM   #8
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I enjoy the planning aspect very much. I don't gamble, play golf, participate in fantasy football or any one of a hundred different pursuits. To me the financial calculations and scenarios are a real life game that I feel I've been able to win. I don't make changes to my AA and plan, as I seek an average return over the long run. On top of that, my time spent on this venture doesn't cost me a cent.
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Old 10-25-2013, 06:25 PM   #9
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It's interesting that most folks have responded to Eddie about planning in a financial sense. I agree that it is extremely important to do that to have peace of mind in retirement.
But I'm curious to see more discussion of "over-planning" for the lifestyle aspects of retirement. Forum members often post about the lists of things they planned to do in retirement, but somehow haven't gotten around to doing. Mostly because they're too busy doing other things they didn't plan for, but enjoy just as much or more than the things on the "List". And there have been a few threads about planning for a dream house, or planning where to live. I'd be interested to hear how folks have or have not stuck to those kinds of plans--why they may or may not work out as expected.
I'm enjoying learning how to be "in the moment" in retirement--maybe thinking of things to do in the immediate future, but mostly taking life as it comes.
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Old 10-25-2013, 07:11 PM   #10
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Gardenfun, great point. Along the way my family has got our dream house, built a lake house and set up our lifestyle pretty well. Retirement is not something we're looking to as a major lifestyle change. Better health is probably a big consideration. My DW and I are big walkers which requires a considerable amount of time, with less stress on our old joints. Right now we do 3-5 hours a week which is tough with my travel and work schedule. Our modest expectations and doing what we want don't require much planning as we're already on the same page.
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Old 10-25-2013, 08:08 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by gardenfun View Post
It's interesting that most folks have responded to Eddie about planning in a financial sense. I agree that it is extremely important to do that to have peace of mind in retirement.
But I'm curious to see more discussion of "over-planning" for the lifestyle aspects of retirement. Forum members often post about the lists of things they planned to do in retirement, but somehow haven't gotten around to doing. Mostly because they're too busy doing other things they didn't plan for, but enjoy just as much or more than the things on the "List". And there have been a few threads about planning for a dream house, or planning where to live. I'd be interested to hear how folks have or have not stuck to those kinds of plans--why they may or may not work out as expected.
I'm enjoying learning how to be "in the moment" in retirement--maybe thinking of things to do in the immediate future, but mostly taking life as it comes.
Thank you. I noticed that, too. We definitely have a financially focused forum here. I once counted the threads and estimated about 2/3 or 3/4 were about money, in one way or another. Money money money ... Not that financial planning isn't a big part of retirement planning but...

I was actually speaking more about planning in other areas, particularly planning 1) things to do in retirement and 2) where to live in retirement. I have analyzed those two subjects in dozens of ways. I'll give you an example. I have tried to figure out where I want to live. I have gone through several phases to develop a list of essential criteria, which tend to shift around -- factors like cost of living, opportunity for learning, social elements, conservative/liberal mix, allergens, opportunities for camping, tax burden, proximity to family, and other things. I am licensed in a particular area (don't want to "out" myself, so I'll leave that vague), and so that figures into it, too, since I'd like to land in an area where I might find part-time work if I wanted it. So I searched multiple job databases, first looking at FT work, then PT work, then PT work that I would enjoy, classifying everything by state and type of job. Then mixing in all of these other factors, trying to figure out where the right places to live might be.

And then, it occurred to me, what I would really like to do, and how I would really like to make the decision, is to get in a car and drive all over the place for a while, just sampling different parts of the country -- making an adventure out of it. Maybe live in Kentucky for a while, then if that didn't work out, move to New Mexico. And when that got old, move somewhere else. Nomadic, almost. After being stuck in one place for 15 years, that appeals to me. Trying to figure everything out didn't appeal. It felt like the freedom of retirement was disappearing, the more I narrowed down my plans.

I could give you an example of how that same process happened with "what will I be doing" in retirement, but hopefully you get my point. It was the same thing -- overplanning and overanalysis, fun and interesting at first, eventually led to a point where the planning seemed to be constricting my options, making things feel too pre-planned and pre-rehearsed.

I definitely like the retirement model sketched out by W2R. Perhaps the over-planning phase is part of pre-retirement, and then when you reach retirement, you let that go. At least I think that will be true for me.
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Old 10-25-2013, 08:21 PM   #12
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For me, the math,financial nerd that I am...the planning was the FUN part. Now that I am in 1st 2 months of ER, I miss the planning....and it was sort of a let down to now finally be retired! Crazy of me...yes, I know...but...I need something else to PLAN and be obsessed about now.
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Old 10-25-2013, 10:21 PM   #13
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Well, we certainly have a group of born organizers and planners here, don't we. I guess I'm looking in the wrong place if I want someone to embrace with me the virtues of improvising retirement. It's like looking for an "amen" at an atheist convention.
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Old 10-26-2013, 01:18 AM   #14
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I've been successfully retired for several decades and I doubt that I have planned as fully as the bottom decile of people here, including many who are not yet retired and may not be for quite a few years.

I think the key thing is to stay awake and try hard not to make bonehead mistakes. It seems to me that most things that go seriously wrong do so because of bonehead mistakes, not because someone failed to do enough spreadsheets. Of course that might be a bonehead opinion of someone who is mostly a case of prolonged beginner's luck.

Ha
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Old 10-26-2013, 02:08 AM   #15
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I like my spreadsheets. Planning to me is fun. I tweak and update our retirement master plan almost every day.

I keep a master list of things to do to increase recurring income and decrease recurring expenses, especially items involving sustainable living. Some recent items I added to my list were installing more LED bulbs, installing a low flow shower head, and selling an old car we were no longer driving.

It is kind of wild all the expenses we used to incur that we didn't question, like buying little individual packets for taco seasoning instead of getting a bulk jar from Costco. Now we just keep chipping away at the unnecessary expenses and the savings are really adding up.
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Old 10-26-2013, 07:43 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ERD50 View Post
What has helped me with this 'problem', is the realization that if you have a conservative WR, all the various 'methods' pretty much converge. Something in the low 3% WR is pretty much 'living off dividends and not touching principal', or any other method.

That, and the fact that historically a wide range of AA has succeeded ( ~ 45/55 to 95/5?), I don't feel the need to micro-manage this. Or pay much attention to re-balancing.

Taxes and spending might be a better place to invest time?

-ERD50
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Originally Posted by haha View Post
I've been successfully retired for several decades and I doubt that I have planned as fully as the bottom decile of people here, including many who are not yet retired and may not be for quite a few years.

I think the key thing is to stay awake and try hard not to make bonehead mistakes. It seems to me that most things that go seriously wrong do so because of bonehead mistakes, not because someone failed to do enough spreadsheets. Of course that might be a bonehead opinion of someone who is mostly a case of prolonged beginner's luck.

Ha
+1, +1. These two together are the conclusion I have come to. Just maintain a rough global AA, keep SWR at a reasonable level, and most important, avoid bonehead mistakes like bailing on equities after a big drop in the markets. You can still take a daily look at your spreadsheets to tweak the confirmation bias reward centers of your brain. But that doesn't make you obsessed.
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Old 10-26-2013, 07:54 AM   #17
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It's interesting that most folks have responded to Eddie about planning in a financial sense. I agree that it is extremely important to do that to have peace of mind in retirement.
But I'm curious to see more discussion of "over-planning" for the lifestyle aspects of retirement.
Okay, if you move outside of numbers type planning, then I made some general plans with lots of room for winging it. I'm going to spend 4-6 months camping and scuba diving next year. For the first year of ER, my camping will stay in the eastern half of the country. I plan to be home for Thanksgiving/Christmas and son's college graduation. Outside of that, I won't know where I'm going to be until a couple days or weeks before I get there.
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Old 10-26-2013, 07:55 AM   #18
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The biggest problem for DH and I is that we wish the time would hurry up and we can implement the plan already! We spend a lot of time researching places to live, activities we want to do, various income scenarios, lowering costs and increasing savings in the present...that we forget to have some fun now! It is definitely exciting to plan though. DH and I would need to come up with projects once we are not working since we both love building and creating.
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Old 10-26-2013, 08:25 AM   #19
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I was actually speaking more about planning in other areas, particularly planning 1) things to do in retirement and 2) where to live in retirement.
I think for "2)" most folks would say "stick with your people", but there are those that are less connected and don't mind uprooting. But for "1)", it reminded me of a book I read a while back and the "get a life tree"....

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...with the finance question put to bed, you want to get excited about the life ahead of you. You might consider reading "The Joy of Not Working". I just read it, and it revved me up enough to set a date. I especially liked the "get a life tree" excercise.
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Old 10-26-2013, 09:19 AM   #20
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I'm only 6 months into ER so I'm still "re-crunching" my numbers thru all of the different retirement calculators trying to find the weakest link. I run numerous scenarios with SS, Healthcare, Taxes, Inflation rate, Investment returns, Stock Market declines, etc.. The logical part of me knows that I really have no control of these factors and all you can really do is plan for the worst and hope for the best. But I still find myself running these different scenarios on a regular bases. I think I continue to do this "insane" game to reassure myself that I made the right decision to leave a high paying "stressful" job at a Megacorp. Looking back on it I wish I would have put some of this energy is ER lifestyle planning. I'm finding that defining my ER lifestyle to be more difficult then I thought it would be. Do not get me wrong. I love the new found freedom of being ER'ed at 49, but I'm still struggling on the lifestyle part of ER.
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