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Life after retirement: Retirees face financial, emotional challenges

Pam Rud stocks clean glasses at her daughter’s business, R&B Bar and Grill in Ada. Rud has worked there two and a half days each week since retiring from Fargo Public Schools in 2010. FORUM NEWS SERVICE/Michael Vosburg

Sherri Richards | Forum News Service

Pam Rud isn’t living the retirement she set out to have.

When she left her job as office manager for Fargo Public Schools’ Adult Learning Center in 2010, she imagined she’d volunteer, organize photos and create a recipe book.

Instead, she’s tending bar and waiting tables two days a week at the Ada, Minn., bar and grill her older daughter bought in 2011.

“I have to say it’s been fun,” says Rud, 60.

The tips she earns at TR’s Patty Shack serve as her “mad money.” She gets together with a group of girlfriends for regular dinners.

A people person, Rud is surprised how much she’s come to enjoy the quietness of her house.

Still, it was an adjustment not getting up and going to work every day after 38 years with the School District.

“As scary as it was, I have no regrets about it at all,” Rud says of retiring at age 57. “It’s a great opportunity to do the things you want to do, or not do the things you don’t.”

The retirement picture has changed over the last 20 years, says Laura Bos, manager, financial security, with the AARP.

While past generations may have focused on a certain age – 62, for example – today’s soon-to-be retirees are increasingly responsible for their own financial situation and will likely live many more years in retirement.

That means today’s retirement is more likely to be customized.

“What we suggest for folks is rather than focusing on an age is really to step back and plan their retirement holistically, really asking themselves a lot of different questions,” Bos says.

For example, what does retirement mean to them? Do they want to continue to work part-time, re-career or volunteer? Where will they want to live?

“You want to define what you want out of life, but then you have to make sure you have the money to support that life,” Bos says.

Duane Emmel, a financial counselor with the Village Family Service Center in Fargo, says a common mistake people make is entering retirement without assessing their finances.

“A lot of people will retire and don’t change their lifestyle because they’ve done it for so long,” he says.

If income in retirement is reduced and expenses aren’t lowered, it’s going to cause issues down the road, he says.

Bos says studies show many people underestimate their health care costs in retirement. Before retiring, people should list out their expenses and compare that to their sources of income.

A financial planner or the company’s retirement plan manager can calculate how long retirement savings will last, Emmel says.

Delaying claiming Social Security can increase monthly benefits significantly, Bos says, noting that people can retire and wait to claim benefits if their personal savings are adequate.

If there’s a budget shortfall, retirees need to figure out what expenses can be cut. Some may need to work part-time to supplement their income.

Others may not need to, but choose to work or volunteer to stay active.

Sometimes, if people don’t fill their days meaningfully, they can slip into costly habits or addictions, such as shopping or gambling, Emmel says.

“Older people have a tremendous amount of life experience. The last thing we want to do is basically rust away,” says Emmel, who is approaching retirement.

“I know my dad retired as a farmer at 62. His body was worn out physically. But I look at myself turning 64, but I don’t feel like I should retire and do nothing,” Emmel says.

That’s why modern retirees need to consider not just financial factors, but emotional, and the impact of retirement on their health.

Dr. Richard Rohla, a family practice physician with Essentia Health, often meets with patients preparing to retire when they come in for an initial Medicare physical exam.

The preventative visit includes a list of questions that probe physical and emotional concerns of retirement.

“I encourage patients to stay physically active,” Rohla says. “Often patients have an opportunity to be more physically active and exercise more often than when they were working.”

They also often have a chance to take better control of their dietary habits. Rohla says he cautions them about alcohol use.

“I tell folks it’s important to establish a routine right away. Make a list of goals for retirement. I think it’s not healthy for people to sit and do nothing,” he says. “Retirement doesn’t mean you quit living, you change the way you live.”

Rud has certainly found that to be true.

While she was eligible for retirement from the district at age 52, the idea first seriously crossed her mind at 55. Though she wasn’t ready then, she started to prepare.

She and her husband, Wayne, sold their larger home and moved into an apartment for a year before purchasing a smaller twin home, eliminating their mortgage payment.

They met with a financial planner to review her pension and Social Security. Rud says she needed to figure out another option for health insurance.

“I truly liked my work, but just the idea of having the time to do anything I wanted,” including spend time with her grandsons and travel, was appealing, Rud says.

Rud’s husband, Wayne, is planning to retire soon from the engine repair business he co-owns. Pam Rud says they want to travel and spend time at their lake home. Classic cars have also been a big part of their 40-year marriage.

“I think we all come to a point in time … it’s time to not do this anymore,” she says.

Retirement “gives me the freedom, the opportunity to do something else, enjoy life a little more. Life is short.”

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