OPINION

JUST PLAIN TALK: Retirement doesn't mean stop doing everything

Buz Livingston
Buz Livingston

My goal of reading two books a month may turn out to be a bridge too far. By the end of February, I had knocked out five, including the spellbinding "Medicare and You, 2021." Currently, I'm half-finished with Ernie Zelinski's "How to Retire Happy, Wild and Free," sub-titled "Retirement wisdom that you won't get from your financial advisor." Even though I read it several years ago, I'm glad I picked it up again.  

Still, I can't entirely agree with Zelinski. Yes, many financial advisors focus solely on finances. However, those who do financial planning understand physical and mental well-being, and solid social support often play more significant roles than financial status. It is critical to stay active during retirement and have goals and dreams. If not now, when? Studies overwhelmingly indicate many people experience a rapid decline in physical and mental health post-retirement. The late Gail Sheehy half-joked that when men reach their 60s, they go to pieces. Women, on the other hand, go right on cooking. 

Retirement shouldn't mean nothing to do; instead, retire to something, not from something. Zelinski is a case study. In "retirement," Zelinski became an international best-selling author selling more than 900,000 books. He claims over 50 percent of retirees feel less useful after retirement. To avoid that predicament, find activities that add to your self-worth. He didn't quote John Prine,"Blow up your TV” but he did mention Leonard Cohen. "We can be destroyed by mindless frivolity as we can be by obsessive depression." Too much television is not good, instead focus on meaningful activities that involve effort, along with physical, mental, or spiritual stimulation. The Academy of Leisure Services emphasizes we get greater satisfaction from more demanding and more challenging leisure activities.

Before year's end, I will definitely read Dr. William Bernstein's latest, "The Delusion of Crowds, Why People Go Mad in Groups." I've read everything Bill has written except his first book; he said it was too dull. I've followed Bill for 20 years; we're BFFs. Like Zelinski, he became a best-selling author after retiring. Bill writes splendidly describing free trading apps and platforms as "allowing toddlers to play with chainsaws." His new book examines what constitutes a bubble. Warning signs include an out-sized focus on the investment de jour and ever-increasing predictions, like bitcoin going to $1 million. Whether we are in a bubble is immaterial; trying to time the market is foolish. 

Sometimes I cringe, sometimes I politely nod whenever someone details their market timing strategy. Astonishingly, the success stories don't match the data. From March 23, 2020, to March 22, 2021, Morningstar's Large Company Growth Index and Small Company Value Index returned 80% and 136%, respectively. A week later, returns for the same indexes dropped to 53% and 100%. An investor out of the market for five trading days had approximately one-third lower returns. 

You can't always get what you want, but Buz Livingston, CFP, can help you figure out what you need. For specific advice, visit livingstonfinancial.net or drop by 2050 West County Highway 30A, M1 Suite 230.