A few weeks ago, a financial planning company contacted me about writing an article for their website. They were seeking some interesting insights for their readers about planning for retirement and saving money.
But I am incapable of writing an interesting piece about saving money.
I may have worked for nearly 40 years in finance and budgeting, but that does not mean I can give anyone interesting (or sound) advice about saving.
I can, however, give plenty of advice about spending.
I’ve been a professional spender all my life. I excel at it. And now that I’m 65, I can also look back and see where my spending was sound — and where it was stupid. And where it is heading in my senior years.
Oprah Winfrey closes her magazine each month with a little essay called “What I Know For Sure.”
When it comes to spending money after retirement, here’s what I know for sure:
1. Basically, you have enough shit.
Collections. Hummel figurines, owls, teacups — half the time you started that collection because 30 years ago someone bought you one or two things and you said, “How cute” – and then that’s what you’ve been receiving for your birthday ever since. But you are old now. You have enough butterfly pins. And unless one of your kids — or whoever is going to have to clean your house when you are dead — has expressly said that your stuff is valuable, or they would love to inherit it, STOP collecting that stuff. Tell people to stop buying you that stuff. And then maybe pair down to the select items that have real worth. And by worth, I mean the ones that make you HAPPY.
2. If you are like me, you will never stop loving clothes.
You’ll always want new clothes. You NEED new clothes. But NO. You don’t. But like me, you will buy them anyway. Since you are going to buy something you want, rather than something you need, always make sure it is something you LOVE. If you haven’t read Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, watch a couple of her YouTube videos. She may be a tad overboard, but her core belief is one we can all take to heart: Possessions should bring you joy. So when I say to keep those collectibles that make you happy, that’s what I mean — joy. And when I say buy only clothes you love: joy. I know lots of folks who hate to shop or hate the way they look, and their central theme is “good enough.” I find this singularly true of older people. Treat yourself more kindly. Shop with joy in mind. Just think about it: If you only buy clothes you love, then everyday you will be wearing something you love. How nice will that feel?
3. Food. Good food. Spend your money on healthy food.
It will taste fabulous and be better for you. Good food simply prepared is delicious. I am certainly not the first one to say “You are what you eat.” But you really are. If you are 50 or over, think about how old all your bones and organs are right now. Do your car parts last 50 years? I want my stomach to last at least 90 years. And although we are lucky to live in an age where you can get spare knees and hips if you need them, there are lots of parts tucked inside you that really need to be original equipment.
4. I’m a homebody.
There’s nothing I love quite so much as sitting in my own kitchen. But as I have aged, I have also become aware that the world is overflowing with beauty and experiences that enrich my mind and my memories. Invest some of your savings in your memories. Travel.
5. Sometimes we all need a treat.
I learned when I was broke that I didn’t need a new coat when I felt like some retail therapy. A new nail polish would do it. Find something inexpensive to satisfy that need to indulge yourself once in a while. My husband and I go out for frozen yogurt on Friday night. I like drugstore lipstick. My best friend likes crazy socks. Another friend likes pretty post-it pads. My mom likes $2 lottery tickets. Keep it small – but enjoy the frivolous.
6. I’m a book lover.
I love my books. I love my Kindle. But most of all — I LOVE the library. What a magnificent institution. You can read whatever you want FOR FREE. That is like one huge miracle. And you get a little socialization at the same time, which can be a rare but good thing for bookworms. Go to the library every week. Spend the money you save not buying books on frozen yogurt.
7. You need a best friend.
Of the furry kind. If you do not have a dog or cat, go to the shelter and get one. Early in my career, I worked for several years for an organization that provided services to the elderly. The healthiest clients had pets. The happiest clients had pets. Pets give you a reason to get up in the morning. They provide you with exercise. They make you laugh. They don’t care if you have wrinkles. They bring you JOY. (And dead mice.)
Read more from Nancy at her blog, Not Quite Old.