Vaccinations are quite the rage. As a seasoned citizen, I am among those encouraged to be vaccinated for any number of potential maladies. A few months ago, I visited our local pharmacy to get the annual flu shot. When the assistant at the counter checked my records they said, “Your physician has entered a prescription for you to have the shingles and pneumonia vaccines as well. We can take care of all of those for your today if you wish.” As an aside, while I am in favor of all those vaccines, I may not recommend getting three shots on the same day.

Not a day goes by that I do not have a friend or relative ask if we have received our COVID-19 vaccination. That question only serves to begin a lengthier conversation about the backlogged waiting list in our home county and the disparities of the COVID-19 vaccine distribution processes across states and localities. Anyone turning to social media can find posts and exchanges about the efficacy and availability of the vaccines of any variety. Yes, vaccines are all the rage.

Reading through the financial news, I discovered several posts and articles about people being disappointed, surprised, shocked, and even devastated that retirement does not live up to their expectations. Some, on the other hand, were surprised and energized by how much better their life in retirement has proven to be. As someone who encourages people to seriously think and plan ahead for their future, I found the extreme variations of expectations disturbing. There is no “vaccine” that can prevent surprising circumstances from occurring in our future. We cannot eliminate contingencies. However, we can educate ourselves by learning from others!

Begin by understanding there will be surprises. The Employee Benefit Research Institute conducted an online survey of 2000 individuals aged 62 to 75 in September 2020. According to, fewer than 1 in 4 completing the survey believe their lifestyle aligns with the plans they made! If nearly 75% of Americans in retirement state retirement is different than they expected, we should be prepared for life to be different than we planned. We need to be prepared to change our goals, our plans, and our expectations.

Dreams of travel should be re-examined. No one is saying that you will not travel, but retirement experts warn that travel is much more expensive than imagined. Many people are more ready than ever to travel due to the year-long COVID-19 restrictions, and some prices will be lower than they were previously. However, gasoline price increases may make it more expensive to travel to your chosen destination. Many seniors also learn that the real joy of travel is creating new memories with those relationships closest to you. Retirees often discover the ability to control their own time is more valuable than rushing to fill every moment with activity. If so, it is only natural for plans to modify over time.

Retirement may come sooner than expected, and health may change everything! The Society of Actuaries updated their Risks and Process of Retirement Survey in 2019 and found people retiring earlier than expected. Nearly one half of Americans plan to work beyond age 65 and 14% have no plans to retire at all. However, the SOA survey discovered the actual median retirement age is 60. The aforementioned Employee Benefits Research Institute study shows that, since 2008, almost one-half of retirees left the workforce before they were ready. Anyone in their early 60’s should be fully prepared that retirement may come at any time and that continuing to work may not be an option.

Embrace retirement as an opportunity to do something totally new! Patricia Plumeri, a 73-year-old retired accountant, found a second career as a guitarist. Commiting to her first guitar lesson after retirement, “I could make a major time commitment doing something purely for my pleasure.” There are many things in our lives that have been set aside because we did not have the time during the working years. If health allows, we should revisit those past ideas. There is no time like the present!

Finances will not be simpler in retirement. Household expenses will not suddenly cease to be a problem. Home repairs can sometimes be shocking! Repairs to the heating and air conditioning system, replacement of roofing, or repaving the drive can all cost thousands of dollars. Consider having such repairs made prior to retirement or set aside a portion of savings to meet them in the future. Retirement will bring things like Required Minimum Distributions if we, like so many, have retirement funds in 401(k), 403(b), or IRA plans. Each year there will have to be a calculation made and sufficient funds withdrawn from deferred accounts. Failure to do so will result in significant tax penalties. Medicare covers many, but certainly not all medical expenses we incur during retirement. Thankfully, we will have more time to devote to these financial issues, even if we do not wish to do so.

In spite of all the issues, you will be ok! No one is wise enough or can plan sufficiently to avoid all the problems life after retirement can bring. The good news is that people generally get happier in retirement! The stress of building our careers no longer presses upon us and we are more in control of our schedules than before. So…prepare well and take heart!