Test Drive Retirement

Written By: Marissa Waldron, CFP®

Transitioning into retirement is a significant life event that comes with its unique set of challenges and opportunities. For the leading edge of Generation-X and the youngest Baby Boomers, this transition can be both exciting and daunting. Unlike other major life purchases, retirement is a period that cannot be test-driven in the conventional sense, making preparation crucial.

The Uncertainty of Retirement

Many retirees find themselves unexpectedly overwhelmed by the sheer amount of free time they have. One retiree’s experience highlights this: despite craving freedom from work, he now finds that filling his days has become a new kind of full-time job. This illustrates a common issue: the adjustment to an unstructured life can be more challenging than anticipated.

The Financial Aspect

Retirement is a significant financial commitment, often considered the most substantial “purchase” of one’s life. Unlike buying a car, home, or planning a wedding, retirement doesn’t allow for a trial run. Financial experts suggest that by ages 50 to 60, couples should aim to have saved seven to eight times their annual salary to retire comfortably. For a couple earning $120,000 annually, this means saving between $840,000 and $960,000.

Emotional and Social Preparation

Preparing for retirement involves more than just financial planning. Emotional and social readiness are equally important. The following strategies can help bridge the gap between the working years and retirement:

  1. Start Early: Just as compound interest benefits from time, so does the process of envisioning and planning for retirement.
  2. Live on a Fixed Income: Practice living on your expected retirement income to adjust to potential financial constraints.
  3. Spend More Time at Home: If aging in place is your plan, familiarize yourself with spending extended periods at home.
  4. Engage in Hobbies: Join groups or clubs related to your interests to build a social network and explore how you might spend your time.
  5. Travel Smart: Visit potential retirement destinations and live like a local rather than a tourist to get an authentic feel for daily life.
  6. Rent Before Buying: Consider renting a home in your desired location to test the waters before committing to a purchase.
  7. Explore Communities: If interested in a 50-plus community, arrange an extended stay to experience the lifestyle.
  8. Try Gig Jobs or Volunteering: Test out part-time work or volunteer opportunities to see if they might be fulfilling in retirement.
  9. Learn from Others: Connect with current retirees to gather insights and advice based on their experiences.


Retirement planning is a multifaceted process that extends beyond financial savings. It requires thoughtful consideration of how you will spend your time, engage in social activities, and maintain a sense of purpose. By taking proactive steps to “test drive” your retirement lifestyle, you can better prepare for this significant life change and increase the likelihood of a fulfilling and enjoyable retirement.

Say What?

This week in history

  • 1846 – The first official game of baseball was played in New Jersey’s Elysian Fields. The New York Mutuals defeated the New York Knickerbockers 23-1 in 4 innings.
  • 1910 – Father’s Day was celebrated for the first time in Spokane, Washington.
  • 1983 – Dr. Sally Ride became the first American woman to travel into space when the space shuttle Challenger was launched on its second mission.
  • 1992 – Vice President Dan Quayle instructed a Trenton, New Jersey, elementary school student to spell potato as “potatoe” with an “e” at the end during a spelling bee.

What did it cost? (Potatoes – 5 lbs)

  • 1974 – 83 cents ($4.38 in today’s dollars)
  • 2004 – $2.25
  • 2024 – $3.29

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