Cruising to Retirement

Pull out the charts.  Check your coordinates. Pack plenty of warm weather clothes. Be sure to have enough cash. Sounds like you are getting ready for a vacation, doesn’t?

Well, in a way, you are but, this is a long term vacation, ergh umm, a permanent vacation. Retirement is more than just an event where you hope to get a gold watch, it’s a game changer, and if you don’t prepare for it properly, you could wind up steering your ship into the rocks. (with apologies to the passengers of the Costa Concordia)

Over the past 10 years, I have had the pleasure of working almost exclusively with wonderful people who have been busy plotting their course for a smooth sailing towards retirement. Many have found their slice of paradise here along the southeastern coast of North Carolina and are happily and actively retired. Others however ran into rough waters and have had to make some drastic decisions to keep their ships upright and off the rocks.

Here are a few of the most common pitfalls that I have witnessed over the years and tips how everyone looking to retire successfully could benefit from the perils of others.


Prepare a budget, a very thoroughly thought out budget of all your expected expenses you would expect when you retire. Mortgage, taxes, health care, food, utilities, travel, home/car insurance, holidays, kids, grandkids, emergency funds, entertainment, clothing allowance, medicine, gas & tires, life insurance – need I go on??  Once you have a good grasp on a realistic budget, go ahead and add another 20% for expenses you never anticipated. Examples are:

  • Family members – are your children really ever off your payroll? What happens if one or more of them lose a job? Have they set aside 6 months of savings in case that happens? And what about mom and dad? Have you priced out the cost of a full time, live in nurse or the monthly fees of a nursing home?
  • Investments – was anyone really prepared for the financial meltdown of 2008?  Could 2008 happen again? Can your portfolio withstand another meltdown? Having the right balance of short and long term investments is critical and if you are like the majority of Americans, you do not possess an advanced degree in personal wealth management. Therefore, make sure you have a resource that can help you prepare for a successful retirement.


Retiring encompasses so many aspects that one cannot list all of them on paper. That being said, one of the most common pitfalls in searching for a place to retire is placing too much or all of the importance on your home. This is a huge mistake, as weather, taxes, community solvency, amenities, proximity to civilization, shopping, restaurants, airport, medical and so on are sometimes individually more important than the house you live in. We have seen scads of people purchase what they believe is the end all to all homes only to find out shortly thereafter that they are not happy where they live.


When you wake up on the first day you are retired, what the heck are you going to do now that you have nowhere to go?  One must seriously sit down and write out a list of activities they plan to do as one cannot sit down and read all day long or play golf 7 days a week. Wait, or can you?? J

Compose a wish list of projects you wish to accomplish, new activities you are willing to try, places you have longed to visit, old friends you have put off seeing now for just too darn long, classes you have been meaning to take for 30+ years and everything else you have dreamt about since you joined the ranks of the American workforce. Retirement can be fun if you are prepared but if not, you might just wind up pulling out your remaining hair and go get a job at McDonalds because you are so bored!

If you follow these simple guidelines, you will encounter smooth sailing on your way to a tropical paradise call Retirementville!

Author: Doug Terhune of the Retirement Handbook

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