New retirement planning: How to spend your time, not your money

Snowbirds in their 70s may be the last hurrah for the traditional image of American retirement

By Mary Beth Franklin

Mar 19, 2015 @ 9:59 am EST

My office bookshelves are crammed with financial titles explaining how to save for retirement, ensure that my money lasts a lifetime, use strategies to protect my nest egg from the devastating health care costs, retire wealthy and, failing that, great jobs for people 50 and older.

But lately, I've noticed a subtle shift in subject matters under the retirement literary umbrella. More self-declared authors, many of them financial advisers, Wall Street veterans and former corporate executives, are expounding not on how people should spend their hard-earned money in retirement, but how they should spend their time.

Ken Blanchard, co-author of “The One Minute Manager,” teamed up with psychologist Morton Shaevitz, to tell the world how to “make the rest of your life the best of your life” in a new book “Refire! Don't Retire.” They offer step-by-step checklists based on their personal journeys to reignite the emotional, intellectual, physical and spiritual aspects of their later years.

Octogenarian and former Wall Street trader George Rider explains how he got his groove back after 65 in his collection of essays on growing older in “The Rogue's Road to Retirement.” Brendan Hare, a retired Fortune 500 litigator who later founded his own law firm, traveled around the country collecting stories from a diverse array of contributors detailed in his book “From Working to Wisdom.”

(More: A recipe for future retirement security)


Those books certainly provided food for thought as my recently retired husband and I headed south for a week of warm weather and sunny skies to escape the brutal winter of 2015. This is my third dispatch in an ongoing series of observances on life with a retired husband — and what may lie ahead for us. For background on our saga, see my blog Dispatch from the retirement front.

Mike and I visited some of my older siblings who appeared to be enjoying the good life behind the secure gates of their golf and tennis communities in south Florida. Both they and their friends were tan, fit and relaxed. They devoted their days to perfecting their strokes on the courts and the greens, lounging by the pool and working out in the gym. They spent their evenings sharing jokes and tales of recent travels over dinner and cocktails with neighbors. They didn't seem to need any guidebooks telling them how to spend their time in retirement.

But they may represent the last hurrah of this traditional image of American retirement. Most of these snowbirds are in their 70s. Their secure finances, built on company pensions, wise investments and profitable home sales allowed them to forget about money and just have fun. One of my sister's guests, extolling the virtues of his financial adviser, marveled that his nest egg is bigger today than when he first retired 15 years ago, despite the carnage of the Great Recession and annual withdrawals to help fund his cherished lifestyle.

Many baby boomers, the oldest of whom are now in their sixties, may not have the same secure income sources or the same vision of how they want to spend their days. Personally, I don't want to spend my golden years behind gates. I like my house, my neighborhood and what I do.


Chris Farrell, a senior economics contributor at Marketplace and author of “Unretirement: How Baby Boomers are Changing the Way We Think about Work, Community and the Good Life,” argues that increased longevity, less physically taxing careers and the need for continued sources of income will create a new model for retirement. Rather than heading south and spending the rest of their lives in adult day camps, Mr. Farrell suggests that boomers are more likely to seek a sabbatical from their primary careers before they figure out what they want to do next.

It's the rare boomer who plans to liquidate his 401(k) to start a winery. Instead, setting up a home office and honing existing skills to launch a business or fulfill periodic consulting contracts holds some appeal, at least in the early stages of retirement that could last 20 years or more.

That's what I did four years ago when I signed on as a contributing editor at InvestmentNews, and I couldn't be happier. My husband, after spending his first eight months in retirement tackling home improvement projects and savoring his new-found freedom, has accepted a series of writing projects, allowing him to do what he loves — and get paid for it.

For some boomers, relocating to a college town with opportunities to return to classroom and enjoy low-cost cultural and sporting events may serve as the antidote to gated golf communities. But many of us just want to stay put — for now.

(Questions about Social Security? Find the answers in my ebook, available at

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