Invest in You: Ready. Set. Grow.

The best moves you can make in retirement, from people who are nailing their senior years in style

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Retirees are feeling the pinch from Covid-19.

The financial app Personal Capital found that from Jan. 31 to March 31, retirement balances dipped by 10% for people in their 60s. Those in their 70s saw their accounts slip 8.5% during the same period.

Retirement in general seems shakier now.

In fact, almost 1 in 4 workers said the pandemic has increased their anxiety about being able to retire comfortably, according to the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies.

In its April survey of 2,030 U.S. adults, the center found older demographics are even more worried: 32% of baby boomers say they are less confident about retirement.

Unfortunately, retirees are at the mercy of the market.  

"The reality is, we're living in unprecedented times and things are still evolving very quickly," said Catherine Collinson, the center's CEO and president.

"There's no time like the present to start taking inventory of your own situation and what's important to you in life," Collinson said.

More from Invest in You:
Four simple things to shore up your pandemic finances  
Parents find it near impossible to make childcare plans in the pandemic  
This simple financial plan makes it easier to get through tough times 

We're wired to think everything happening now is happening forever, says H. Jude Boudreaux, a certified financial planner and senior financial planner at The Planning Center in New Orleans.

That's perception — not reality.

For inspiration, look to people who have retired successfully for strategies and tips, whether financial or mindset.

Jackie Lange, 65, wanted perfect weather and lower costs. She found both in the mountain town of Boquete, Panama, and retired there in 2010 from her work in real estate investment. Last year, her monthly costs ran $1,200 including health insurance.

Fixed address? Not for Jonathan Look, 59, a retired air traffic controller who sold everything he owned in order to travel the world. Currently he lives in Malta, after spending two years in the Far East, and two years in Portugal. 

Here's what they advise to maximize your life and your money in retirement, no matter where you live.

Spend less

Jackie Lange holding a jack fruit
Source: Jackie Lange

Trim costs and still maintain the life you want.

Lange recommends paying down all debt.

"If you have a house payment, a car payment, it's going to be a lot of stress on you," she said.

Next, see what costs you can rein in.

"Maybe you need to sell that big house and get something smaller," Lange said.

Retirement is a time to live more lightly, and new tech makes that easier than ever. For instance, swap out the cable cord for an Amazon Fire Stick, Apple TV or Roku.

Lifestyle creep is responsible for a lot of unnecessary spending, Look said. "Eventually our baseline is set so high without even noticing it," he said. "We feel we can't get by on less."

In fact, living below your means does not translate to a boring life, he says. 

Own less

Jonathan Look, 59, simplified his life and his finances so he could retire overseas
Source: Jonathan Look

"Get rid of as much as you can stand to," said Look, who blogs about his nomadic retirement. 

Physical possessions — sailboats, jet skis, a houseful of furniture — were getting in the way of Look's travel dreams. In May 2011 he sold everything and was living on a beach in Mexico two months later.

"The initial shock is pretty bad," he admitted. "Like yanking off a band-aid."

It dawned on Look that maintenance alone was expensive. The size of his house allowed him to store things he rarely used but ultimately the sheer accumulation of stuff was an attention drain.

The paltry resale value was another shock. Look says he probably netted barely 5% or 10% of what he'd paid for household furnishings. 

"Once I focused on what was important to me life was so much better," Look said.

Find income

Try a side hustle or part-time job.

Partial income streams in retirement don't have to be super-substantial to make a tremendous difference, Boudreaux says.

Take the rule that advises drawing down 4% of your savings in retirement. "That means finding a way to earn $4,000 would equal what you'd draw down from $100,000 in portfolio value," Boudreaux said.

Lange intended to retire but instead started a relocation tour business in Panama where she helps people navigate getting visas and learning the area. She hires people so she doesn't have to work more than she wants to.

Worried about market fluctuations? Don't worry and stay the course
Worried about market fluctuations? Don't worry and stay the course

Keep it simple

After he retired, Look transferred his retirement holdings to a single target-date fund.

"When I was working, I tried picking stocks and managing things," he said. "Before I retired I realized if I had just taken that money and put it in a fund and forgotten about it my performance would have been a lot better."

There weren't any real disasters but neither did he hit any stock home runs.

He realized he was spending too much energy fretting about his finances as well as his possessions. Investing in funds is a one-and-done way to manage his money, and it means no worries and no headaches. 

Suze Orman: The advantages of downsizing your home
Suze Orman: The advantages of downsizing your home