What to do, what to do?

No Going Back

Jonathan Clements  |  Mar 18, 2023

RETIREMENT IS LIFE’S most daunting financial puzzle, not least because many of the decisions we make are difficult or impossible to reverse. To make matters worse, we’re often making decisions we’ve never made before, so we have no real expertise.

What sort of decisions am I talking about? Here are 10 examples.

1. When should I quit work? Needless to say, this is the most important retirement decision. Once you quit the workforce, you not only give up your paycheck, but also your ability to save comes to an end and, indeed, goes into reverse, as you start to draw down your nest egg. Still, there’s always the possibility of working part-time in retirement—something I favor, not just because it brings in a little money, but also because it can provide retirees with a sense of purpose.

2. Should I buy long-term-care insurance? If you purchase traditionallong-term-care insurance, you’ll soon find yourself emotionally and financially bound to the policy by the premiums you’ve already paid. Even if the insurer later jacks up those premiums to unaffordable levels, you’ll be loath to drop coverage because of your sunk cost. Hybrid policies exact less of a financial toll if you later have second thoughts and decide to drop coverage, though even these policies can involve a hefty opportunity cost, on top of any actual financial loss that you suffer.

3. Should I downsize? As anybody who has ever sold a home can attest, it’s an expensive process, one you want to do as infrequently as possible. Saying goodbye to your single-family home and moving to an apartment, perhaps in a 55-plus community? That can be a smart move—but your new home may come with a raft of rules that can grate on those who aren’t used to dealing with seemingly petty regulations. Not happy with your new place? Your second thoughts could come with a hefty price tag.

4. Should I move elsewhere? It’s one thing to move to a smaller home. It’s another to move across the country, perhaps to a place with better weather and lower taxes. But what if the balmy weather proves scant compensation for the friends you left behind? Moving back would be costly, and perhaps impossible if you’ve already spent a chunk of the proceeds from selling your previous, more expensive home.

This article appeared on HumbleDollar.com. To see the rest of the list and the comments, visit HumbleDollar.com


  1. “Once you quit the workforce, you not only give up your paycheck, but also your ability to save comes to an end and, indeed, goes into reverse, as you start to draw down your nest egg. ”

    The above is not true for all retirees.
    I’m able to save $1,000 per month out of my retirement income of $3,601. SS and USAF inflation adjusted retirement income has allowed me to save for the first time in my life. Never had a nest egg or emergency fund until age 65.

    I thought that those who had the ability to save for retirement would be best served by living off the interest and dividends of life long investments and try very hard to not touch the principle. I guess it depends on the size of the nest egg and the wants in retirement. Once I no longer have a car payment Dec 2024, My SS covers my needs, wants are a totally different thing for many people even before retirement. I love to see my account balances go up each month.


    1. JRATT, you should write here (if Richard says OK) or at Humble Dollar about how you’re able to save almost one-third of your retirement each month. I’m certain many people – including me — would be very interested in learning how you do so.


  2. When I first read the list on Humble Dollar I thought a lot of people don’t consider some things, at least not immediately. For example, moving to another area or downsizing. Possibly down the road but not immediately. Also I knew when it was time to leave the job because I was tired of it and got no enjoyment of being at work all week. Finally, if a spouse is involved, decisions must be arrived at together such as to move or stay. Grandmothers have a thing about being closer to grandchildren. Cross that line at your peril. That’s just one example.


  3. Re: “there’s always the possibility of working part-time in retirement”

    When I was planning my exit from paid employment, I thought I’d rather work another year in my peak earning period than have to find part-time work later at a low pay rate. That extra year of working at the full-time job also carries benefits, like health insurance, that are really worth a lot to a pre-Medicare person. It pays to have planned out the whole gamut of scenarios so you can see the effects of low returns, living into your 90s, etc.

    Now, if you *want to* work, that’s great. It’s nice to have the choice to work part-time, work at volunteer activities, or not work at all, thanks to your financial independence.

    Liked by 1 person

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