Financial planning anew in retirement

Life changes spur adjustments

by Chia-Li Chien | Oct. 20,  2015

“We both continue to be engaged as” if we were working, John and Mary (not their real names) proudly described their retirement experience. John retired at age 55 and had been a middle manager at a DC area government agency.

Mary took an early retirement package from the Department of Education at age 52. According to Quadagno (2014), as a retiree Mary fits the “Social Role and Age” definition. She worked over 30 years for her employer, but had to take an early retirement due to her employer’s policy. She was not at a normal retirement age; therefore there was a significant reduction of her pension payment. Both John and Mary were considered quite young at their ages of retirement. They don’t have any children.

Transition into Retirement

Mary had previously volunteered in a local hospital during the weekend while working full time. She continued her volunteering on average 15 hours a week, choosing her own time commitments and duties.  One year prior to John’s retirement, he went to Omega Travel School and got himself trained as a travel agent. As soon as he retired from work, he had a smooth transition to being a part-time agent. He worked mostly from home, booking airfares and arranging travel packages. With once a month due-diligence trips, he and Mary traveled to places that they would never otherwise have traveled to.

Life-changing events

Shortly after Mary’s retirement, she transitioned from work into caretaking for John’s closest older sister Jill, who lived in Pittsburg. Jill was unexpectedly diagnosed with colon cancer with a one-year to live. Her children were not close by; Mary became her primary caretaker.

Meanwhile John traveled back and forth from the DC area to Pittsburg to see Jill and Mary. Unfortunately, John’s mom had a bad heart condition and Alzheimer’s disease at the same time. John managed his mom’s care in Alabama while Mary cared for Jill. Jill died the following year and John’s mom passed shortly after that. Both Mary and John acquired a whole new perspective on life.

Mary and John never imagined their first retirement year spent caretaking for family members. The emotional and financial burden as caretakers was unplanned and put a dent in their retirement resources.

Fun time is over

As John’s travel agency business took off, he and Mary had been around the world leading tour groups, visiting places of the couple’s dreams. They realized the property taxes in the DC area had been going up. They realized if they kept the way they had been living for the past 41 years in the same place, their pension would not cover their living expenses, such as a mortgage and ever-increasing property taxes.

John and Mary knew that they had to make adjustments to reduce their spending. They visited GA, VA, and PA to locate their retirement destination. Finally, a close friend recommended that they visit NC. They visited a couple of times and decided to downsize their home and move to Charlotte. This move saved the couple 70% of their housing expenses.  Their current home is on a golf course, but it is not part of a senior living arrangement.

Adjust the retirement journey

Upon the move to Charlotte, John stopped the travel agent business. He did not want as much stress anymore. He and Mary saved up the proceeds of the sale of their home from DC. Having been caretakers for John’s sister and mom, John and Mary were especially concerned about caretaking expenses, since they have no children. They wanted to have Long Term Care (LTC) insurance in place. After further research, both of them are in a veteran’s insurance program based on John’s earlier military service. LTC is part of their coverage.

After revising their retirement plan, John and Mary implemented an emergency fund. I am so proud of them for having saved up a six-month emergency fund in a short time. In addition, they had their will, living will, health care directive and durable power of attorney set up by a helpful attorney from a nearby military site. Their nephew, who is a top executive of a utility company, has copies of these documents. In addition, their doctors have copies of their living wills.

John and Mary use a monthly budget to determine if they have extra money for unplanned leisure trips. Both John and Mary continue their busy routines. They both have exercise programs before 10 a.m., then Meal-on-Wheel volunteering during lunchtime. In the afternoon, they have church meetings, bowling, dancing, etc. There are many day trips they take with their new friends. They have established a new circle of friends in their new community.

Many retirees don’t take the opportunity like John and Mary to revisit their retirement plan with a Certified Financial Planner (CFP). Making appropriate adjustments like John and Mary did not only ensures that retirees' financial resources don't outlive them, but also helps them to maintain a sustainable lifestyle. Change is hard, but it is necessary especially before and after retirement. If you have not visited a CFP for a revised retirement plan, consider it a worthwhile retirement step--just like John and Mary did.

We can help you create a new retirement plan that reflects your current life circumstances. Contact us at 704-268-9378 or today.



Quadagno, J.S. (2014). Aging and the Life Course: An Introduction to Social Gerontology. 6th ed. New York: McGraw Hill.

AARP, What Type of Housing is Best for You? Retrieved from

Choosing the appropriate strategy for delegating health care decisions. Retrieved from

Choosing the appropriate strategy for delegating financial decisions. Retrieved from


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Chia-Li Chien, CFP®, PMP®; Chia-Li “like JOLLY,” Succession Strategist of Value Growth Institute, dedicated to helping private business owners increase their company equity value. She is the award-winning author of the books Show Me The Money and Work toward Reward. Chia-Li is an Instructor & CFP® Program Director at Ball State University and Adjunct Faculty of the American Management Association. Her blog and newsletter was named a Top Small Business Resource by the New York Times You’re the Boss blog. Schedule your appointment today!



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