Category Archives: Happiness

Needs and Wants in Retirement

So a reader emailed me to asked about writing a post on needs versus wants the other day and I had assumed I had covered the topic.  Then when looking through my blog posts it occurred  to me that while I did cover that in a chapter in the Free at 45 book and I had a strong theme on this blog regarding on needs versus wants I haven’t expressly written on it for a while.  So let’s get to it.

People often assume they understand the idea of needs and wants.  After all needs are just basic things you require in life such as shelter, food, water and heat (especially in Regina this winter).  Needs are the things in your life that you literally die without it, which is a good definition for this post. Meanwhile wants is everything else that isn’t a need.  So you need water but you want a coffee in the morning despite some days it feeling more like a need. Yet the problem becomes when we start to explore the line between wants and needs.

For example, shelter.  Yes you need a place to call home.  But exactly where exactly does that cease to be a need and drift into a want.  After all a trailer is shelter and so is a tent, yurt or a small shack and technically so is a 3000 square foot detached house in the best neighbourhood in town.  But the last one is more obviously a want which happens to also fill a need.  But where exactly is that line between a need and a want?  Is a 800 square foot house in a okay neighbourhood a want?  At what point of outdoor temperatures in winter does a tent or yurt cease to be useful shelter?  The fact is the answer starts to turn into more subjective issue.  I may think 500 square feet is too small for a family of four but other might think it is just fine. In general, something becomes a need when you consider it as such in your own mind.  Heck people even use that sort of language about needs such as “I NEED my coffee in the morning.”

Then on the other side of the issue wants are truly unlimited.  It doesn’t matter what you own, have or do  with your wants, you will always want more.  You can win the lottery and next week still want more than you have.  And this is why a lot of people lose their way in our consumer driven culture.  It is always easy to see something else you don’t have and want.  You often see people that are always planning the next vacation or the next shopping trip or the next item to add to their wish list and never happy with what they already own.  You can fall down that well of wants and never find the bottom.

Then between want and need there is a very fine line that if you can find it really key to having a happy life.  It is called: enough.  Finding it is often a tricky thing as you can pass right pass it without realizing it at first.  How many books are enough for your home library?  How many spices are enough in your kitchen?  And the frustrating part is the answer can change over time.  What used to be enough might be too much later and even later turn into too little.  But once it hit enough you realize you are content there and you don’t really want more than you have.

So how dose this relate to your retirement?  Well I generally suggest you aim your budget to meet your needs and just a few of your wants with your target income in retirement.  In short, aim for enough.  Enough money to do what you want but not too much that you don’t have to prioritize your spending. For example, I can afford to buy all grain brewing equipment or a 3D printer this year not both unless I earn a bit more income.   You should be able to afford what you really want just not all at once.  Of course this amount is still a subjective number which is different for each person but I find talking about enough stops the excessive fantasy spending plan where you live in castle for half the year and drags you back towards something closer to reasonable.

Of course some people might ask: why not aim your budget for just your needs? Well because that can be too thin of a margin of error in the event the markets go to crap for a few years and you want to reduce your spending.  You should have some fat to your spending to allow you to make some temporary adjustments if you need.  You don’t want to end up in a high stress situation where you can’t pay all your basic needs and you end up using debt to fund your needs.

So how did you determine what is enough for your retirement budget?

Hobby Time Results

So a few people have wondered how exactly my miniature terrain building hobby is going after I mentioned starting it a few months back.  So I thought I would show you what you can do with just a bit of cardboard, insulation foam, a hot glue gun, craft paint and a lot of time (see the gallery below).

This isn’t even everything I’ve built but rather a sample as I have even more projects in progress right now.  I take all my pictures with the same 28mm miniature to help people get the scale of everything.  But for those of you not familiar with those minis that the beer on the bar is smaller than my pinky finger nail.  My personal favorite projects have been the camp fire and the smoke clouds as they use LED lights with a flicker effect.

So what is the point of this hobby? Well I enjoy doing something with a bit of an artistic component and a bit of problem solving which building terrain fits the bill nicely. Most people don’t really care about it but I enjoy the process of making things and then seeing my kids’ faces when I use the items in our game.  So it is worth it to me even if society at large won’t really ever know much of anything about it.

Which I guess is the main point.  I do this hobby because I care and honestly you don’t really need more than that for your hobbies in retirement.  So what are some of your odd hobbies?  Why do you enjoy them?

Rebuilding Your Identity After Retirement

Who are you?  It is a simple question but the answers can be complex .  Yet often when you are working you just use your job title as a proxy of an answer.  So for me the answer was: I’m an engineer.

Of course it is more complicated than that and when you look at all the roles you have in your life you start to get an idea of what your identity is.  For example, yes I’m an engineer but I’m also a father, a husband, an uncle, a son, a brother, a bibliophile, a brewer of wine and beer, a gamer (video, board and role playing games), an author, a blogger,  a friend, a life long learner, a cook, a volunteer and so on.  All of these things combined are your identity and each of them contribute to it.

Yet for a person entering retirement there is a big shift that occurs with your identity.  You have likely made your work-related identity one of your key roles that defines you and after you retire that role becomes less relevant.  And here is the trick of having a successful retirement: you need to build a new role of retiree and let your previous work role diminish.

In short this is why many retirees, men specifically, have issues with retirement.  We are more often heavily identified by our work role and when we lose that role we feel adrift without another role to help support us as we slowly build up the retiree role.  And when you are feeling a lose of identity you can feel worthless, be irritable, wonder about what you values and question who you are.  If you stay in this state for a period of time it is entirely possible to slide into feeling depressed.

I didn’t personally suffer too much with my identity when I retired as I have been slowly letting my role related to work diminish leading up to retirement for close to a year.   I even started introducing my self differently by saying I work as an engineer but I’m passionate about writing. That way when I left work for the last time I was already started on the process of letting go of my old work role and could then focus more on building up my other roles.

Related to that is why I often point out the need for a focus or passion hobby or interest in retirement.  You need to know what matters to you and do something that will make you feel needed.  That will help you build up that role into a more dominate part of your identify and contribute to you building out your retiree identity.  You should also consider leaning more on your other roles in your life as you make this transition for work role to retiree role.  So yes, spend more time with friends and your family (if you like them), help out in your community, and get more into your existing hobbies.  For example, find a club about one of your hobbies and join it (or at the very least try it out).

A note of caution.  This process can take a LONG time to complete and if you don’t know what you want to focus on in your retirement you might have a prolonged period of trying out various interests.  It can be easy to say to yourself: what’s the point?  After trying idea number five but don’t give in and keep trying as you will find something in the long run.  The answer might not be just one big thing but rather several smaller things together that works for you.  So perhaps your build your retiree identity with parts of being a brewer, writer and friend rather than just one dominate item.

So have you ever had issues with your identity for example during a career change or after a move?  If so, how did you get pass it?  Please share any other tips you have found that worked for you.