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Voice of Experience

Voice of Experience: June 2024

How to Simplify Life in Retirement

Seth D Kramer


  • There are many misconceptions about post-retirement life; many think you ease in but often it happens unexpectedly.
  • Health and finances are big issues that rapidly move from the abstract to the concrete when retirement comes.
  • Retiring sooner than expected may cause mental distress and a loss of identity.
How to Simplify Life in Retirement

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Life post-retirement can be a pleasant endeavor. However, certain misconceptions can make the reality more challenging.

Often, people will talk about having a general, nonspecific plan for retirement. Almost like a dream, they plan to effortlessly flow into retirement with sufficient money to last as long as necessary. A crucial part of this plan is not to outlive your money.

However, the reality is different. “Fifty percent of women and 47% of men between the ages of 55 and 66 have no retirement savings,” according to, citing statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Another commonly held belief about retirement is that most people retire at 70. One of the possible reasons for this belief is that 70 is the age when you can receive the maximum monthly Social Security benefit, provided that you have not previously elected to receive Social Security benefits at some earlier date (such as at “full retirement age,” which for people born after 1960 is age 67).

The Waiting Game

There is a significant financial benefit to waiting. “For each year you delay claiming Social Security past your full retirement age,” according to, “your benefits grow by 8%.” And as the citation goes on to state, after age 70, “there are no further increases.”

Again, the reality is different. As reported in, the current average retirement age in the United States is not 70, but rather age 62. As the article goes on to state, “Many people imagine easing out of employment on their own terms. But actual retirement tends to arrive abruptly and unexpectedly triggered by declining health”—or other factors outside of your control.

As a result, retirement can be a very unsettling and disorienting time. Health and finances are big issues that rapidly move from the abstract to the concrete when retirement comes. There are numerous resources on the web that can provide retirees with financial and health information and assistance.

A Loss of Identity

In addition, there are psychological problems that arise in retirement that can create a personal existential crisis, especially when retirement occurs sooner than expected. This phenomenon is called Sudden Retirement Syndrome (SRS). “For many people,” comments an article on, “their job isn’t just a means to earn a living—it’s a central aspect of their identity and purpose. When that role ends, many may feel lost.”

That was very true in my situation. Due to health issues, I had to retire much sooner than I had planned. My unexpected retirement forced me to deal with a lot of these issues. What I found most helpful in dealing with this new reality was a strategy common among retirees: downsizing and uncluttering.

Although both share a common philosophical underpinning, they are different concepts. I found the practical and mindful aspects of both to be very helpful during a stressful transitional time.

Downsizing usually refers to real estate. The classic situation involves having more living space than you need in retirement. Your home may have been more size-appropriate for raising a family. In addition, things like stairs may get more complicated to “negotiate” as you get older. And you may want to live closer to grandchildren and other family members.

Moving On…But to Where?

In addition, you may be one of those people who, Joel D. Anderson of writes, is living in their retirement. The equity of their primary residence may be a substantial portion of their net worth and the source to finance their future retirement. I was one of those people. At the time of my retirement (2018), I had owned my house for over 30 years. Although it was a modest home, it was in a desirable part of Southern California. For about six months prior to my unplanned retirement, I would receive cold-call solicitations offering to buy my house for cash, paid in 48 hours (or less) if I agreed to sell then and there. I did not consider these offers since at the time I was planning to work at least another ten years.

However, a few months later, when I unexpectedly retired, I did sell my house. Fortunately, it was a seller’s market, and my house sold quickly.

As often happens with selling an asset, there are numerous tax and financial considerations to take into effect. These considerations are beyond the scope of this article, but appropriate professional and expert advice should be obtained.

Of course, one of the obvious considerations in selling your home is—where are you going to live? Will you buy or rent? Will you be a “snowbird,” living part of the year in a more climate-friendly place? Questions like these should be discussed with your financial planning team, preferably before you sell your house.

I was fortunate. My wife and I were able to move into her parents’ home. It is in a coastal community in Southern California. The house was originally bought by my wife’s grandparents. My wife had always dreamed of living there. And as she would often remind me—we always planned to live there; we just did it sooner than we thought.


Moving into a smaller space was a very unsettling experience. However, it was also very enlightening. It also gave me an opportunity to pare down my “stuff.” This turned out to be a very liberating experience. Concurrent with the feeling of identity loss that often accompanies retirement, I found uncluttering a very positive step forward. By the very simple act of deciding what items to keep and what to get rid of, it made me squarely confront the new phase of my life. Did I need to keep certain things, or would it be better for me to just let them go? Questions like these helped me accept the new reality of my situation.

And uncluttering is just an uplifting and positive thing to do. Plus, not doing it can cause extra stress on your heirs, often at the worst possible time. Over the years colleagues and clients would often voice complaints about the uncluttering they had to do following the death of a parent. Despite how organized the estate planning had been, disposing of personal property was always emotionally draining and time-consuming. Often, heirs couldn’t figure out why these items were saved.

Clearly, the best person to determine if something of yours is worth keeping is you. And that’s a job you can only do while you’re alive.

Finally, uncluttering lets you appreciate what’s REALLY important in life. Years ago, I remember reading the book Travels by Michael Crichton. It’s sort of a New Age memoir. In it, he writes that the quality of one’s life is determined by relationships and experiences. I read that over 20 years ago, and the concept rings truer as I get older. So don’t let possessions weigh you down in taking advantage of the options in retirement.