Retirement is easy to think about, but more difficult to pull off

In many ways, retirement after a federal career is all about the numbers. Do you have enough saved that, together with your annuity, you won't run out of money....

In many ways, retirement after a federal career is all about the numbers. Do you have enough saved that, together with your annuity, you won’t run out of money. In some ways, retirement is not about numbers at all. There’s also the danger of being bored to death. To delve into the issue of non-monetary advice, Federal Drive with Tom Temin talked with federal retiree and AG Financial Services owner Abe Grungold.

Interview Transcript: 

Abe Grungold Tom, Thank you for having me on. Yes, retirement is more than just the numbers. You need to figure out what’s important to you your first day of retirement. You have to plan for it and you need to be flexible. That’s the key to be flexible.

Tom Temin Well, let’s talk about what’s important to you, because for most people, you know, their family life, whatever form that is in is maybe the most important thing. Sometimes it might be the second after their career and their work. But both of those things are what give people identity. And so you’re losing 50% of what gave you your identity, which is your work in the associations there to.

Abe Grungold Tom, it’s perfect that you mentioned this. A friend of mine this week who is also a client. He says to me, Abe, I’m retiring December 31st, but I’m going to lose my identity, you know, as a federal employee. And he has a pretty big position with the government. And I told him, I said, no, you’re not losing your identity. You’re going to create a new one. And you certainly can do a lot of things for retirement. A lot of people work full time doing something else. And whatever makes them happy, whether it’s opening up in the antique store, working at Home Depot, I have a friend of mine who is going to be a farmer. He’s going to be a farmer full time. So you still can work full time or part time, and you just need to figure out if that is important to you. And some people don’t work at all.

Tom Temin You know, that idea of being a farmer reminds me of a line that the Cowardly Lion said in Wizard of Oz, the original version. The only question is, can somebody talk me out of this? But I guess he’s going to go ahead. Does he have a tractor?

Abe Grungold He has it all. I’ve spoken to him about it. He has tractor. He has animals. He’s been doing this part time for ten years. And this is what he wants to do in retirement. He’s still young and this is what he wants to do full time. And even for me, I was planning my retirement and I was fearful of going from working full time to doing nothing. So I started my own business four years prior to retirement. I wanted to make sure that I was going to be doing something in retirement.

Tom Temin Yes. And so the question is, you know, work, but you can also occupy your time not working. But yet I think people find that if they are unoccupied by work, it has to be more than trivial stuff. I mean, how many times can you get up and read the Grape-Nuts box and then go, you know, whatever, walk to the corner or something? I mean, at some point it has to be meaningful, even if it’s not remunerative monetarily, those activities.

Abe Grungold Yes, it’s perfect that you say that. It reminds me of the movie Groundhog Day when you get up every day in that movie and every day is the same. So certainly you don’t want that. So what I did was I moved to a retirement community and where I live now is just filled with various activities from sports to social to other things, like doing charity work. And I found that a retirement community, at least for me, was a perfect environment. Rather than being in my other home where I didn’t have many activities to do on a day to day in retirement.

Tom Temin Except pick out the Lladro statues and try to find ways to get rid of those because nobody wants them. They’re not worth $0.02. The boomers will know what I’m talking about.

Abe Grungold Here, it is true we downsized on many of our collectibles or tchotchkes, as we called them, and we found that they’re just not important because our kids and our family just don’t want them. Yeah. Yeah. We went through that as well.

Tom Temin And I guess maybe the important thing in moving to a retirement community is making sure that your lot is not too close to the pickleball courts. The noise could drive you crazy in about 20 minutes.

Abe Grungold It’s funny where I live. I think we have 15 pickleball courts. Everyone has their own individual home and many of the people ride their golf cart to the pickleball court and many of them are playing twice a day. Now I ran into a guy the other day who I bowl with. I’m on the bowling club and he says, I’m not playing pickleball because pickleball has the most injuries of any type of thing for seniors. And he says, I live alone. If I get injured, who’s going to drive me to the supermarket? So he refuses to play pickleball. So you really have to think about all these variables that go on with every activity.

Tom Temin Yeah. You don’t want to become a cop, which is a casualty of pickleball, I guess, in retirement. But then there’s also the idea, By the way, my guest is Abe Grungold. He’s a retired federal manager himself, now owner of AG Financial Services. The idea of meaningful activities that have transcendence beyond, you know, just amusing yourself, whether it’s pickleball or whatever the case might be. But there are a lot of learnings and experiences you might have gained as a long term federal employee that volunteer organizations, charities and so on could really avail themselves of. And you would find that your activities would have both identity and meaning.

Abe Grungold Yes, I have a friend who wants to volunteer mentoring kids, you know, life learning skills. I have another friend who’s volunteering with the city and county food bank. So, yes, volunteering is a very important thing because you’re giving back. You make yourself feel good when you’re doing these wonderful deeds and you are also keeping yourself active and mentally active. Now I do a financial literacy course free for college students, and I’ve done that where my daughter goes to college. So I do that as a way of giving back and helping the younger generation. So volunteering is a very important thing.

Tom Temin And I want to return to the question of when you begin your retirement planning, in some ways you begin it on your first day of work by signing up for TSP and maxing out your contributions because that’s the foundation of everything is having enough money. But then in the closer to the ground planning, when you actually are at that age, when you can see the end of your career, you don’t wait till two weeks before.

Abe Grungold No, no. You should be planning your retirement activities 3 to 5 years beforehand because you could have one idea and then you realize you don’t want to do that one. And then you should think about another one. So you should have a couple ideas. If you were going to work full time or part time, whether you’re going to volunteer, whether you’re going to play pickleball or golf or travel, try to plan and have a flexible plan in the event that something doesn’t work out for you, that you can have a contingent plan to fall back on something else. So, yeah, I mean, I started a bowl league this summer and I decided I’m not going to bowl. I’m going to play golf in the wintertime. So you have to do what you feel is important.

Tom Temin I guess you can go bowling with a golf ball, but you can’t go golfing with a bowling ball.

Abe Grungold I did the bowling thing in the summer only because it is so hot in Florida. I needed to find that activity. I found that golfing nine holes was just too strenuous in the heat. So you need to have a flexible plan. You can’t do the same thing every day. After a while, it’s going to become monotonous.

Tom Temin A brand goal is a retired federal manager and having a good time at it. He’s owner of AG Financial Services. And what’s your handicap in bowling, by the way? Is there such a thing as a handicap in bowling?

Abe Grungold Well, you know, I am not that good of a bowler now that I’m a senior citizen. I was a pretty decent bowler years ago. But we still took third placeTom. We took third place even with my bad bowling. So we were just having fun. That’s the important thing, is having fun. A lot of people feel sports is competition, but I just enjoyed doing it, keeping busy, having fun.

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