By Mark McNease
I met Dave Hughes in the vast meeting place of the internet sometime last year and have been reading his columns at RetireFabulously.com ever since. A new column in the email inbox means more great information from the perspective of someone who’s been there and done that – in this case, designed and lived his retirement, discovering both the expected and the unanticipated along the way.
Dave’s new book, Design Your Dream Retirement: How to Envision, Plan For, and Enjoy the Best Retirement Possible, just came out. I’ve read it and can’t recommend it highly enough for anyone who is living their renaissance or planning to. There’s so much we don’t know about the realities of retirement, both exciting and challenging, and Dave is an expert at providing that information in easy-to-understand language, with concrete examples that can help you form and design your own dream retirement.
Following are ‘6 Questions’ Dave found time to answer. Enjoy them, and be sure to check out his book, for yourself or as a gift for a friend or loved one. It’s invaluable.
MM: Welcome back! We’ve had a few podcast chats, and now you’re an author with a book out about designing a dream retirement. First, what inspired you to start RetireFabulously.com and what were some of the challenges you had getting it going?
DH: I’ve been looking forward to retiring almost as long as I’ve been working. Of course, for most of those years retirement seemed impossibly far off. After I entered my 50s, I started to realize that it wouldn’t be too many more years until my retirement would become a reality!
This led me to start thinking more seriously about how I would spend my days, where I would live, and what my retirement would really be like. I ordered and read several books and started investigating what information was available online.
I discovered that at least 95% of all the retirement-related information available was focused on the financial aspect of retirement – how much money you’ll need, how you should shift your investment mix as you get older, how fast you can draw down your savings, and so on. Relatively little was being written about how you would live your life during retirement, and of that, practically nothing was being written from an LGBT perspective.
I started RetireFabulously.com to fill that void.
The biggest challenge, by far, has been getting the website noticed and building an engaged reader base. The internet has become saturated with information. It’s hard to stand out and get noticed.
I have also discovered that many people don’t want to think about retirement. That word carries a lot of baggage for many people. In our youth-oriented culture, people don’t want to think about getting old. I think that is even more pronounced in the LGBT community than in the community at large.
MM: Had you planned on taking this path – as an adviser, columnist and now author – when you were about to retire, or has this been an evolution?
DH: I took a couple half-hearted stabs at writing a book in the five years or so before I retired. I was one of the multitudes who want to write a book “someday” but never really follow through. The idea that I would become a blogger didn’t take shape until about half a year before I actually retired, when I decided to start Retire Fabulously!.
I read a lot of blogs and took a couple courses on how to blog and develop an audience during the first year and a half of writing Retire Fabulously!. That material also taught me a lot about writing books, and the process of publishing and promoting a book.
MM: Let’s talk about fear. That’s a big one for me, for my spouse, for a lot of people. What would you tell people who are putting off retirement decisions (or, as you call it and I prefer: renaissance) more from fear than circumstances? How can we get un-stuck?
DH: I think the root of the issue is that people fear the unknown. When something is not known, many people tend to fill in the blanks with worst-case assumptions about all the things that could possibly go wrong.
For example, people may fear traveling overseas because they are afraid that they will get lost or stranded, they won’t be able to communicate, they won’t understand the local customs or laws, they won’t be safe, or any number of other things they imagine could happen. They don’t go because they have filled the knowledge gaps in their mind with all the things that could go wrong. Of course, people who do travel overseas usually have wonderful experiences and they eagerly anticipate traveling again.
In the case of retirement, people fear becoming old and frail, being bored, feeling purposeless, running out of money, being sent to a nursing home, and ultimately dying. Without any better information, people have nothing better to look forward to. It’s no wonder that people aren’t motivated to save or plan for a retirement like that.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Some aspects of retirement, such as being bored or feeling purposeless, are entirely within our control. We have some control over the rate at which we will grow older and more frail with the health and activity choices we make. And these days, many of us will enjoy many active years in retirement before the inevitable physical decline and death take place.
I’m convinced that your retirement years end up being a lot like the preconceived notions of retirement that you hold during your working years. If you look forward to your retirement years as being vibrant, fulfilling, and happy – they probably will be. If you think your retirement years will be dull, boring, and beset with declining health – they probably will be.
Knowledge, planning, and envisioning your retirement in an optimistic, possibility-filled light can take the unknown out of retirement, and thereby reduce the fear involved. That’s the primary motivation for what I do.
MM: How can readers make the most of your book, besides reading it? What can they expect to find in its pages that will help them begin designing their retirement?
DH: In the book, I ask a lot of questions. I ask several questions at the end of each chapter. There’s a chapter on aligning your retirement vision with your spouse which is full of questions that are designed to be discussion starters (and hopefully not fight starters) for couples.
How much a reader gets out of my book depends a lot upon how much consideration he or she gives to these questions. I encourage the reader to find times when he or she can be alone for 15-20 minutes with minimal distraction to think about their answers to the questions and write them down.
Of course, I’m realistic enough to know that many people will gloss over the questions and only think about their answers for a few seconds before moving on. Honestly, I do that sometimes as I read other books. But the questions are there for those who are willing to use them.
MM: I’ve seen your perspective as unique for awhile now – it’s not, as you say in the book, the typical “You need $2 million to retire” advice and guidance. How would YOU describe what makes the book unique and why it’s not just another financial advice brochure?
DH: I like to refer to my approach as “retirement lifestyle planning” in order to differentiate that from retirement financial planning.
I do touch on the financial topic briefly, because there are some things that you probably want to include as part of your retirement lifestyle that cost money – traveling, for example. The approach I like to suggest is that you frame the issue in terms of “How much money will I need to enjoy the retirement lifestyle I envision?” rather than “What will I be able to do considering how much (or how little) money I have saved?” In other words, I encourage people to let their dreams and goals drive how much money they need to save, rather than the opposite.
This approach works better for people in their 40s and 50s who are still working than for people who have already retired or are on the verge of retiring, because people who are ten to twenty years away from retiring still have time to adjust their rate of saving.
I also believe that people will save for what they are looking forward to, but won’t save for something they are anticipating with dread.
I hope that with my book, people will be able to gain clarity on what they want their retirement to look like. This clarity will influence other actions they can take and decisions they can make while they are still working so they will be better prepared when retirement arrives.
MM: what’s next?! I know you have plans for more, both for RetireFabulously.com and for more books. Fill us in!
DH: I have a few more books on the horizon. I plan to write a book that guides people to finding the place to retire that is best suited for them, whether that is within the U.S. or somewhere else in the world. The working title is “The Quest for Retirement Utopia.”
I plan to write about the transition from work to leisure, starting about a year before you retire to the first couple years after you retire. No matter how wonderful your retirement years end up being, this transition may be one of the most stressful periods of your life. So many aspects of your life change at the same time. I read recently that some married couples experience their biggest conflicts during the first two years of retirement. I want to help people anticipate these stressful changes, thereby reducing their impact.
I may write a book that is devoted to the retirement issues that are unique to LGBT people.
And totally off-topic, I am going to write a book about how to become a wedding officiant and run a successful business doing that.
Finally, in 2016 I will launch a podcast series in which I interview people who are living interesting and exciting lives during retirement. That will include people who have successfully reinvented themselves and are pursuing their passions, people who are traveling the world, and anything else that exemplifies retiring fabulously! These stories may end up in a book as well.
If you or someone you know is “living the dream” in retirement and might like to be interviewed, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dave Hughes created RetireFabulously.com to help you envision, plan for and ultimately enjoy the best retirement possible. Most articles focus on the non-financial, “lifestyle” aspects of retirement, such as successfully transitioning from work to leisure, choosing where to live, identifying the things that will make retirement happy and fulfilling, and more. Dave is available for speaking engagements and workshops, and also officiates weddings. Dave lives in Chandler, AZ with his husband, Jeff, and their furry family members, Missy and Maynard.