It was a moment that will be forever with me. A cool spring day. April 1999. Days before Easter at Froedtert Hospital. We were hastily shuffled into a room too small for the three doctors and my five family members. The air was warm and heavy. A few greetings and prefatory comments from the doctors and then the message was delivered to my father-in-law -- "It's stage four lung cancer and you probably have two or three months to live. You need to get your affairs in order."
Silence. Shock. Caught totally flat-footed. No time to prepare, no time to work through the bucket list. In fact, up until that point, my father and mother-in-law spent six days a week working extremely hard in their family business and supporting their family. Four months later, he was gone. What never happened for my father-in-law was the long-deserved life in retirement he often mentioned, the sailing he always wanted to get back to and the many places where he always intended to travel.
The powerful lesson for me that day: the importance of engaging in life every day. Personally, with your family, with your community and with the greater world. All too often, I meet retirees that have plenty of money to indulge, explore and experience life on an amazing level, but are living day-to-day like they are on their last nickel. Unexpected things can happen in retirement (I write about them all the time) and many of them can have material financial consequences. With that said, tomorrow could be your last. Managing your money in retirement and LIVING a rich life in retirement is about balance. Don't be like the so many people who spend most of their time worrying about all of the lurking dangers. Live a little! Here are five great ways to spend some of that hard-earned money in retirement now:
1. Ramp up your charitable giving. Get more involved with your church or favorite cause -- not just with your time, but with your money as well. Fulfill that dream to do something bigger than yourself. You could establish a donor-advised fund. These accounts enable you to set aside a specific amount for giving, invest the money for growth and direct the contributions from the fund to the organizations and causes you support.
2. Take a family vacation. Take your family on an amazing vacation. Make it a place your kids and grandkids want to go. Pay for it all. In the end, life boils down to a series of moments. This could be one of the best moments of your life and the life of your family. Go to VRBO.com and rent the house on Captiva Island. Fly everyone to Playa Del Carmen or rent a big cabin on Moosehead Lake.
3. Travel. I mean travel. There is so much to see and experience in the world. See the sun rise in Glacier National Park, eat lobster on a dock in Boothbay Harbor, Maine, stand in the shadow of Michelangelo's David in Florence or listen to morning prayers at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul.
4. Remodel or redecorate. I'm sure your master bathroom is perfectly functional, but what if it had a sit-down steam shower or a crystal chandelier over the tub? What about that craft room or art studio you have talked about for years. Build it and start creating now!
5. Bucket list. Bucket lists do not just have to be the subject of movies. Write one. Make it ambitious. Start checking it off. Climb that mountain. Visit the seven wonders. Take those dance lessons. Buy that weekend car you always dreamed of driving.
Life is a series of moments. Take the time (and the money) to create some of the best moments of your life in retirement! It's what you spent your whole life saving for.
Ecuador may be one of the most inexpensive places to live for retirees on a budget. Not only is the cost of living extremely cheap, according to Fortune magazine, but the South American country also uses the U.S. dollar. One couple interviewed by International Living lived on $600 a month, spending as little as $1.25 per month on gas and $1.70 per month on water. (Image via Flickr, Carly Lyddiard) Correction: A previous version of this slide said that Ecuador was in Central America.
Easy accessibility and excellent health care are two major draws for retirees settling in Panama. According to U.S. News & World Report, the cost of living is not the cheapest -- especially in Panama City -- but the great retirement benefits, travel and entertainment discounts and country-wide use of U.S. currency make up for the extra expenses. (Image via Flickr, Francesco Veronesi)
Since 1985, 25,000 foreign retirees have settled in the Philippines, Global Post reports. Taxes are minimal, so living is very comfortable on a pension of $3,000 per month. Post 50s may have to share the beach with younger folks since the minimum age for ex-pat retirees is 35.. (Image via Flickr, SToto98)
For a tropical climate where English is the official language, retirees should look no further than Belize. The coastal country offers no tax on foreign retirement income and minimal sales and property taxes, according to U.S. News & World Report. (Image via Flickr, Ian Morton)
Some cities in France may be a bit out of the price range of the average retiree -- looking at you, Paris -- but the monthly expenses of other towns in the southwest are more affordable, notes the AARP. For Francophiles looking to settle in France, the history, culture, wine and food are among the biggest enticements. (Photo credit: AP)
With consistently perfect weather and beautiful beaches, Bali joins dozens of other beachfront locations that make for great retirement living. According to The Wall Street Journal, retirees can settle down on the Indonesian island for about $1,000 a month (not including housing), as long as they don't mind trading in a front door for a open entryway -- as is custom in Bali. However, medical care is not the best. (Photo credit: Getty)
With no taxes on foreign retirement income -- according to U.S. News & World Report -- Costa Rica may be one of the ideal places to retire. Nestled between Nicaragua and Panama, the cost-friendly country boasts stunning beaches and rain forests. HuffPost bloggers Jeff Jones and Gay Haubner wrote about their experience finding a house in Costa Rica. (Image via Flickr, Dottie Day)
No list of places to retire abroad could be complete without Italy, where Diane Lane's character traveled to in the 2003 film "Under the Tuscan Sun." Settling in Rome is not the most feasible option, but like France, there are several Italian cities that offer a comfortable life of leisure, full of delicious Italian food and wineries, on a budget, AARP reports. (Image via Flickr, Russell Yarwood)
Certain cities in Mexico are not the safest, especially along the U.S.-Mexico border, but there are still parts of the southern country that are increasingly popular with retirees. Campeche, located near Belize, boasts beautiful waterfront properties on the Gulf of Mexico and a low cost of living. A week's worth of market fruit and vegetables cost less than $10, according to International Living. (Photo credit: Flickr/Malias)
While taxes are a bit higher in Argentina than other South American locales according to U.S. News & World Report, the large country offers a wide range of places to settle -- from major tourism hubs to smaller, inexpensive villages. However, retirees should plan on spending a little more on monthly expenses, because of the rising cost of living and devaluation of the U.S. dollar, U.S. News & World Report writes. (Image via Flickr, Luis Fernandez)
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