Maybe the golden years still look too blurry to glimpse at a clear picture, but over the years we should be able to grab hold of a few retirement lessons from grandparents.
Unlike many of my former school mates, I didn’t have the opportunity to spend summer vacations at the countryside. All my grandparents lived in the city, had ‘normal’ jobs, then retired.
Growing up, I’ve always wondered how come my grandparents did’t have a house at the countryside, with a garden to grow vegetables and a barn to milk cows. A coop would have been nice too.
While I never really figured that out, I did learn a few important lessons from them.
Seeing how they all lived a lifestyle very similar to ours (city jobs, minimal wage, reaching retirement age after 40 years of work), I can’t help but compare the differences and similarities.
My grandparents have always embraced a simple life. They’ve been great examples for my family and I, although the mistakes they made over the years have served as important retirement lessons as well!
12 retirement lessons
I learned from my grandparents
Save up for retirement
Sadly, my grandparents didn’t bother saving for retirement.
That doesn’t mean they retired poor, but it would have been nice if they had some funds stashed away to be able to afford at least some of the big things they planned to do once they retired.
Saving up for retirement is also a must because of the next generations.
While asking your kids for money isn’t uncommon, some grown-ups might not appreciate it or they might not even be able to help. Then what?
Related article: Are you saving enough for your retirement?
Save for rainy days
It’s important to keep on topping off that emergency fund!
Retiring from work doesn’t mean certain problems can’t arise anymore.
Fixing your car might not be a top priority if you’re not using it on a regular basis, but other emergencies might benefit from you having funds available.
Again, asking your kids for money to pay for an emergency shouldn’t be a problem. After all, I’d gladly help my parents anytime, if they need me to.
However, grown up adults who move out and start a family are probably stuck with a mortgage or a car loan or would like to offer their kids a nice vacation. Not having any money saved up for retirement or emergencies could actually stand in the way of your own family’s plans.
Related article: Retirement myths that could screw up your golden years
Buy your own house
All my grandparents had this one particular thing in common: they did not own the house they lived in for decades!
Renting is not a bad thing, it comes with advantages and disadvantages, just like owning a home. However, this particular lesson I learned from my grandparents will always hunt me: don’t wait until its too late to buy a home!
While renting when you’re still young is great and even kind of fun if you plan to experience life in different countries for a while, buying a property is always a good idea.
Buying a home after retirement is not fun.
You may not be approved for a mortgage (a 30 year mortgage for a retiree sounds risky) and nevermind the fact house shopping after a certain age is a drag, rather than exciting. And just think what is a retiree to do if they’re actually forced to move out?
Risking to end up without a roof over your head at 65 is, apparently, possible.
Related article: Would you rather rent or buy the house you live in?
Take care of your health
It goes without saying, but here it is: always take care of your health!
Certain medical conditions come with age whether we like it or not. But others can be prevented!
I know many people avoid paying for regular doctors’ appointments because they feel fine, so why waste money.
Others spend either too much money on eating out or they’re too stingy to buy quality food.
The gym costs a pretty penny as well, so not having funds is the perfect excuse for many not to exercise.
One of the best things my grandparents taught me was to always watch my health. You never know what might happen and when.
Staying active, eating healthy, going to regular check-ups are 3 golden rules I personally try to live by.
Related article: 5 extremely cheapskate things I wouldn’t do to save money
Pay all bills on time
Bills. They keep coming, even if you retired from your job!
One great thing my grandparents taught me is to never be late when paying bills. It’s so easy for them to pile up and you could wake up one day and have no running water. Or electricity.
Well that can’t be fun when you’re a senior! (it’s no fun when you’re a young adult either)
Use the emergency fund if you have to, but always pay bills on time. Penalty fees and other bills really do add up quickly.
Related article: 50 ways to save money on electricity
Learn to fix what’s broken instead of replacing it
This is actually something I learned ever since I was a child. Why replace what’s broken when you can fix it?
It’s a great way to save money, not to mention it teaches you to treat your ‘stuff’ with respect. And since this is retirement we’re talking about, I’d like to point out that seniors tend to get attached to things.
Items you buy and keep around for years turn into memories. So, really, even if you had the money to replace what’s broken, it could mean throwing away a nice memory.
Just kidding, I’m pretty sure seniors would much rather relax instead of crunching numbers.
However, budgeting when you retire is actually very helpful. You don’t have your regular income anymore and things change dramatically, financially speaking.
It’s a good idea to keep track of you incoming funds and your expenses. Surprises are not OK when you’re retired since you don’t have your usual income to rely on anymore.
Related article: Learn how to budget money in 5 easy steps
Never let opportunities slip away because of money
One very important lesson I learned about retirement is to never let opportunities slip away!
It’s actually been proven that the elderly have more regrets for the things they didn’t do, rather than what they did do.
Following dreams seemed like a cliche in the past, but seeing my own grandparents look back on their youth and remembering the things they could have done but didn’t, made me wonder.
I’ve always believed having a YOLO attitude is healthy. After all, money is a tool that should help you enjoy your life, not obsess over pinching pennies.
Don’t push quality people away
What does this have to do with money? Read on.
Unfortunately, many seniors end up alone. Some live on their own, others move into senior homes, but are still without their life long friends.
Another important lesson my grandparents taught me is to surround myself with quality people and keep them!
We all have work colleagues we see every day or neighbors we exchange pleasantries with, but when you retire and don’t go out as much, you could end up realizing you’re actually alone.
Don’t push your friends away because of money problems.
It may help you curb your spending or borrow the money you need right now, but the consequences are emotionally devastating.
Don’t surround yourself with clutter
There’s a saying one of my grandmas has: “I’m not taking this stuff to my grave!”
While hearing your beloved grandparents talk about death is not pleasant (ugh! chills down my spine!), the lesson to take from this is that most stuff really doesn’t matter.
Stuff doesn’t bring happiness, most of the time it’s money thrown out the window. It’s also a drag to make you family go through your clutter when ‘you know what’ happens.
I’ve learned to embrace minimalism and honestly, I have my grandparents to thank for it.
Related article: 5 brilliant ways spring cleaning can benefit your finances
Learn to appreciate the little things
Most of the time, the little things in life are free.
While having funds saved up is great, appreciating the small things could actually make you feel more content with yourself.
Some elderly people can become obsessed with counting every penny and figuring out where they could save more, they forget to enjoy their retirement years and stop to smell the roses.
While this is a very valid lesson for retirement, applying it starting now can’t hurt!
Related article: Living frugally on a low retirement income
Don’t rely on one source of income
Since my grandparents didn’t save for retirement, they mostly relied on their pension checks.
While in some cases this isn’t a bad thing, inflation, taxes and other uncertain factors could be a big influence on quality of life.
It’s always a good idea to plan ahead even for the unpredictable. Having multiple streams to fund your retirement savings can only be beneficial!
Related article: Alternative ways to save for retirement without a 401(k)
What other retirement lessons can you think of?
How do they help you get a clearer picture of your own future?