Retirement Wisdom
Hard-earned lessons from those in the know
By Madison Russ

If you’ve got retirement on the brain, you know that having a solid financial plan is a must. But South Jersey retirees who’ve been there, done that, know there’s so much more you need to be prepared for. They’re sharing what they’ve learned – sometimes the hard way – and what they wish someone had told them before they entered their golden years. 

I’d tell my younger self to retire sooner. I spent all of my 60s and part of my 70s plugging away in the office, and I was missing out.  

Stanley Lipinski, 77,Pitman 

I thought I was going to work until I dropped dead – I never contemplated retiring, not even once. It was surprising to me that with the right planning I could afford to, and later, how much I would enjoy being retired. The reservations of retirement are that you don’t retire because you don’t have enough money, you really like what you’re doing or you’ve got nothing else to do. I didn’t fit into any of those categories, so I was shocked. I never thought about stocks and bonds and I spent a lot, but I got to do a lot of exciting things and had a lot of opportunities before retirement. But I wouldn’t have done it any other way. I enjoyed life so much that when I finally did retire, I’ve never looked back and thought, ‘Oh, I should have done this.’ 

John Monahan, 76, Ocean City 

I wish I had known more about health insurance and Medicaid prior to needing it. It would have been helpful to have a bit more knowledge about it at 50. 

Donna Long, 69, Mount Holly 

My wife and I always planned to retire to Florida, because we wanted to live somewhere it was warm and sunny all year, and that seemed like where we were “supposed” to go. We left all our friends and family behind, and it was a big adjustment. We ended up moving back because we missed our life here – the weather didn’t matter at all. Had we known that 15 years ago, we never would have made that move. 

Tom Stromberger, 79, Deptford 

I wish I had stayed away from all the junk food and processed food. I had heart surgery, which caused me to retire at 70. Give up all the bad habits, don’t smoke and don’t eat wrong. I was doing plenty of exercise, but I’m now 40 pounds lighter than I ever was and two pant sizes smaller.  

George Humphrey, 73, Maple Shade 

Get involved with friends by reading, walking and doing things together. I belong to a women’s club, and we do a lot of activities to keep our bodies and minds busy. When I was younger, I wouldn’t have thought of doing it. 

Jessie Colsey, 75, Pennsauken 

I wish I had looked into one-floor living sooner. One of the first things to go are your knees and back. I currently live on two floors, but If I were ever to move, I would definitely choose one-floor living. 

Suzie Wagner, 69, Pennsauken  

When you’re working and used to a particular income and standard of living, you don’t always realize that inflation should be in the equation. Things don’t get cheaper just because you retire. You really have to do a lot of strategic planning. 

Harry Schmoll, 79, Cherry Hill 

When I was 25, I thought tomorrow would never come. Then I couldn’t believe it came. Like everything in life, you have to plan what you want to do. I thought I had years and years to do that. Unfortunately, if you put it off, you’ll have problems. 

Bob Costa, 66, Cherry Hill 

I wish I had pushed my husband to travel more when we were younger. My kids aren’t married yet but there will probably be grandchildren in the picture soon, and it will be more difficult to travel then. It might have been good to do some of the things I put on my bucket list a little bit earlier. Don’t put those things off. It’s certainly important to save for retirement, but you have to balance those things. I think I would have downsized our house earlier and used that money to travel rather than sock it away. 

Denise Porter, 64, Moorestown 

I wish I had known how many possibilities there are for using your time during retirement. I’ve gone through various stages in retirement, like volunteering and part-time work, and I’m still open to new possibilities. 

Jane Copas, 82, Maple Shade 

My husband and I should have discussed our finances and long-term plans with our kids before we retired. We always figured we’d have time to do that once we had stopped working, but my husband died very suddenly shortly after we both retired. Had our children known about our accounts and financial situation, it would have been much easier for them to step in and help me manage that while I was grieving. 

Sharon Gorman, 72, via Facebook 

I wish I had put more money away. I never worried about money when I was younger – that was just my way. When I was 40, I was spending money like it was nothing. I bought a house in the Poconos that I planned to rent out, but I rarely did because we loved going there. But I’m not a big spender now. I go dancing every weekend, and I have about 10 close friends. When I go to the tavern to listen to music, everyone knows me. I look at people my age, who are in good health like me, and I think, ‘Why aren’t you happy?’ There’s a good life out there.” 

Don Doyle, 83, Edgewater Park 

I wish I had realized how lonely this phase of life can be. I had imagined spending more time with friends and family once I retired, but my kids have moved away and many of the couples my husband and I socialized with have divorced in the last few years. It was surprising to me to feel so isolated. 

Linda Cunningham, 67, via Facebook 

I hesitated to retire, because I thought it signaled that the full, exciting years of my life would be over. I didn’t know that 65 could be the new 40. Had I known that, I would have been less stressed about retiring. 

Joe Cannon, 66, via Facebook 

I wish I had realized how much it would cost my husband and I to stay in our home. We paid off our mortgage early, because we figured it would save us money in the long run and it would eliminate a bill we’d have to pay during retirement. But now we’ve been in the same house for 30 years, and there are a lot of major, expensive things it needs, like a new roof and new windows. I wish we had sold and downsized sooner, because we’re having to dip into our savings to pay for them now since we’re on a fixed income. 

Cindy Sellers, 70, Hainesport 

You have to be ready to retire. I think a  

lot of people think, “Oh, it will be great! I’ll have all this free time,” but then find they just don’t have anything to do. It’s about being prepared. 

Carole Cills, 75, Cherry Hill 

October 2018
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