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What I Didn't Expect In Retirement

What I Didn't Expect In Retirement

October 03, 2023

By Chad Piehl


When Jo and I retired, we were excited to enter a new phase of life — one filled with more free time and opportunities to pursue our passions. While most of my retirement has been wonderful, some parts have taken me by surprise. You would think after decades of helping others prepare for retirement, I would know what to expect. But life is always full of surprises!


I may not be a full-time financial advisor anymore, but I’ll never lose the desire to help others prepare for retirement. Whether your golden years are far off or just around the corner, take a page from my book and make sure you’re ready for the unexpected.


What Retirement Looks Like For Us

I like to consider myself “not working” as opposed to retired. I am still involved with a prior client in an advisory role, and I also work with a private family foundation. Certain times of the year are busier than others, but these roles help me utilize the skills I built up for years as a financial advisor, which has been really meaningful to me.


Jo and I have also enjoyed volunteering at local charities. I enjoy taking care of our yard, which helps me enjoy the short-lived Minnesota summers and keeps me physically active. Our new puppy has also done a pretty good job of keeping us moving! Exercising and entertaining a mini sheepadoodle is nearly a full-time job in itself.


Jo and I have built a steady routine of doing things together. Most of our lives have been spent working and raising kids, so we have really enjoyed having quality time together as we work through the adventures on Jo’s bucket list.


Perhaps most importantly, retirement has freed us up to concentrate on our faith, family and friends. We have made plenty of new friendships — including some across the border in Canada! Spending time with the people we love is truly what makes retirement great.


Facing New Challenges

While our retirement journey has been exciting, it has not been without its obstacles. I thought I knew what our retirement would look like, but a number of things have taken me by surprise.


Finding a new purpose. People like to joke that a week in retirement is made up of six Saturdays and one Sunday. That may sound like a dream while you're still working a nine-to-five, but having so much free time day in and day out can be difficult. One in six retirees are considering working again, and half of those say it's because they’re bored!


Thankfully, we had a number of options for how to occupy our time, but it was hard to choose what would bring the most personal satisfaction. We had to work together to set priorities on how we would spend our time. Before you enter into retirement, carefully consider how you’ll spend your time and what your new purpose will be.


Building a budget. Going into retirement, we knew how much money we could withdraw from our accounts each month to keep our nest egg healthy, but we underestimated how different it would feel to live on a fixed income. We have to separate our needs from our wants, which can be challenging. For example, we have loved traveling in retirement, but trips can be expensive! We have to make sure our necessary expenses are covered first and find a healthy balance between enjoying retirement and living within our means.


A financial advisor can help determine your monthly budget based on your Social Security benefits, retirement withdrawals and other income sources. Over the years, many clients would tell me dozens of places they hoped to travel to. While it’s important to chase your dreams, determine what you can afford before making any big decisions.


Navigating Inflation. The last few years have given all of us a lesson on inflation. Everything seems to cost more these days, and unfortunately, there are no “raises” in retirement to help your income keep pace with inflation. Having a retirement income plan that factors for inflation is key. When projecting how much money you’ll need in retirement, price in a 2-3% yearly increase for inflation. It also helps to be flexible with your budget. We have seen abnormally large price increases lately, so you may need to temporarily cut back on some of your expenses until inflation slows down again.


Facing unexpected costs. In the late 90s, we purchased a lake home near Brainerd with the intent to live there permanently during retirement. About six years ago, we decided the lake home was too far away from our children and grandchildren, so we sold both the lake home and our house in Hutchinson to consolidate into one Minnesota location.


While we had priced housing changes into our retirement plan, the property values in the new area we chose were much higher than we had anticipated. This is just one of many unexpected costs that can arise during retirement. From home repairs and new cars to medical bills and increased taxes, it’s important to have a plan designed to navigate whatever comes your way.


Our financial roadmap has helped us through the twists and turns of retirement. We are incredibly grateful that we started planning for retirement at a young age, because a successful retirement plan isn’t created overnight. Don’t wait until retirement is five or 10 years away — start preparing today!


We have immense peace of mind knowing our finances are in good hands. There’s no pressure to check the markets or look at our fund balances. We have complete faith in Tim and the Zephyrus team, trusting their guidance and insight as we navigate the ups and downs of retirement.


If any of these “retirement surprises” resonate with you, reach out to the Zephyrus team to schedule a meeting. To stay up to date on the latest financial news, follow them on Facebook and LinkedIn.


This testimonial and/or endorsement was given by a client of the financial advisor and no compensation was provided directly or indirectly. Chad Piehl is the former owner of Zephyrus and the father of Tim Piehl.  This testimonial and/or endorsement is not a guarantee of future performance or investment success, and the testimonial and/or endorsement may not be representative of the experience of other customers.   Please visit BrokerCheck ( to see more on the background of this professional.