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The Upside of Shattered Retirement Dreams

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These days, unpredictability rules the marketplace. Hordes of would-be retirees have lost solid gains in their portfolios and home values. There seems to be no place to turn for financial solace, with dread and anxiety running rampant.

But perhaps there's value in being disillusioned. Just as the people living along the Gulf of Mexico will be forced to reconstruct their lives, and those who have lost assets in other natural disasters will need to rebuild their homes, perhaps your retirement dreams are calling for a major makeover.

The remodeling of your retirement dream
While we may balk at the dents our retirement ambitions have undergone over the last couple of years, the changes haven't been all bad. The common-sense approach to lifestyle choices that Billy and I have been embracing for the last 20 years have now become fashionable. Keeping the conversation real about leaving the workplace has forced us all to recognize that our future retirement lifestyle dreams must have teeth.

What's so awful about that?

Having a reality check, and putting our lives' priorities in order, is a good thing. We don't normally do so when our lives are comfortable. Why take time to reflect about what we value when we're living large and spending like there's no tomorrow?

Now, tomorrow has arrived. We discover what we're truly made of when we're forced to make hard choices about our future. Again, we see this as a positive. Knowing who you are and what matters most to you makes you strong. Looking back at what-ifs will only dissipate your focus. Moving forward is far more advantageous.

Finding out where you are
All of this instability and unfamiliarity can seem overwhelming at times. How can you gain a sense of control?

1. Cut fear down to manageable bites
Fear corrodes your life. The best way to deal with anxiety is to take action.

If your current lifestyle is not sustainable, and your retirement ambitions are whimsical, what can you do to gain traction? Get a grip on your spending, debt management and savings. Even if you have to start small, moving forward is better than treading water. There are long-term benefits to choosing substance over style. And with that, your confidence will build.

2. Evaluate other options for health care
We receive letters from our readers enumerating concerns over their ability to access health care in retirement. For these people, it is their No. 1 priority, and their entire future hinges on this one expense. As health insurance premiums rise, no amount of savings seems to relieve the emotional pressure they feel. They live in a state of constant threat, which is not good for their health!

But with health-care rules changing all the time, why wait for someone else to make the rules? Get on with your life. Your choices don't have to be limited, and you don't have to build your future around that one topic. There are alternatives to consider, and having a backup plan can bring you peace of mind.

Through our world travels over the last two decades, Billy and I have personally taken part in medical tourism, with satisfying results. There are agencies which will help you choose your doctor, find lodging for your companion, answer your questions about follow-up care, and take you door-to-door and back again if you so wish. If you want to learn more about this possible solution, you can visit our Medical Tourism Page.

While it may seem simplistic, putting the health-care issue into perspective with other categories in your life will help you move into your future retirement with more ease

3. Consider relocating
While many of you may not have contemplated leaving your hometown for your retirement years, you may find yourself in a different frame of mind lately. There are dozens of countries and hundreds of cities in the world to live that won't put a financial stress on your savings. Depending on your lifestyle, there are safe places throughout the world where you can live on your Social Security check.

For more information, check out our relocation page, where you'll find information about places both within the U.S. and abroad. We also list links to expat newsletters and forums from around the world for you to obtain the information and assistance you need to help you relocate if you choose.

Face your fear
Keep your sense of possibilities, and welcome these recent financial and mental collisions to your retirement dream. While everyone has to find their own comfort level for the future, you may find that you have stumbled upon something far more rewarding than if you had never been challenged in the first place.

Fool contributors Billy and Akaisha Kaderli write regularly for the Fool's Rule Your Retirement newsletter. They retired in 1991 from the brokerage and restaurant businesses to a life of international travel. Visit their website at RetireEarlyLifestyle.com. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


Read/Post Comments (3) | Recommend This Article (16)

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Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On August 16, 2010, at 5:36 PM, jettrey wrote:

    "Fear corrodes your life. The best way to deal with anxiety is to take action."

    Well put! I'm adding that to my collection of great quotes.

  • Report this Comment On August 16, 2010, at 10:03 PM, xetn wrote:

    "These days, unpredictability rules the marketplace." Since when has the market for stocks or other investments been predictable? If they were predictable, where would you profit; everyone would already know the outcome.

  • Report this Comment On August 17, 2010, at 9:26 AM, kforred wrote:

    Good advice. But you forgot "just don't retire". That's my plan. What with (1) huge loss to my port (staggering to think if you lose 50%, you have to gain 100% just to get even), (2) supporting members of 4 generations, and (3), most fortunately, a job that is rewarding beyond money, I expect to be still shoulder-to-the-wheel into mid-70s. Health care still a concern--I wonder if the Blues will kick me out and force me to Medicare when I turn 65 next year.

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