Ah, retirement... an indulgent time when you are free to marry an inappropriately young spouse and leave the turn signal on for half an hour just to mess with other drivers.

I wish you and Tawny all the best. But before you quit your day job, heed the advice of the nearly 2,000 recent retirees surveyed by Brightwork Partners LLC. Surprise expenses and miscalculated income projections cast a shadow over their early leisure years. (Darn those wretched retirement realities.)

What would they do differently if they had a second chance?

  • Nearly 60% said they would start saving earlier.
  • One-third would reduce expenses to save more for retirement.
  • A third would be more disciplined about retirement income.
  • 25% would work longer.

Don't cancel the retirement party caterer just yet. First, calculate how much your current savings will get you in tomorrow's dollars. The Ballpark Estimate Worksheet (explained here) will provide a yearly savings goal.

Next, think of a few ways you can cut back today's costs to provide for tomorrow's Tawny. There are many ways to dance around the word "budget," but nothing gets the job done better than paying closer attention to your cash flow.

Just because you retire doesn't mean your income-earning potential screeches to a halt. Many retirees continue to work after they don't have to work. An AARP study about working in retirement found that seven out of 10 workers between the ages of 50 and 70 expect to continue to work beyond age 65, and half expect to toil well into their 70s. In fact, 15% had already retired from one job, then rejoined the workforce. So ask yourself: Once you conquer the nation's top 40 mini-golf courses, what will you really do in retirement?

Finally, learn the new rules of retirement. One thing's for sure: It's not your father's retirement.