Personal Finance column: Are your retirement faucets dripping?

I grew up in Denver with a water resource engineer for a father. We took short showers, turned the water off while brushing our teeth, had a pan of water in the kitchen sink to rinse dinner dishes with and were strongly encouraged to play in the summer sprinklers when the grass needed it. Who else grew up with the mantra “If it’s brown, flush it down — if it’s yellow, let it mellow”? I don’t take this precious resource for granted, and as a life financial planner, I can see many similarities with using our money wisely.

In my spring season of life when financial assets were minimal, I was very cognizant and intentional about how I used my money. Each choice was calculated and appreciated. It was hard, but it taught me the value of the dollar. Think of a time when you were really intentional about the financial choices you made. What has changed as you have moved through life?

Just as we take water for granted when it is plentiful, as your wealth grows, you can take those resources for granted, losing the connection with what you have and your choices. You wind up not having as much as you could, wondering where it went, or even lamenting that you “never have enough.”

Moving into your fall season, or distribution years, it is important to reconnect with the intentionality of where your financial resources are and how you are using them wisely. The stock market and much of life is out of our control. But there are mindsets and tools that are within your realm of authority. Take the helm on this journey where you can.


1. Check out your pipes

Money flows into your life from different sources — work, social security, pensions, investment assets and real estate, to name a few. You have different buckets of financial resources. It is your responsibility to decide what spigots to turn on and when from each of these buckets in order to create the sustainable income streams for your lifestyle, longevity and legacy intentions.

2. Look for leaks and waste

If your kitchen faucet is dripping, you can replace a part to make it stop. If your sprinkler head is broken, water sprays in all directions instead of going where you want it. If you have a break in an irrigation line underground, you won’t see the damage until the water starts percolating to the surface. Just as we should minimize water waste, no matter how much wealth you have — don’t waste it.

Look for financial leaks. Go through your credit card and bank/debit statements. Are you paying for things on a monthly basis that are no longer important to you? If you have auto withdrawals for insurance premiums, review your policies to determine if there is anything that needs to be changed. Create a spending plan. Know what you have and direct it where you want it to go.

Many people pay more in taxes than they should. There are legal and creative ways to mitigate and minimize this leak in order to keep more in your pocket.

3. Refresh and revitalize yourself

Use your money to bring refreshing, life enhancing enjoyment to your days. Are you making spending choices with joyful intention? If you tune out what the neighbors, media, advertisers and financial services industry is saying your life in retirement “should” look like, you can start creating your version of true wealth and align your financial decisions with what brings fulfillment to your life.

The benefits of intentional money management in retirement include:

• You will enjoy it in ways you didn’t think possible.

• You will create reservoirs to manage the unexpected events that life throws at you.

• You will free up your time and money to help refresh others.

The next time you turn on your faucet to fill your glass, take pause and think about how you want to direct and enjoy your money with new mindfulness.

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