Retirement: The Honey Trap

One of  last summer's isitors, Cindy, talked about her 2018 retirement, and how much income she will need. Coincidentally, LauraH sent a link to useful material for Canadians (including a Wealth Target Calculator), here. (Note: The material is not a sales pitch for financial products, and does promote a book.)

Unless money is no object, those facing retirement should pay close attention to both income and expenses.  The Canadian journalist Peter Trueman once remarked, "We learned it is healthier and easier to live on less than it is to try to earn more."  

Expense reduction is like exercise: you have to find something you like so you'll stick with it. I love to read others' strategies, but I can't do all of them: couponing, thrifting, allottment gardens, bartering, DIY haircuts or colour, renting out a spare room, and more. Only the hardcore frugality bloggers do everything on the list.

Having watched myself and friends for a decade, I realize many expenses are just habits, either of behaviour or of attitude.

The behavioural habits include not attending to home energy use (I dislike equalized payments because they make it too easy to ignore our behaviour), buying too much food (giveaway: a slimy cucumber is a part of the fridgescape), or letting "three-month free" trial offers roll into monthly charges, without really noticing.

The attitudinal habits are tied to identity or ego: the status hairdresser who is like a best friend; the costly destination wedding; the fancy restaurant or pricey concert your friend picks. If you are on a budget and friends are still pulling in dough, you can get caught up in their world.

A particularly fraught corner of that territory is the Honey Wants It trap. Honey (chosen to be gender inclusive) wants his own car, he is "used to his freedom". Honey does not want to downsize the home, or drop her six subscriptions to decor magazines. Honey is still ordering hundreds of dollars worth of wine, (or dietary supplements, fishing gear, cosmetics) even as they accumulate. Honey cherishes the annual trip to Puerto Vallarta on the anniversary of the day you met.

I've had more than one smart and sensible woman tell me, Yes I know how to reduce expenses, but Honey Wants It, and I love Honey. And, Honey can dive-bomb your retirement budget.

Of course you do not want to remove the joy from Honey's life, so pick your battles. Do the numbers and show Honey how the expenses affect the stewardship of limited resources. I say this as someone who convinced her Honey to give up car ownership. It took at least a year of facts, figures and (I hope) gentle pressure, but now you could not give Le Duc a car. (He has a nice bike, though.)

If you don't want to raise the matter with Honey, and you use a financial planner, ask the pro to deliver the news—but you will still have to advocate. Cindy and Sue's advisor showed Sue that rent for their big storage locker would pay for the Puerto Vallarta trip every year. (What was in the locker? Nothing they ever used.) Sue is a mortgage broker, which shows how even someone who works with money can benefit from good advice.

When Honey is a"junker", like my delightful retired neighbour, Rick, the suggestion of cutting back is a hard sell: "I mean, it cost nothing!" But even if the cost per item is low, it adds up when you factor in the fine antique sideboard Rick just bought to hold his scores.

If there's no Honey in the picture, a woman can still be influenced by voices past. Tricia held on to a big house because her late partner Alan was in a way still there with her. One night she realized, He is in my heart, not this house.

Pat struggled to keep her boat, because she treasures her sailing community—her club were her Honeys. When she would talk about selling, they cried, "Oh no; you are the best Commodore we ever had!" She sold when she finished her current term, and now has more invitations to crew than she can accept. She says it is such a joy to have the fun but not the upkeep.

If you hold investments, the cost of their management is another expense. Securities courses are filling to overflow as more women decide to take control of their own portfolios. You need knowledge and a certain temperament to do this and still sleep at night, and I'll be interested in seeing the results among several friends who have embarked on this path.

I also recommend a lighthearted exploration of how, as somebody's Honey, you Trap. I am, of course, Le Duc's, and time was I could Honey Trap him at warp speed; he hated to even ask questions about something I "had to have", let alone say no.

We agreed that significant purchases will be discussed first and we know one another's Achille's Tendon. We're now more mindful of the habitual nature of consumption than when we began retired and semi-retired life.

Honey is sweet, but peace of mind, delicious.




18 comments

The Widow Badass said...

Love this post! I have no more Honeys to trap me, but I am working on being much more mindful with my own spending as I contemplate retirement.

Margie from Toronto said...

No "Honey" to worry about here - it's hard enough worrying about myself amid a forced early retirement. I'm good about most things (have to be since things are so tight) but socializing and eating out is my downfall. Even just coffee and cake is an easy $10 to $15 in Toronto and even lunch at a pub is a minimum of $20. It doesn't sound like much until you start to add up the number of times per month!
Luckily my friends are mostly a group of folks who do think to take into account all our varying incomes. A few of us have decided to try entertaining at home more - and I don't mean gourmet meals - but perhaps a soup and dessert night - or an at home picnic with a game night of scrabble or monopoly thrown in. I've also found a number of free things to do (the perks of living in a big city) so there are options - but it is a different world - especially if you are on your own and don't have those investments to fall back on.

Duchesse said...

The Widow Badass: See Margie's comments below; Honeys can be friends, or even acquaintances. When I asked a friend what I could bring to her mother that she would enjoy, she named a very expensive Scotch- and I was already taking her out. I brought a bottle of wine and she was perfectly happy.

Margie: Socializing friends are usually inadvertent Honeys. Cooperative meals in someone's home are much better for the budget, if kept simple, and they can go on longer, without pressure to free up a table. At a friend's recently, six women spent four hours without leaving the table!

The Widow Badass said...

Good point, Duchesse! For now, I am my own worst Honey Trap...hehehe!

Mary said...

Just one month from retirement, so a timely reminder. Since my Honey isn't retiring anytime soon, he dreams of a new car and likes estate sales, I find myself reminding him at least weekly, that some things are just not going to be possible with the reduction of my (larger) income. I have a feeling it is going to be a bumpy ride.

materfamilias said...

We're still finding our way, but I may point out someday that I don't watch TV at all anymore and his football games cost an extra $80 or so per month. Or I may not, as he's not a big spender overall. That football and the coffee he enjoys going out for three or four mornings a week are the big splurges (and the cost of the coffee-and-paper get me this place to myself for an hour, so . . . .

Duchesse said...

materfamilias: I too have a sports-subscription Honey. I accept that as part of our entertainment budget , but there have been minor tradeoffs citing that and plenty of time for me to indulge in my favourite Netflix series. A family member put me on her subscription, gracefully taking care of gifts from her for... forever, I guess.

Jan Fawke said...

Oh my goodness! This is so timely... I am about to retire! Like the widowbadass, I am my own worst Honey... I love my magazines! I'm madly renewing my subscriptions while I still have money coming in. However, I will definitely need to think carefully about priorities down the track.

LauraH said...

Striking the right balance between retirement expenses and income is the trickiest financial game in town. As far as I can tell, none of the 'experts' have been able to figure it out. I recently read some amazing statistics about the large number of elderly who die leaving big bucks on the table because they were afraid they would run out of money. I recognize that impulse in myself - an amount that I would have considered moderate as an income seems much much larger when I think about taking it out of my savings.

One small move has been to unsubscribe to most commercial emails...you can't be tempted by what you don't hear about:-) And I agree about the equalized energy payments, I prefer to see the reality and make changes if it's out of line.

The Widow Badass said...

Jan, you may want to check out your local library. Mine has lots of magazines - you can't borrow them but you can read them on site.

Laura H, I have just done the same thing. Been unsubscribing like mad lately...except for a very select few commercial emails. It's amazing how a little email can inspire you to have to buy something you had no idea you "needed" before you opened it up!

Duchesse said...

LauraH: If a person has someone to turn to if she outlives her money, that's one thing, but if not, IMO it is wise to err on the side of caution.

Too many do not presently have sufficient means to live with dignity in old age, never mind thinking about leaving money when they die.

Duchesse said...

The Widow Badass: I've done that too, and also unfollowed a few blogs that are exclusively oriented toward consumption. I also track all my discretionary spending, so I know where it;s going, and assess it in terms of value (tangible and intangible) at year end. Kind of obsessive... thanks, Mom.

The Widow Badass said...

Duchesse, there certainly are a lot of blogs, style blogs especially, that are really just advertising dressed up as something else. These are bloggers trying to make a living at it, I suppose. Good for them, I wish them well...but they are not what I want to read about. Your blog, however, I do love. Your posts are thoughtful and real. Thank you for that. Thank you for being you.

Jane said...

I also stopped all magazine subscriptions. Not because of the cost of the magazines, but because I found myself making lists of things I "needed" to achieve the perfect home/wardrobe/face.

The retirement trap I worry about is healthcare. I live in the U.S. where good health is a luxury for the rich and luckily insured.

Duchesse said...

Jane: I think the term is "house porn" ;)

Healthcare is not exactly a Honey Trap, but it's a pitfall when one has unanticipated expenses or inadequate protection. Even in Canada if someone needs medications that are not on the government approved list, you have to pay. There are some charitable foundations that can help, or you can make your case to the government, but in the meantime, friends of mine have had to spend serious amounts. We also have to pay for some allied services such as physiotherapy and dental care (with exceptions.)

lagatta à montréal said...

In general, it isn't the ghastly situation it is in the US, but in terms of dental care (which is essential to health, not merely cosmetic) and several aspects of mental health care, you are up sh*ts creek if you can't afford it.

But that is a case of inequity, not "honeys".

Duchesse said...

lagatta: While I would love to see dental care- or at least some of it- included in our free health care, I know there is also a cost, which has to be paid by taxes. As far as mental health care, my perspective differs. I have known persons here for decades who have received a great deal of care both for crises and ongoing therapy, either free, or tied to their incomes. Another strategy is to raise the minimum wage, which so that individuals can direct their own spending.

lagatta à montréal said...

http://www.ctvnews.ca/health/high-costs-keep-6-million-canadians-from-the-dentist-each-year-report-1.2004438

Fortunately an improvement has been seen here recently in terms of psychological care

Minimum wage is utterly inadequate to address either of those deficiencies in an otherwise generally good system.