5 Signs Your Excessive Spending in Retirement Will Send You Back To Work (2024)

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Retirement is supposed to be the chapter that follows your career, but bad breaks — and bad habits — can quickly send undisciplined retirees right back to their jobs.

“Many retirees are forced to return to employment due to financial issues caused by overspending,” said Oak View Law Group principal attorney Lyle Solomon, an attorney with expertise in personal finance, debt relief, tax, estate planning and employment law. “They spend more than their monthly budget and suffer immensely. According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute’s 2023 Retirement Confidence Survey, nearly half (49%) of retirees reported that their overall spending was higher than they planned when they first retired, up from 36% in 2022.”

Here are the red flags that you’re at risk of spending yourself back to work.

You’re Supporting Adult Children

You might always see your young or youngish adult children as babies, but their bills are all grown up.

“One of the most common overspending habits I see is when retirees support their adult children to the detriment of their own financial health,” said Austin Kobilka, a financial planner with Patriot Wealth in Raleigh, N.C. “Parents feel an emotional tie to their kids and they want to do whatever they can to help them, but it can increase their expenses exponentially.

“For example, you might have a child who is fresh out of college and having trouble finding a job in this economy. You could suddenly find yourself paying for their apartment rent while they search for a job and footing the bill for their groceries. Before you know it, you could be spending $50,000 a year or more to support your child. This kind of major expense can force someone out of retirement and back into the workforce if they’re not careful.”

Your Hobbies Are Outgrowing Your Budget

When you imagine your days as a retiree filled with fishing charters and road trips, make sure to imagine the associated expenses, too.

“A lot of retirees underestimate how much free time they’ll have in retirement,” Kobilka said. “Naturally, the more free time you have, the more money you tend to spend. It’s not uncommon to see people spending an additional $6,000 over what they spent per year pre-retirement on hobbies and activities alone. Many common pastimes, like golf, can come with expensive membership and equipment fees that add up quickly. If retirees have not planned ahead for these added expenses, they may have to start supplementing their retirement income.”

Digital Marketers See You as a Reliable Impulse Purchaser

Retirement leaves a whole lot of time to scroll online — and deliberate, highly personalized temptation is never far away.

“Anyone can fall victim to impulse purchases, but boomers are being heavily targeted by online advertisers these days,” Kobilka said. “Retirees may find themselves scrolling through social media in their free time, and it’s easier than ever to click ‘buy’ on things we don’t necessarily need. Poor online shopping habits can lead to credit card bills and create a cycle of debt that is hard to escape.”

Your Budget Struggles To Satisfy Your Wanderlust

Traveling plays a lead role in countless retirement dreams, but reckless vacation spending can lead you right back to work.

“Travel in retirement can give you a break from life’s daily structure and refresh and reenergize you,” Solomon said. “But too much traveling is bad for your monthly budget. Remember, as a retiree you have limited income in your nest egg. Your travel budget will be your sole responsibility. The more you spend on traveling and expensive vacations, the faster you’ll drain your nest egg.”

You Got a Taste for the Finer Things

In retirement, it’s easy to adopt an “I’ve earned it” mentality toward luxuries that necessity forced you to forgo in your working years. In most cases, it’s probably best to keep on forgoing.

“Buying something expensive for yourself or for your loved one feels pleasurable,” Solomon said. “But, too much spending on expensive luxury items can make a big hole in your retirement savings. An expensive car, jewelry, shoes, artifacts, home decor and exotic animals like rare dog breeds, birds, etc., can deplete your retirement funds faster, but they cannot give you recurring income. That’s why investing money in these items is worthless. You should rather invest in stocks, bonds and other high-yielding investments.”

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