I knew it was going to be a long weekend when I heard water rushing in my garage. Yes, it was raining hard outside, but this sound was definitely coming from inside. I looked around without luck and finally opened the storm cellar door. Our tornado shelter had become a hot tub! No longer cool and dry, it was now a dark, humid, mosquito-y hole with water streaming in at a rapid pace.
I donned my rubber boots and headed down the stairs, brushing the mosquitos away. Two feet of water greeted me before I reached the bottom step, and I grabbed a bucket and scooped down into the *thank God* cleanish water that didn’t appear or smell like the sewer.
After a dozen or so trips up and down the ladder with a sloshing bucket, I was tired, bitten, and covered in mud and sweat. I gave up and bought a sump pump. Eighteen inches of water later and having managed not to electrocute myself with the pump, I learned that sump pumps have floats. Since they don’t pump below that level, I rented another pump and drained the rest of the water.
Next, I rerouted all the downspouts on the front of the house because they were flooding the flower beds. Within 48 hours, the crisis had been averted. The storm cellar was dryish, albeit with a running fan, and all that was left was to tape or concrete the crack I found.
Other than a ploy for sympathy, why am I telling you this story? Well, as I was staggering through the garage with buckets of water, I realized that as I got older, I wouldn’t be able to do this myself. I started thinking about all the tasks we complete that may be difficult or impossible for us when we are in retirement.
There is a common rule of thumb from financial advisers that clients’ retirement spending will be approximately 80% of their current spending. I always distrust these approximations because they are inaccurate so many times. Sometimes, the estimate is high, but more often it is too low. Instead, I prefer to organize retirement cash flow needs around current spending habits and then adjust them for expenses that are expected to be eliminated or incurred.
Many of the changes are easy to recognize. Mortgages are paid, but medical issues arise. The money saved in work-related expenses can quickly be offset by funding end-of-life care. What startled me last weekend is that there is an entire category of expenses we may be overlooking—paying someone to do work that we currently do ourselves.
Many of us clean the house, mow the lawn, and complete odd jobs without a second thought. There will be a time, however, if you plan to “age in place” that you will have to hire out all these tasks. Had I hired others to solve my storm cellar/hot tub issue, the bill could have easily been several hundred dollars even before we addressed the issue of the crack in the wall.
As you complete your retirement spending projections, don’t forget to budget money to pay for the work that will eventually be too difficult. If you begin to save from an early age, the additional funding will be easy to absorb. However, even if you are older, you can significantly increase your retirement assets by committing to saving extra funds every single month. In any case, it’s important to remember that you won’t always be as strong as you are today. No one wants to be juggling a bucket of water on a walker!