How Family Vacations Can Prepare You For Retirement

Robert Laura, Contributor, Forbes
May 17, 2016

Initially, you might think there’s no similarity between retirees and a five-hour car ride with elementary school kids, but my recent family vacation provides anyone preparing to enter retirement with some powerful lessons. 

Batteries Only Last So Long

Before we were even out of the neighborhood, the kids had fired up their tablet, Nintendo, and other electronics.  Those devices all make annoying noises but do keep the kids from asking the dreaded question, “Are we there yet?”  That is until the batteries die, first in one and then another.  Kids’ boredom, angst, nonstop questions, and complaints of hunger and thirst leave you begging for the relative peace of electronic game noise.  Suddenly, the dynamics of the trip change dramatically and you have to be prepared to meet the challenges of four kids sharing two game systems, with frequent stops for food, gas, and bathroom breaks. 

Similarly, many people enter retirement thinking their batteries will last forever. Feeling that time is on their side, they don’t feel rushed to travel to Europe, treat the grandkids to a water park vacation, or even concentrate on improving their golf game or dance steps.  Few realize that retirement is a constantly draining battery, with limited re-charges.  Whether its disease, diminished physical ability, or loss of an important sense such as hearing or vision, afflictions can quickly change your plans and your mood as you travel down the retirement road.  That makes it important for retirees to have a list of people they can rely on as well as a list of things they want to do to meet the challenges a draining battery can create.  This is particularly important for married couples because if one spouse’s battery drains before another, not only will retirement plans change but so can traditional roles. 

Everything Is Not Fun Or Relaxing

The general idea of a vacation is to have fun and relax; to escape the stress of work and daily routine … pamper yourself … see and experience new things … and create memories.  But when one of your kids pushes the other one off the jungle gym, another throws up on a boat ride and then steps in horse poop with their new shoes, and when a $25 pizza falls sauce-down on the floor, work and daily routine can sound awesome.

Likewise, retirement will have its ups and downs.  A number of studies have shown that many retirees aren’t satisfied in the early years of retirement because their pre-retirement expectations aren’t being met.  Just as people can be overly optimistic about how a family vacation will go, expectations that assume everything in retirement will be better compared to working can backfire, resulting in some retirees wishing they were back at the office.  

Unfortunately, stress and anxiety don’t discriminate.  They are part of every aspect of life, including vacations and retirement.  The advantage of a vacation is that people have multiple things planned, so no single negative event derails the entire trip.  Retirees need a similar plan, making sure they have multiple things to occupy their time and mind so they don’t get bogged down when they encounter a challenge.  

Things Always Cost More

Retirement and family vacations are two of life’s most planned-for events.  Both usually come with lots of expenses, and a budget helps to control those costs.  And, in both cases, it usually doesn’t take long to blow that dough.

Prior to our family trip, I took my van in for a check-up.  True to form, it needed $850 worth of work.  When we arrived at our vacation destination, we decided to upgrade our accommodations to gain some extra space (remember, we just spent hours and hours in the car with four kids).  Dinners made at home for a few bucks cost 10 times as much on the road and, of course, there’s the need for ice cream, replacing lost flip flops, buying firewood, and regularly replenishing the grown-ups’ aspirin supply.

Yes, vacation living is very different than everyday life.  Your first family vacation isn’t as easy or organized as your second, third and so on.  Likewise, each year of retirement breeds more familiarity and know-how. Allowing you to adjust and adapt instead of feeling stressed if your budget gets stretched out at any point.  Now that’s not a license to spend uncontrollably, it’s simply a suggestion to relax and enjoy a little ice cream on the journey. 

All in all, some people have said that many American’s spend more time planning a two week vacation than they do their retirement, and whether that’s the case for you or not, there are some great lessons new and soon-to be retirees can get from a regular family vacation.   

This article was written by Robert Laura from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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