How Saying “No” Can Save Your Retirement
Life + Money

How Saying “No” Can Save Your Retirement


After years of dreaming and planning, you’ve finally said goodbye to the nine-to-five and retired. 

Adjusting to retirement and living with a fixed budget and a more flexible schedule can take months. Experts say one of the key things to do during the early days of retirement is to set limits, on the new demands you may face on both your time and your money. 

It’s tempting to say “yes” to friends and family who think you now have unlimited time to babysit or run errands on their behalf. And it can be hard to deny requests, especially by grown children, for financial assistance that may have been easier for you to give while you were still bringing home a paycheck. 

Related: 5 Things No One Ever Tells You About Retirement 

“We all have different ideas of our lives and what our dream retirement looks like,” says Donna Butts, executive director of Generations United. “There are some grandparents or older adults who think that they are being taken advantage of or asked for things too often, but there are many who feel like they aren’t asked enough. The most important thing is to communicate ahead of time." 

The happiest and most successful retirees have a plan in place around both their finances and their lifestyle before they ever stop working. That may include providing time and money to loved ones, but only as it fits within a retirees’ own plans. 

Still, saying “no” is one of the most important things you can do to ensure a successful retirement, both financially and emotionally. It may be difficult at first, but it gets easier with practice, and it gives you a chance to say “yes” to the things that can bring you joy. Here are 4 times it’s OK to say “no”: 

Related: How Medical Expenses Could Derail Your Retirement 

1.     To family financial needs.
Whether it’s your own aging parents or grown kids looking for help launching their own careers, a growing number of Baby Boomers -- more than 43 percent of U.S. retirees -- are providing regular financial support to family members, according to a report in May from HSBC. 

If you’ve got the means to provide the assistance that’s fine, but planners say that most retirees are putting their own security at risk by providing that kind of financial assistance. “Retired people who do want to continue to support their children can see what they can afford and make an annual gift to them,” says Ryder Taff, a portfolio manager with New Perspectives in Ridgeland, Mississippi. “They make it clear that this is all that they will give and it makes it easier to say no when the child asks for more.” 

If you can’t afford, or don’t want to continue supporting your kids, talk to them about adjusting their lifestyle so that they need less money or looking into options borrow to cover their costs. (Remember they can borrow money for college or a home, while you can’t borrow cash to pay for retirement.) 

Saying no to aging parents when aging parents need medical help may be more difficult, but it’s worth checking in with your siblings to see if costs can be shared or looking into government programs that can provide assistance to low-income seniors. 

Related: 7 Common Myths that Could Ruin Your Retirement 

2.     To time-consuming favors.
You’re retired, and suddenly everyone thinks you’re free to drive him to the airport or wait around for deliveries. Of course, making life easier for your loved ones is an important part of being a good friend or family member and can offer satisfaction and rewards of its own. And for some people, certain time-consuming activities—like watching grandkids—are the ideal way to spend a retirement.

For others, though, the time commitment of some favors can lead to resentment. “Eventually that resentment is going to squeak out somewhere else,” says stress relief coach Ryan West. “Resentment is not a happy place to be, and that’s one of the reasons we see so many health problems in retirement.”

If that’s the case, give yourself permission to set limits on the time you can give to others. Be honest with the person to whom you’re saying no, and don’t feel guilty. “You don’t owe anyone an explanation for anything,” West adds.

3.     To your boomerang kid.
So much for that empty nest. One in four adults ages 25 to 34 now lives in a multi-generational household, according to the Per Research Center, driven by young adults who have moved back to their parents’ home (or never left). 

Having your adult children in your home can be costly, especially if it’s postponing your plans to downsize or if you kid is not paying his share of the bills. Have a frank discussion with your child about when he or she plans to move out, and start collecting rent. (Teaching your children how to budget for the expense will help once they’re on their own.  If you don’t need the cash, put it into a savings account on their behalf.) 

Related: How Wall Street Is Fighting to Rip Off Your Retirement Money

4.     To keeping up with the Joneses.
Once you’ve said ‘no’ to everyone else, make sure you’re able to say ‘no’ to yourself once in a while as well. If your retired friends are taking lavish vacations and dining out often, it can be tempting to follow their example. After all, you worked hard for decades to get to this retirement. 

“Unlike pre-retirees who are still working and may have an opportunity to bring in more income to offset overspending, retirees have a greater need to live within that budget,” says James Nichols, head of retirement income and advice strategy for retirement solutions at Voya Financial. “You need to be honest with yourself and with your peers.” 

You should certainly allot some money in your budget for leisure and vacations, but only after making sure that your long-term retirement security is on track. After all, you never know what the Joneses real financial picture looks like. Maybe, they need to work on saying ‘no’ also. 

Top Reads from The Fiscal Times: