CHICAGO Retirees know a lot about what it's like to be retired, but they often don't get asked for their advice.
So Reuters decided to go to the source. We asked several retirees what they would tell their 40-year-old selves if they could go back in time. If they could redo retirement, what would they do differently? Here's what they said.
Bette Cantile, 80
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Retired as a receptionist in Grand Rapids Township at 63
Advice: "Don't wait to start traveling." When Bette's husband, Bob, retired in 1997 from his factory job at Steelcase, they took a cruise with stops in San Francisco and Alaska. It was a highlight for the couple, who have lived in Grand Rapids their entire lives. It makes her wish they'd taken off much sooner. "Right now we're looking into Hawaii."
Charles Ebeling, 68
Divides his time between Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, and Chicago
Retired as McDonald's Corp vice president of corporate communications, at 56
Advice: Don't be in a rush to retire. Ebeling has few regrets about retiring young, but he does wonder what else he could've accomplished had he stayed at McDonald's, where he was one of only 32 corporate officers when he left voluntarily in 2000. "I would've suggested that I work towards a retirement that came later ... Even if I had never got another promotion, I would be so fat and happy now that I would be a philanthropist."
Anne, 75 and Bruce Hunt, 75, married 55 years
Retired: Hunt left her job as a corporate writer when she was 72, but she still freelances. "I can't bring myself to say I'm retired," she says. Bruce retired as a PricewaterhouseCoopers analyst, at 62, and as an adjunct professor teaching organization behavior at North Park University, at 75
Advice: Build your dream house when you can, says Anne. This is less in the nature of a regret than a glad-we-did-it comment. Hunt worked with an architect to build her dream house on Illinois' Lake Zurich in the late 1980s and still loves the space. "Once the kids were out of the house, I could look beyond them. It was a personally creative time for me," she says.
"Pay attention to your body," counsels Bruce. He had a heart attack at 60, and took it as a wake-up call to start exercising more and eating right.
Barbara Robinson, 71
Retired as an executive assistant at 57
Advice: Cultivate a generous heart. Robinson says that in the wealth-building journey, it took her time to realize that the most lasting investment of all comes in giving to causes that matter. "Even a $10 donation makes you a philanthropist. Prosperity is a state of mind and has little to do with one's bank account."
John Graves, 63
Retired: Not just yet. Graves is a financial adviser editor of The Retirement Journal
Advice: Live in a community. Most retirees seem to do the best when they have projects ready on the first day of retirement, and have causes to participate in that keep them in contact with other vital people. "When we retire, we want to continue to participate and to give back ... Our passion to work is replaced by a new passion to work for others."
Michael Herman Sr., 66
Sun City West, Arizona
Retired as a sales manager, at 49. Herman's early retirement was influenced by the onset of Parkinson's Disease.
Advice: Keep growing, no matter what. Despite any physical disabilities, Herman plowed head-first into writing as a retiree, and completed his first novel, "Silent Auction," which he published in 2003. It's a thriller about some unexpected surprises that come with purchasing seized property from the government. "I love writing ... The imagination is released from the mind onto paper, and I've enjoyed the mastery of it."
Keith Haines, 62
Maple Shade, New Jersey
Retired as a New Jersey public school history teacher, at 58
Advice: "Spend more time with your children and less time trying to make money and buy things you think everyone needs," he says. Children will remember time spent and wisdom shared, not so much the items you provided." And, at the end of the day, family time is golden.
(Editing by Jilian Mincer, Linda Stern and Steve Orlofsky)