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Your Finance: Having fun while saving for retirement

Stopping work early or starting to take Social

Stopping work early or starting to take Social Security benefits early can really sap income from the later years of retirement, experts say. Credit: iStock

By the time you are nearing the pre-retirement years, you've probably heard all that nose-to-the-grindstone advice hundreds of times: Work longer. Cinch the belt tighter. Plow as much as possible into your 401(k) because you might live to be 100 and you'll need that money later.

Yes, but what if? As in, what if you are impatient to start doing some of that travel you planned to do when you retire?

Stopping work early or starting to take Social Security benefits early can really sap income from the later years of retirement, experts say. But cutting back on retirement contributions in the later years of work is far less damaging.

And those fun activities may be more affordable while you're still working. Consider Pat Killian Vesperman, a senior analyst with Verizon in Mahwah, N.J., who, at 59, is starting to segue into retirement and treating herself to some fun along the way.

She knows her budget will probably require a move away from the costly New York suburbs when she does retire, but that hasn't stopped her from sharing season tickets to the Yankees with her daughter while she's there.

"Having gone through breast cancer nine years ago, the one thing I would like is to learn a little more about getting the most out of today," she says. "I don't look as far ahead as other people might."

So Vesperman spends vacations scouting for her retirement home in places like San Antonio and Tampa, Fla. She's not in a particular hurry to retire; she thinks she would enjoy moving to a cheaper and warmer clime and keeping her position for a while.

Here are some more ideas about how to have the fun now without blowing through the resources you need for later:

Don't quit your day job. Giving up income and benefits and starting Social Security will set you back, so plan to keep working if you can.

Consider less work. If you can't work part time, maybe you can at least squeeze an extra week or two of vacation out of your employer. Even if you have to use a few weeks of unpaid leave, that can get you the time you need for a special trip without really setting back your long-term budget plan.

Do some retirement adventures now. Think about the special trips you are putting off until retirement and try to figure out whether they are doable now. Why not take the anniversary cruise or three-week European sublet while you are on vacation, instead of waiting until you've finished work?

Scout out the future. Take your vacations where you expect to retire. That doesn't just give you the fun of a vacation, it lets you drop into your next stage to see if you like it.

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