Our needs on the planet are pretty basic. We need water, food, clothing and shelter for basic living. If we have a roof over our heads and are kept warm in the Winter and cool in the Summer, we are doing good. If we have running water, electricity, natural gas and have food in the pantry, we are doing good. Another basic need item may be transportation to get to work, school and to shop for basic needs. After that, our needs become more like wants. In the U.S., I feel that most of us have the basic needs met and most of what we desire fall into the want category.
In retirement once basic needs are taken care of, we can work on things we want. If you have sufficient funds you can now get the things you want for your hobbies and your well deserved free time. You can upgrade your car to something that will be dependable and last you many years. You can buy things you have wanted for years but never got around to getting. Recently, I purchased a lever action Henry rifle. This was definitely not a need and was just something that I thought was cool and wanted for the sake of owning it. My wife and I often go into our local Walmart to purchase things we need such as milk, eggs, coffee, etc. But, we always come out with twice as much stuff as what was on our list because we find so much that we want once we get to shopping!
I am fortunate that I have a good retirement pension and our needs are easily met. I need to cut down some of my spending on items that I want at the moment. I know there are many people in retirement that do struggle to meet needs. Those living on a low fixed retirement income or those that have lost the higher earning spouse due to divorce or death are certainly watching the pennies on a regular basis. In retirement, we all need to have a good balance of satisfying the wants and not get so carried away with spending that we jeopardize our future retirement years. On the other hand, if you have the funds, now is the time to enjoy spending your hard earned funds to a certain extent.
I've always heard that those who lived through the depression years were frugal for the rest of their lives based on that experience. Even as a young child my family did not have the funds to purchase a lot of extra things. Our basic needs were met and we didn't live poorly, but we did not get everything we wanted. Christmas and birthdays were special times where some of the things I wanted were gifted to me and dearly appreciated. In this day and age most of us jump on Amazon or some other website and purchase about anything we need or want and have it delivered the next day. What a spoiled society we have become.
My son was recently looking to buy his first house here in the OKC metro area. He started looking months ago when houses were selling within hours and they were selling for above list price. My wife and I went with him to several showings and open houses to give him company during this time. We went with him to one showing of a house built in 1966. The outside was nice and clean and well taken care of. The windows had wrought iron deco along the side of the front windows for a shutter effect. As we entered the house, we entered a time capsule. This house was just as it was when first built in 1966. As we entered the bathroom, we noticed the tile was original as well as the tub and showers. The second bath also had the original "vintage" tile. The light fixtures through most of the house were original. The woodwork and built in wood shelving were all original to the house. In the kitchen, the stove and oven also looked to be the original appliances. The only thing that I saw that was an update was a whole house generator on the back patio.
The owners of this home had lived in that house since 1966 and must have asked themselves the question of "Do we need it or do we want it?" and only did something to the house if it was a need. They did not rip out the tile every time a new trend came along. They did not get new kitchen appliances because Better Homes & Gardens said stainless was in style this year. That 1966 stove heated up the meals as well as the new stainless stove would. The bathroom tilework did it's job since 1966 without any need to change the color for the sake of changing the color. I can only imagine what the owners could have spent the remodel money they would have spent over the last 56 years. Maybe they took a few trips that they wouldn't have been able to afford if they had remodeled every 10 years. Maybe they helped send their grandkids to college. The home was a very comfortable feeling place as we walked through. I'm sure many family gatherings were held there and many good memories were made. And, since they didn't remodel and tear out the original tile, fixtures, etc., the house is back in fashion as the mid century modern deco becomes popular again.
I need to remind myself to reuse, repurpose and recycle instead of throw away and replace as I often do. Have you ever been into a house like the one above and been amazed that major changes were never done to keep up with trends? The same want vs. need can come into play with about any product. Cars are another item that are often replaced for a newer version when the old can be used for many more years with no problems. Every once in awhile I see an older person driving a car from the 60's or 70's that still looks original and in great shape. I'm not talking about a restoration or collector car, but just an average car that had been used to get around town for decades. When I think of someone driving an older car because it still works, I think of Sam Walton who drove an old 1979 Ford truck even when he was a billionaire.
Do you remodel to stay up with current trends? Or, have you resisted remodels and live in a house from the 60's and 70's that is still decorated like the Brady Bunch house? Do you drive an older car or know of someone who still drives an older car every day? What is your take on wants vs. needs in your retirement years? Have you made a purchase of a major want now that you are retired?