What can we expect from our retirement years? We have financial advisors to help us look ahead and plan, but sometimes financial advisors can only take us so far; how does retirement look to someone who has been there?

The author of this article in Reuters writes that she learned quite a bit about retirement from her 91 year old mother, the first lesson being that “Retirement spending is a roller coaster, not a flat line.” According to the article the author’s mother chose to spend a lot of money on golf, travel and fun in the first few years of her retirement, but was later happy to settle down into a calmer, less expensive lifestyle later on. Her expenses didn’t go up again until near the end of her life when “her health deteriorated and she ended up spending thousands of dollars every month to cover her care.”

Preparing for long-term care can be essential to having a pleasant and affordable retirement; whether this means finding the right long-term care insurance or setting money aside in another vehicle and earmarking it for long-term care needs. “In the last year of my mother’s life, we were spending almost $7,000 a month of her money so that she could live in a nice place and get good care. If she had annuitized too much of her money or was living simply on pension checks, she wouldn’t have had the cash to do that. On the other hand, if she had a good long-term care policy, that might have helped.”

The last thing the author mentions in her article is that “The right paperwork really is helpful.” Having an updated will or trust, power of attorney, and healthcare directive or living will may not make it any less painful for you or your loved ones if you are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia, but it can make it easier for the people who care about you to spend quality time with you rather than with lawyers or accountants. The author’s mother had all her paperwork in order, which “made it very easy for me to manage her care and pay her bills when I had to. It was emotionally difficult to watch my mother give up her health and her spirit and her life, but I didn’t have to waste any of my time and worry on those bureaucratic details.”