16 Items Boomers Buy When They Retire That Are Completely Useless 

Sam Mire

Retiree Buys

Until you get there, retirement can feel like the great unknown. You have a plan but still don’t know precisely what challenges and adventures lie in wait.

Fortunately, you have your own metaphorical Edmund Hillarys and Chris Columbuses who have forged the path through retirement before you. Retirement success stories are proof that gliding smoothly on the raft of retirement savings is possible, but not if you make foolish purchases like these.

1. Anything Beyond Their Means

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Retiring in peace means having a detailed, conservative budget and sticking to it. That budget should include room for gifts, vacations, and other expenditures that make retirement worthwhile.

That budget will also tell you what is beyond your means. If a purchase doesn’t fit within the budget, don’t rationalize or let others guilt you. Irresponsible purchases are even less forgivable for retirees, as going back to work is not something you should have to do.

2. Items Meant to Attract Family Gatherings

Retirement party
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If your children, grandchildren, and siblings love you, they will come to visit. Whether you have a scraggly grass backyard with a couple of rusted chairs or a multi-thousand-dollar composite deck overlooking the Smoky Mountains, love leads family to make the trip.

Those who build extravagant gathering areas (or make other large expenditures) to attract family are making a mistake. While such purchases can be justified if they are within budget, thinking material goods will conjure more frequent visits from loved ones is foolhardy.

3. Speculative Travel Equipment

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If you have already booked the Alaskan excursion, you must purchase those waders, hiking poles, and the Yeti thermos. If you merely intend to go to Alaska during retirement, purchasing gear is irresponsible.

Never put the cart before the horse when purchasing travel-related items, especially if they aren’t items you would use in your everyday life should the trip never come to fruition.

4. Financed Vehicles and Boats

Just 27% of retirees say they are confident their savings will last them through retirement. You simply cannot afford to waste money on interest payments, especially the large interest payments that come with financed vehicles and boats.

These purchases can be especially costly due to high maintenance costs and rapid depreciation associated with BMWs, Boston Whalers, and other motorized vehicles and vessels.

5. Costly Exercise Equipment They’re Not Certain to Use

Home fitness workout woman training on smart stationary bike indoors watching screen connected online to live streaming subscription service for biking exercise. Young Asian woman athlete.
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You want to remain fit in your golden years and extend your life as long as possible—it’s a well-intentioned, even selfless motivation (your loved ones want you around, too). 

Such good intentions make it all the easier to fall into the trap of purchasing a Peloton stationary bike, Bowflex, or other high-priced workout equipment. Unless you’re sure the equipment will be used frequently, you may be blowing thousands of dollars you can’t afford to use.

6. A Recreational Vehicle

Family trip caravan camping
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Many retirees put off travel for most of their working years, vowing to see the country (or the world) once they have saved enough to retire. 

There are many ways to travel without shelling out tens of thousands of dollars for an RV. Despite what the influencers promise, traveling in an RV comes with complications, hassles, maintenance nightmares, and other challenges that can be costly and regret-inducing.

7. Non-Covered Medical Items or Services

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Medicare is one of the greatest perks of retirement, even though it is not free (as some wrongfully assume). Saving money on healthcare costs is a blessing, so take full advantage of Medicare-enabled savings.

If you believe an out-of-network treatment or provider can help you in ways that covered alternatives won’t, weigh the cost versus benefit. However, do your homework to ensure an in-network equivalent is unavailable before spending unnecessarily on health services.

8. Living Full-Time In a Resort

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If full-time resort living sounds like an extravagance, nobody would possibly indulge in, think again. Luxury senior living is a thriving industry, and some retirees even spend substantial periods at all-inclusive (and non-all-inclusive) resorts. 

You’ve worked your whole life; you deserve to be waited on hand and foot in the Aculpulcan sun, right? If you can genuinely afford it, sure. Most can’t.

9. Your “Dream Home”

Luxury House
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The thing about dreams is they’re not real. The financial money you need to fulfill your dream of owning a lakeside cabin or mountaintop villa may also not be real. As in, you may not have enough money to do it.

Overstretching yourself is one of the surest ways to get into financial trouble. This is true in both your working and retirement years. Maybe you can compromise with a “daydream home” that is a bit more modest.

10. Impractical Vacation Rentals

luxury vacations
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Timeshares fit into this category but are not the only strain of expensive, little-used vacation rental. Trust us, the pitch you hear from the salesperson will be convincing. “You’re sharing the costs,” they’ll say. “Your little oasis in Cancun is available (almost) whenever you want,” they’ll note.

Timeshares are a $10 billion industry. The salesperson won’t tell you that the legal industry’s arm that extricates timeshare owners from draconian financial obligations is perhaps just as large.

11. Antiques

Vintage-Style Photo Frames
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Antiquing is an acceptable way to spend a day, and you might find some keepsakes at bargain-bin prices. If you know what you’re doing, flipping antiques could be a nice side hustle in your later years.

Chronic antiquing, though, is not likely to be a lucrative hobby for most retirees. You’ll likely end up suffocated by old side tables and now-menacing trinkets as you try to figure out where all your money went.

12. Taking Care of Adult Children

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It turns out the kids are not all right. They keep hitting you up for money without concern for your financial well-being. 

Your adult children are healthy (we hope and presume). They have the energy to drive Uber or take on other side jobs to ease their financial woes. While giving a loan to an adult child with explicit repayment terms is common for many retirees, constantly bailing them out at your own expense is a sure way to go broke.

13. Amazon

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Even younger generations who spend most of their time out and about find ways to spend the equivalent of Guatemala's GDP on Amazon purchases. Retirees risk spending the equivalent of NATO’s collective GDP if they’re not careful.

Between the penchant for retirees to be less active, convinced that they’re financially set (they’re retired, after all!), and prone to the same e-temptations as everyone else, you must be very wary of Bezos’ online shopping rabbit hole.

14. Animals

travel with a pet

Having a four-legged companion in retirement can be just what the doctor ordered, especially for those spending their twilight years alone. Just be sure you can afford Fido’s vet bills before you purchase your new best friend.

Many retirees have not owned a dog, cat, or (snake?) for many years before considering it in retirement. Remember how expensive animals can be, and maybe settle for the stuffed alternative.

15. Self-Care Products

Woman buying skincare products
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This one may be aimed more at women, but men aren’t immune. Surveys of retirees suggest that getting one’s hair and nails done and engaging in other self-care routines is generally outsourced to third parties who expect money for their services. 

Only 10% of respondents said they dye their hair at home, while 36% go to the salon for their dye jobs. This is just a glimpse into how self-care can be a high (and unanticipated) cost in retirement if you’re not careful to limit your massages and dye jobs to once a month.

16. Robust Life Insurance

Couples discussing with Insurance Agent
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Life insurance costs generally increase with age, so it can be a heavy expense by the time you retire. 

For many, the cost of increasing life insurance in retirement is more than they can justify. Take an honest accounting of your dependents, and perhaps decide it’s time for them to sink or swim independently. You don’t need to compromise financial security or peace of mind in retirement to care for others from beyond the grave.

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