By: Thomas C. Holmes
Statistics paint a disturbing picture of the future for retirees who have not planned appropriately. As a professional in the financial services industry since 1972, I have read many books and articles on the subject of retirement planning and investing. They all have an important message in common: Make a retirement plan, and stick with it.
If you take responsibility for your life and take steps to ensure that you have enough money during your retirement years, when you finally own your time you will face a joyful future with both time and money to enjoy leisure activities. When you don’t take personal responsibility, you might find a long period of bare existence.
First you need to determine what you can reasonably expect to need (or want) as an income during retirement years.
Remember your last vacation and the time you spent planning it? You most likely discussed with friends, spouse, and children where to go and how to get there. You probably contacted a travel agent, airline representative, or resort manager. You may even have done some research gathering other information. Have you devoted as much time, research, and planning to ensure that you will have a comfortable and secure retirement as you did to planning your last vacation?
One subject where most financial experts agree is Americans as a group are not aggressively planning for their retirement. Research has shown that two-thirds of the baby boom generation will not be able to live at even one-third of their pre-retirement lifestyle during the golden years. Re-read the last sentence and imagine what this will mean not only to you as a future retiree, but also to our economy.
Each person is in a different life stage when the process of retirement planning is started. Therefore, each of these individual stages must be taken into consideration when forming a financial plan. Putting aside $5,000 annually in an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) or utilizing 401(k) options is only the beginning.
You will need to take a hard look at where your money is going now. You need to weigh the choices of your future security, serenity, and joy against the instant gratification of spending money today. If you believe you can survive on your present savings or income by cutting back on expenses such as clubs, clothes, automobiles, and parties in retirement, or that you can get by simply by moving to a cheaper neighborhood, will inevitably lead to disaster. What are you to do if you have a modest lifestyle now, before retirement? Move happily into poverty?
Retirement planning is a family issue. Failing to take it seriously will impact the entire family. Perhaps you’ve seen the commercial showing the middle-aged man suggesting that his young child quit elementary school and go to work (or his elderly parent get a job mowing grass) because he has failed to plan for retirement. It is very funny to watch, but in reality, ruinous.
Failing to adequately plan for retirement is not a new issue. As you live longer and your standard of living increases, the need to plan early, start early, and put retirement goals first is amplified.
In his book The Retirement Threat Tony Lamb wrote about the tragedy of retirees who spent their pre-retirement years dreaming of a glorious time of leisure with the freedom to spend time pursuing hobbies, taking trips, dining out, and spending wonderful evenings at home enjoying the independence of retirement. Instead he found that many were in dire financial straits. Lamb discovered that these retirees had no spare cash to pursue hobbies, to eat well, or to vacation. Some even avoided their children so they wouldn’t be aware of their parents’ limited resources.
Lamb wrote his book over 33 years ago and then he observed the cost of living had increased 70% over the previous decade. One of his examples pointed out that $1,500 invested each year for 20 years at an annual interest rate of 8% yields over $74,000. But then consider an inflation rate of 4% per year, and the real return drops to about $45,000. This example suggests the frequently repeated “You can get by on less in retirement,” can have tragic financial consequences.
I see many retirees and pre-retirees who are floundering with how to produce income with the money they worked so hard to save. If planning hasn’t taken place so far, then now is the time to secure your future. Do not go into your golden years without knowing how to travel the road.