Barron's looked at the way in which advisors counsel clients when clients want to retire earlier than planned. The article lacked innovative thought and had a couple of really odd comments from advisors.
One advisor is quoted “A lot of people believe that Social Security is going to be a huge part of their retirement income. It’s a sad thing.” This was the strangest comment in the article. Social Security Administration wants people to know how much they will be getting. It sends mail every year with this information or sends an email nudging people to login and see how much. The quote almost implies that his clients don't know how much they will get. "How much will I get" is typically followed by the advisor telling the client how to get their info. How much will you, reading this post, get? How much will your spouse get? What does that add up to? Is that amount a lot of money relative to your spending or a little? You know the answer to the question posed above, you're not going to be surprised. You may not like the answer, that's a different matter but if you are due to get a combined $3000 and you spend $15,000 month you're not going to be surprised. To not be in touch with your PIA, your primary insurance amount, past a certain age whether that is 50 or some other age, is to essentially put your head in the sand.
The article spent a good amount of space on the unknowns of healthcare costs. This is of course a looming threat for everyone as they get older. This is where innovation and adaptability have to come into play but I admit it might be difficult for an advisor to weigh in here with clients. On this front, innovation and adaptability pertain to behaviors that are in our control to modify to give ourselves a better chance at a successful outcome which in this context is money not spent on years of prescriptions and frequent doctor visits.
People start to naturally lose muscle mass in their late 20's. Lost muscle mass, as well as loss of bone density (the fancy words are sarcopenia and osteopenia) is what makes people frail in old age. Aside from greatly diminishing quality of life, frailty can be be very expensive. I've shared the picture of the 78 year old guy at the gym I used to go to doing decline bench press with 500 pounds. Here's a link to a video of an 89 year old man deadlifting 405 pounds for reps. Neither one will have to deal with frailty. A less dramatic personal example that I think I have shared before involves shoveling snow. We have real winters here and while I can plow our road there is plenty of shoveling that needs to happen. I've always liked shoveling snow because it is a great work out but after a while my lower back would stiffen up. It wasn't problematic, I would describe it as normal discomfort after a lot of work. I've been deadlifting for about four years now and that normal discomfort no longer happens. If you live in a snowy area, did you shovel as a kid and not get sore? Then did you shovel and get sore in middle age? I suspect that without lifting weights, more and more things will cause soreness and discomfort. If lifting weights can kick that can down the road, N=1 it can, then arguably you are turning back the biological clock.
Lifting weights or body weight exercises like pushups, dips, pull ups and so on will greatly reduce the odds of becoming frail and thus remove one potentially large expense.
Now reread the above but substitute cutting carbohydrate consumption in for lifting weights and substitute metabolic problems in for frailty.
Many people are skeptical, ok but there is no downside to being more fit and eating less sugar.
Carrying the thought a little further, aging expert Ken Dychtwald wrote What Scares Me About Getting Old. I took it as a lesson for some things not to do. He described some changes his body has gone through. He said he does yoga for exercise. There are many types of yoga and depending on how it is done, it may not do much for building or maintaining muscle mass. Yoga can certainly be good but for Dychtwald it does not sound sufficient. He also said he hasn't eaten meat in 30 years. It is very difficult to get enough protein and some vitamins and minerals without meat. The bioavailability of protein from vegan food is much less than from meat, Dychtwald did not say he was vegan just that he doesn't eat meat.
If you've been reading these posts for a while or follow me on Twitter then you know I have come to believe that everything we were warned about regarding high fat diets actually pertains to high carbohydrate diets, that the cholesterol hypothesis is 180 degrees incorrect, that statins are the last thing anyone should take. I am betting my life on that outcome, I have had high cholesterol for as long as I have been going to the doctor as an adult but my triglyceride/HDL ratio is 0.64 and my calcium heart score is 5 so I like my bet. Don't take my word for it, do your own research and draw your own conclusions.
One other point from the article had to do with advisors having to tell clients they can't retire. Yeah, a 50 year old with $300,000 probably should not retire in the traditional sense but if they dread their job and need to make a break then as opposed to saying no, I think the framing from the advisor needs to be "ok, here are obstacles you will need to overcome." Thinking about the 4% rule, a $300,000 nest egg will generate $12,000/yr but taking 4% starting as young as 50 seems like a risky proposition. "If you take $12,000 year and then we have a bear market in your year two, you might have a serious problem, how can you overcome that?" is probably a better framing. "Can you get by finding work you love doing even if you only make half as much as the job you dread?" Answering yes to that is the optionality you get and that I always write about from living below your means. If you're 30 or 40 or any age really, do your future self a favor and build in as much optionality as you can in case you need it. I can't imagine being 50, undersaved, overmortgaged and dreading my job.
We've been looking at this for years, give yourself as long a runway as you possible can for figuring out what you hope to do in retirement, what you will do if that Plan A unravels and how you can help yourself have a more successful outcome. Being fit and having options seems like our best chance for a successful outcome.