Can You Pass the Cold Sweat Test?
Retirees have not saved enough to live the way they want in retirement. This topic is not only upsetting to Baby Boomers, who are retired or on the brink of retirement. The topic of retirement savings also impacts the children of Baby Boomers, who may bear the burden of taking care of their parents in the future. This should also be an eye-opener to Millennials, who are headed toward the same situation as their Baby Boomer parents and grandparents because they continue to choose the option of putting off savings for the future. Millennials will probably live longer, due to the advances in medicine and elder care, thus making the issue of retirement savings much more important.
Retiring Baby Boomers, Line Up
If you’re retiring today, you’re in good company. Or, at least you’re in the company of 76 million others. According to Investopedia, there are 9,999 others who are also picking today to retire. And, if it’s tomorrow, or next week, or ten years from now, it will be the same number. So, what are we going to do next?
Let’s break that mass of retirees down into a more manageable horde, say 100 people. Now put them in a line, standing on the edge, and ready to cross that retirement threshold.
Suppose we ask the millionaires to step across first. Fifteen people take up the invitation, so we don’t have to worry about them. Unless you believe the New York Times, which said in a recent article that being a millionaire is no guarantee of a comfortable retirement. We’ll let them worry about that.
Let’s line everyone up again, and ask those brave souls who believe they’re financially ready for retirement to step over the line. Now it’s 18 hardy souls taking that confident stride, with 66 of us hanging back. That’s too many. And, it is possible that some of those 18 retirees are a little overconfident.
Andrew Biggs, a fellow Forbes contributor noted that half of the households in America have no retirement accounts at all. And a full 29 percent have no retirement accounts and no pension funds. More than a quarter have no savings.
All right, so 66 of the 100 folks lined up at your retirement threshold are short of financial readiness. How short is short?
There are any number of very good retirement calculators online, so I ran some numbers through a couple of them. I decided to be born in 1961, near the end of the baby boom but still a boomer, looking ahead about a decade to retirement. I gave myself an annual income of $51,000, which is slightly over the national average, and I gave myself credit for having $10,000 in savings (way more than most) and saving $100 per month. (Also, way more than most.) According to SmartAsset, if I retire at 65, I’ll need $307,041 in savings, and I’ll only have $30,477 at my current savings rate. According to the calculator featured on the Bankrate website, if I retire at 67, my retirement savings will run out by the time I reach 68.
Have You Made Mistakes?
So, maybe you’re short on retirement savings. And, maybe you’re worried. And, maybe you've made some mistakes along the way. Well, everyone makes mistakes. When I think about my friends, the people whom I meet at seminars, or those who write and ask me for advice (or stop me on the street), I have probably heard my share of money mistakes.
What are some of those money mistakes? They are the ones you made when you were paying for braces for your kids’ teeth or SAT tutoring (so they’d have a better shot at getting into the colleges they had their hearts set on). They are the mistakes you made by taking your family on a trip to Washington DC to see the White House and the Lincoln Memorial and their grandfather’s name on the wall of the Vietnam Memorial. They are the mistakes you made simply by being sure you were around when your kids were growing up. Or, the mistakes you made by being a decent person, in a time when it is not financially easy to be a member of the middle class. You know that the rule is “Pay yourself first,” but sometimes you looked at your kids or grandkids, and your heart melted, and you forgot that rule.
You don’t have to have to be married or have kids to make the mistakes that come with simply being alive. Maybe you’ve been living paycheck to paycheck, and you are aware that we just came out of a recession and times are tough. So, now you’ve got a long way to go to catch up on retirement savings.
Sometimes, they’re the mistakes of simply being young and impulsive. Or, it could be that you lost part of your earning life to serving your country. Or, the mistake of getting divorced, or becoming widowed, and having to start over. In other words, this is a problem that affects everyone: couples with kids, childless couples, gay couples, single people, divorced or widowed people. Everyone.
So, Now What To Do About Your Pending Retirement?
What counts is what you're going to do now, and you deserve answers. You deserve guidance. You may not have followed the experts' advice when you were 23, and you may not have a million in savings now, but you did the best you could, and you deserve a great retirement, and you can still have it.
Here you are now, approaching retirement, thinking about retirement, or thinking ahead to retirement, and facing the fact that you have the resources that you have. How are you going to maximize those resources, and create a design that gives you the best chance at the best life you can have? You can have it. You can do it.
The Cold-Sweat Test
What do we want most, as we contemplate our retirement years? Or, to turn the question around – what do we most fear not having? For many of us, no matter how close or how far away from that life-changing moment we are, there are three answers right on the top of the list: financial security, health, and companionship.
If we go to bed peaceful and ready for sweet dreams, it’s because we feel good in those three areas. And, if we wake up in the middle of the night anxious and uncertain, they’re what we’re anxious and uncertain about. And, if we’ve made mistakes in our lives, they’ve probably involved looking for companionship in the wrong places, or not making the best financial or health decisions. Here’s a way to face up to those fears and go after those wants. You can design your life to share some of the basics of life collectively, while at the same time maintaining the independence that you crave. I call it creating a “Pod.” Stay tuned for more articles that I will write on this concept.