I have been in the investment business for more than 48 years, talking and planning with many people about money and retirement issues. Now I find myself there, at the point of no longer having to work for an income, and pondering what my life will look like from here on out.
From this vantage point the last seventy years have zipped by rather quickly. It wasn’t all that long ago I was a student at Penn State, then a father with a family and a young businessman establishing my career in the Centre Region.
The kids are grown and now have children of their own. The career I’ve established is now winding down as I spend more time on family issues and charitable endeavors. And although I have the wherewithal to live comfortably in retirement, I still occasionally fear that something could go massively wrong and I might find myself on the short end of the financial stick.
Certainly the events in Washington and Harrisburg have a direct impact on my personal cash flow in retirement and I find myself having conversations about not trusting others (read: the government) to keep their financial promises as I enter my golden years.
Let’s just say that although I have planned and executed my retirement savings plans carefully, there could still be a shortfall caused by factors over which I have little control. I guess I will just have to get used to it.
I have noticed that many folks enter their non-earning years in a variety of states. No matter whether they saved for retirement or didn’t save, everyone in retirement must adjust their spending to match their income.
That is to say, everyone adjusts their standard of living in retirement to match their means. Some are well off, some have less and some move in with the kids. Of course, sometimes the move in with the kids is a matter of taking care of aging and less able parents, rather than just the money considerations.
Others are wealthy beyond their dreams and have excess right up until the day they, well, can’t take it with them.
I have long ago gotten my estate in order and while I have lots of stuff the kids will have to sort through and clean out, the major items are set for the next generation. If you haven’t done this, then it would be good to get on the ball and at least take this step in retirement planning.
I have also noticed what the next generation does with their inherited funds and what impact getting money from an estate offers those who are still accumulating and spending money rather rapidly.
The best advice I can give the next generation is that those really important things you feel you must spend money on are in the long run not very important at all. So before you spend your inheritance on your current needs and wants, keep in mind that you might live to a ripe old age and that the only thing worse than being old is being old and poor.
Somewhere I saw quite a spiffy billboard that says “Live for Today, Plan for Tomorrow." Of course, after the planning, you must also execute your (financial) plan for tomorrow.
I have seen the truly frightening statistics that indicate millions of older folks have less than $25,000 in savings and are not financially able to stop working. It seems that many folks will have to continue working until they are no longer physically able.
Hopefully they’ll get to enjoy life and perhaps the grandkids. I have a relative in his late eighties who is still working. I am not sure if he must or simply wants to work. Sometimes the intensive togetherness that retirement brings necessitates the break that work provides.
I had a friend for many years who was a successful businessman and father. He noted early on that he didn’t think he would be on this earth for many years. True to his word, he passed away at age 64, never having really retired.
For most of us this is an exception and not the norm, and so as you ponder your retirement, keep in mind that the financial options you will enjoy in retirement depend at least largely on what you do today.
The goal in saving for retirement is all about having more financial options available to you when you get there.