As they say, with age comes wisdom. Don’t get me wrong, there are moments when I would give up some of the massive amount of wisdom I have gained in exchange for some of the age I have lost. Ha-ha! That said, if I only knew what I know now back when I was 20 or even 30. Back then we think we will live forever. Retirement thoughts rarely crossed my mind. There were plenty other distractions. I could not even imagine being at retirement age. But the funny thing, here I am… 63. Who is that in the mirror looking back at me?
If you know any younger people that will listen, here are some things worth talking about. It’s not all about the money. Yes, we all know subsidizing retirement lifestyle requires savings. But too few consider the importance of preparing beyond finances. What will you do that motivates you to wake up everyday? Who will you be once you are no longer defined by the ‘working/earning’ person you were? How does your spouse see retirement? Are you on the same page? If not, how do you make that work? Without real preparation you risk boredom and dissatisfaction during what should be the best time of your life.
Over my 30+ year financial career I have too often see people facing and deciding to cash out 401(k) accounts. With Social Security in question, especially for younger people, the importance of sacrificing a bit today for security later is even more important. Einstein said, “compounding is the eighth wonder of the world”. Look at Investing for beginners to learn more. That means dollars growing moderately over longer periods of time are much more effective than later dollars saved with little time to compound. “Leave it alone and let it grow” should be your advice to your youngers.
Times have changed significantly, to say the least. Most young people will have multiple jobs over their lifetime. They should be prepared to work at many different companies over their working years. The days of spending an entire career at one place are gone. Understanding the financial realities of retirement are tantamount to providing the motivation to get started NOW! Retirement will not be cheap. Per Fidelity, healthcare costs for the average couple retiring in 2016 will ring in at $260,000 for supplemental insurance. MediCare is not free! Think again.
In retirement you want to do those things you have dreamed of. Realizing those dreams will generally not be cheap either. When budgeting don’t forget to account for those things you have been waiting all your life to do. This is what retirement should be about. Rewarding yourself for the discipline you exercised. Note to your youngers: put those dollars aside now so you can do all you dream of when you finally have the time to do it.
You have one chance to get it right. And since this will be our first time at it, none of us has any real experience being retired. It is possible you may not get everything exactly right but that is OK. Get the big things right and be prepared to be dynamic, to go with the flow. Make changes where necessary, try new things, and don’t be too hard on yourself. There is no deadline to get everything right. So long as you continue to learn as you go you are making progress. Remember there are two sides to a successful retirement; having some money saved and adjusting to a ‘happy’ lifestyle you can afford. Don’t get hung up on, “I don’t have enough”. There is much in life that costs very little. Important and amazing ‘stuff’, helping, loving, walking in a beautiful place, a lovely meal and nice glass of wine… that you prepared. You get the idea.
When I was in my twenties I began a life-long commitment to setting aside time for regular exercise and attempting to eat a decent diet. Tell all the young people you know that good habits now will continue to be good habits later in life. “Use it or lose it,” as they say. Weight training for muscle and bone strength is important. Yoga and stretching for balance and flexibility is huge. Cardio for heart health too! Keeping your brain active may be the most important! The retirement journey will be so much more enjoyable if you are healthy in mind and body.
Make retirement count. It is what we have left. I say, “Bolder not older”!