ON THE JOURNEY to retirement, should you focus on setting a retirement spending budget or on making sure you have adequate retirement income?
I think the answer is obvious: There’s no point deciding on a budget until you know how much money you’ll have available to spend. And yet I hear about people who devote endless hours to detailing precisely how much they’ll spend in retirement on everything from housing to travel to health care to dining out.
FULL DISCLOSURE: I am the antithesis of the DIY guy. I was completely banned from home repairs many years ago after I set out to replace an electrical outlet—but switched off the wrong circuit breaker before doing so.
We’ve undertaken two major renovations in the past 12 years. The first was an addition to our vacation home. The second is ongoing—a new kitchen at the same house.
We spent months on the plans. In the case of the addition,
SAVE 30% OF INCOME? No way.
That’s been my reaction whenever I’ve read about people saving 30% or more. I look back and think about making monthly mortgage payments, raising four children, paying for college and trying to save something to supplement my pension. For my wife and me, a 30% savings rate simply wasn’t possible. Nevertheless, people do it.
To find out more, I asked folks on a Facebook retirement planning group, “How do you save 30%?” The responses boiled down to nine key factors.
MY FATHER WAS A CAR salesman who, for many years, worked totally on commission, with no paid vacation. In 1953, when I was 10 years old, we went to Cape Cod for a week. A friend gave him a tip on a great place to stay. In his enthusiasm, my father booked for a week and paid in advance.
The place turned out to be worse than a Second World War army barracks. My mother refused to stay.
SHOULD LEAVING money to our children be a formal part of our financial strategy—or should we focus on our own wants and needs, and let the chips fall where they may?
My wife and I have four children ages 45 to 50. They’re all married and, between them, have 13 children ages five to 17. They’re also all college graduates, with almost the entire cost paid by my wife and me. Three have master’s degrees.
THERE ARE ADVANTAGES to being old. We seniors can leverage the widespread perception that we’re all poor, incapable of decision-making and inept at using technology.
I have fun with this.
We recently went car shopping. As we left the house, my wife turned and said, “You’re going dressed like that?”
“What’s wrong with the way I look?” I’m in my well-worn jeans, flannel shirt, suspenders and battered baseball cap.
“You look like a pauper.”
THERE ARE TWO GREAT debates in retirement planning: whether the famous 4% rule is valid—and how much income folks need, relative to their final salary, to retire in comfort.
I find both subjects frustrating, in part because there’s so little consensus. I also find much of the advice way too complicated for the average American.
I participate in NewRetirement’s Facebook group and occasionally give my views on both topics. I recently expressed the opinion that the goal in retirement should be to replace 100% of the base income you earned immediately before retirement.
I STARTED WORK in 1961 as a mailroom boy earning $1.49 an hour. There was a fellow named Tony who worked there, too. He started a few years before me. Today, Tony is 87 years old and he still works in the same mailroom. He collects his pay, his pension and his Social Security. I don’t know what motivates Tony, but apparently retirement holds no attraction. Tony is atypical.
When my work situation changed after 49 years in a way that took the fun out of the job,
I AM THE FIRST to admit that I’m no star when it comes to math. I was so enthralled with calculus in college that I took it twice. To make matters worse, math keeps changing. Just ask a 10-year-old to show you how to multiply.
I am not alone. At the high school from which I graduated in 1961, the current math proficiency rate is 2% The national average is 46%. The lowest ranked state is at 22%.
I GREW UP IN a small apartment. Truth be told, I was never enthusiastic about maintaining a house, but I did so for 45 years. Eight years after I retired in 2010, the house and its stairs became too much for my wife and me.
We considered moving to a smaller one-story house and briefly flirted with a continuing care community. We even looked at one community and found it too expensive, especially having to hand over a partially refundable $900,000 upfront fee,
I’VE BEEN INVOLVED in retirement planning for more than 50 years. Back in the day, my job was to calculate the pensions for 20 to 30 workers each month by hand, using multiplication and long division. Many of those new retirees were poorly prepared, but they did have a pension.
Here we are in the 21st century and I see little has changed. Lack of planning, lack of savings, widespread misinformation and reliance on inaccurate assumptions still plague Americans.
ONE OF MY SONS has to choose health insurance for the year ahead—and his employer provided a 95-page pamphlet. Let’s face it: If you need that amount of information to make a choice, something is wrong.
The pamphlet describes three medical options, plus dental options and vision coverage. Two options get you an employer health savings account contribution—or it is a health reimbursement account? There are three levels of deductibles and coinsurance and, of course,
WHAT DO HIGHER corporate profits truly mean to investors? Or, put another way, this 77-year-old neophyte wants to know, “How is investing in stocks different from gambling?”
Don’t get me wrong, I invest in stocks and I understand they’re the best way for most of us to grow wealthy over time. What I don’t get is, “Why? What causes a stock to increase in value?”
I’ve researched the question and what I find is a lot of talk about earnings per share,
SENTENCES THAT begin with “I can’t” drive me nuts—and I especially dislike the sentence, “I can’t save.”
“Pish-tosh,” I say. Every household in America earning at least the median income can save for the future. If they try hard, many lower-income Americans could also save.
Of course, the amount saved will vary, but even small amounts can help over the long haul. If a household earning $40,000 a year can sock away enough to generate $300 or $400 in monthly retirement income to supplement whatever they get from Social Security,
BACK IN APRIL, I wrote the last in a series of articles about my ill-fated cruise around South America, the last few weeks of which were spent in quarantine. In that article, I mentioned efforts to obtain a refund for airline tickets we bought to fly home but couldn’t use, because the ship was refused permission to dock in Punta Arenas, Chile.
For several weeks after our return home, I attempted to get the refund.