I WAS LISTENING recently to a Bob Dylan song, From a Buick 6. One of the song’s lines is, “I need a dump truck, baby, to unload my head.” That’s how I sometimes feel about the churning in my own mind concerning retirement.
I turned 67 this year. This is probably one of the most critical periods for me as a retiree. There are things in my life I need to sort out,
I HAVE A PENSION, a 401(k) plan and other investments, and no debt. I worked more than 50 years to accumulate what I have. Still, I realize I am fortunate.
That brings me to a list of advice for seniors that’s now making the rounds on the internet. I found it fascinating—and disturbing. The list is presented for “those of us who are between 65 and death, i.e. old.” Many people who have read the list buy into the philosophy behind it.
WHEN I DECIDED TO retire, I kept asking myself, “Do I have enough money?” If I’m lucky enough to live a long life, my savings might have to last 35 years.
My coworkers, however, had a different question. “Hey Dennis, what are you going to do with all your free time?” I was asked that question so many times it became annoying. I soon realized they had doubts about how they would stay busy during retirement.
IN MY WORK AS a financial planner, there’s one topic that always seems to raise an eyebrow: Social Security. When people see projections of future retirement benefits, they often respond with skepticism. My sense is that media reports, questioning the system’s solvency, have led people to discount the value of Social Security benefits—or disregard them entirely.
In my view, this is a mistake. While no one can guarantee what Social Security will look like in the future,
MY MATERNAL grandmother recently celebrated her 97th birthday. Until three years ago, she lived in her own home. Now, she lives in a senior apartment community, where she remains active and independent.
Part of my grandmother’s decision to move out of her home was prompted by her desire to be closer to family members who could assist in her care. According to a 2015 study, over the previous 12 months, more than 34 million Americans had provided some type of unpaid care to an adult age 50 or older.
DESPITE RHETORIC TO the contrary, Social Security isn’t going anywhere. Today’s workers will eventually collect benefits. Today’s seniors will continue to receive the benefits they’re entitled to.
But that doesn’t alter the fact that the program faces fiscal problems, is misunderstood, and is used as a political tool to mislead and scare people, especially seniors who depend heavily on Social Security benefits. I regularly scan social media to better understand how everyday Americans view Social Security.
IT TOOK MY HUSBAND and me several years to figure out our retirement plan—and it wasn’t an issue of money. The nagging question: How were we going to live this new life? We had both had extremely demanding careers and we were ready to move on from the stress of our work lives. But the thought of sitting at home all day watching Judge Judy or stretched out on hammocks really didn’t appeal.
Our solution: We took a page from the playbook of high school graduates—and spent a “gap year” teaching in Africa as volunteers.
MOST AMERICANS aren’t saving nearly enough. Last year, we collectively salted away just 3.4% of our after-tax disposable personal income. That’s a far cry from the 9% or more that Americans socked away every year between 1950 and 1984. Since those heady days, our ability to delay gratification has all but disappeared, with the savings rate averaging just 4.8% since 1998.
But HumbleDollar isn’t read by the typical American. This is the place folks end up after they’ve tried dating stocks,
AS A FORMER journalism major, I’m a sucker for a good headline. I understand how difficult it is to grab a reader’s attention in ten words or less. So, when I came across a headline proclaiming that a group of Stanford researchers had determined the “best” retirement strategy, I admit I was intrigued. I clicked on a link to the study—and found not only a useful retirement planning system, but also a portal into the Stanford Center on Longevity.
IN MY NERDY PERSONAL finance world, there are perhaps two dozen folks I pay close attention to—and one of them is Mike Piper, the blogger behind ObliviousInvestor.com. He’s also written nine books in his “made simple” series, which offer great primers on financial subjects like taxes, Social Security and retirement, all in 100 pages or less.
An accountant by training, Piper brings his analytical mind and detailed knowledge of government rules to the topics he tackles.
THERE ARE MANY WHO claim to speak with authority on Social Security. I am not one of them. But I’m nothing if not curious. I recently set about testing some notions I have heard with regard to Social Security retirement benefits. A family member had asked for help understanding her Social Security statement, so I had some real numbers to work with. The statement predicted that her monthly benefits would be as follows, depending on when she begins benefits:
$1,907 at age 62.
IN COLLEGE, I WAS the kid who swore he would never get married and never have children. A year later, I was engaged. Two years later, I was married. Three years later, I had a newborn.
And three decades later, I’m 55 years old, with a daughter who will turn 30 later this year.
I have no regrets about having children so young. Far from it. It does mean I missed out on the romancing,
I RECENTLY ATTENDED a retirement readiness seminar sponsored by the financial firm that holds most of my retirement savings. The first question the presenter asked was, “How many of you think you’ll be able to retire comfortably living off just your Social Security benefits?” I was surprised to see how many people in the audience raised their hands. But maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised: It turns many of these same people couldn’t guess the average monthly Social Security benefit—and most thought it was far higher than it really is.
AS I PREPARED TO retire at the relatively young age of 52, it was important to me not to become isolated, not to lose touch with the world beyond my home. My husband continues to work, leaving me on my own for much of the day. I consider myself a social person. All my jobs have involved working with employees and customers, from my first job as a delicatessen cashier through to running my own landscape maintenance company with 25 employees and hundreds of accounts.
HOW LONG WILL YOU live? A recent study from Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research noted that, “A healthy 65-year old man in an employer pension plan has a 25% chance of dying by age 78, or of living to age 91 or beyond.”
Think about the dilemma this creates if you’re retiring at age 65. Even if you are in the middle 50% of the male population—neither among the 25% who die early in retirement nor among the 25% who live well into their 90s—your retirement could last just 13 years or it could be double that,