You hear it from every segment of the media: The Baby Boomer generation is quickly becoming the “retirement generation.” While some boomers – defined as those born between 1946 and 1964 – have already retired, most are still working and wondering when (or if) they’ll be able to retire.
There is another segment of the population, those younger than the “baby boomer” generation, who live in an entirely different work landscape – a landscape where job security and working for a single company for 30 years and retiring with a pension is a thing of the past.
The federal government’s own social security web site states that most retirees will need about 70% of their pre-retirement income to maintain the same lifestyle. Yet Social Security replaces on average only 40%. That means you better have an impressive portfolio of savings and investments ready to make up the shortfall.
The Government Accounting Office estimates that an average-income couple who receives $20,000 annually from Social Security at age 62 needs investments of over $500,000 to bring their annual retirement income up to $46,000.
Do you have a portfolio of $500,000?
Okay, so you can probably manage to live on less than $46,000. But here is some not-so-good news. Stan Hinden, in the September, 2006, AARP Bulletin reports that more than half of workers 55 and over state they’ve saved less than $50,000 for retirement. How can that be?
People in today’s environment have not followed in their parents’ footsteps of staying in one job forever. Many of us have changed careers a number of times, sometimes for better pay, sometimes because we got downsized or outsourced. Unfortunately, changing jobs frequently means we’ve missed out on becoming fully vested in some of our employers’ 401K plans. Our payouts or rollovers have been tiny or nonexistent
* Some of our lives took turns we never imagined. We’ve been overwhelmed by large medical expenses for ourselves, our children, or our elderly parents. These kinds of expenses can be real retirement-wreckers. We may have little more than a few thousand dollars left.
* Changes like divorce often mean retirement savings, even company retirement plans, are split between spouses. When you say good-bye to a relationship, you say good-bye to half the money in your retirement plan, and you have to work hard and fast to play catch-up.
* We wanted our kids to have college educations. We borrowed from our 401Ks to finance ever-escalating college costs.
* Some of us had to drop out of the workforce altogether to care for elderly parents or grandchildren.
* Some of us are overextended due to poor spending habits. Struggling to pay off credit cards leaves little for retirement savings.
* Some of us have just plain worked hard our whole lives and budgeted carefully, but have never had much of anything left over to save.
* There has been no increase in real wages-that is, purchasing power-since the mid-70s. Despite the happy faces on TV, a lot of us are still struggling just to get by.
Not too long ago, people worked for one company for most of their adult lives, faithfully putting in their time and counting the years until they could retire and start to enjoy life. The company pension was one reason people stayed at jobs they didn’t even like. “At least,” they thought, “the company will take care of me when I’m old. I won’t have to worry.”
A recent trend is for major companies to reduce retirement benefits to workers who believed the company would be there for them in their retirement years. Cuts in post-retirement health insurance benefits are the most unpredictable and the most worrisome for people who are entering their 60s. The few people who even qualify for such programs find that the initial modest premiums and co-pays for themselves and their spouses have skyrocketed to the point where they are simply unaffordable. And by the way, Medicare doesn’t cover dental or vision care. People can buy separate policies for these, but the coverage is usually meager.
Then there’s the longevity “problem.” As we live longer and longer, our retirement dollars must stretch further. What if we run out of money? What if we’re old and sick and poor?
As many companies convert employee pension funds into “cash balance” plans, retiring employees are given lump sums – the money you’ve accumulated in your pension plan or 401K. At that point, you’re on your own to create a “do-it-yourself” pension.
You could take a crash course in investment planning. You could hope you’ll find a trustworthy financial advisor, but there is no way to be 100% confident about putting your financial future in the hands of someone you barely know. Either way, it’s difficult to feel really secure about your financial future in retirement, and the chances are you can’t afford to lose a bit of your nest egg to bad investments.
Quite simply, neither today’s nor tomorrow’s retirees can afford the luxury of feeling secure.
By now, you’ve probably figured out where your retirement prospects fall among all these possibilities. You might be wondering if you’ll ever be able to retire, or if you’ll have to just keep working for the rest of your life. Yes, it’s challenging. Yes, it’s scary.
But there IS an answer. Instead of letting other people determine how you will spend your “golden years,” you can take charge of your life now.
It doesn’t matter if you must stay home to take care of a spouse, parent, or child. It doesn’t matter where you live. It doesn’t matter if you’re one of the many who has not saved enough for retirement. Even if your love to travel, you can establish and build a business using just the Internet and a telephone. Successful professionals will teach you how to stop trudging along on the worry treadmill and start speeding down the road to success. You will be amazed at how quickly you can turn your life around!
The sooner you get started, the sooner you can stop worrying about an uncertain financial future and let yourself think about all the wonderful possibilities of a truly secure retirement. It’s your life, and you should be the one controlling it. Take the first step today by filling out the form on the main page for more information.
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