Retirement reflections dance behind my eyelid. I’m reminded ours is a nation in decline as I slide back into my hammock hung between two ancient pines. The river roars past me making its way south to the Rio Grande. Great rivers form the earth’s circulatory system revealing Mother Earths health and well-being. Rivers also provide us answers to our questions. All too often rivers prompt us to ask better questions. How many of us are truly financially prepared for retirement?
This new phase of your life is no different from previous phases of your life. You bring to the table strengths and weaknesses; you face challenges and have opportunities. Now as you have before, plan accordingly. I encourage you to be forward thinking and realistic about what retirement means for you. For millions of us the new retirement means re-thinking and re-shaping our retirement plans. For others it means taking retirement planning more seriously and developing a comprehensive, balanced, written plan. A living document!
My website www.creativeretirementplanning.net is dedicated to helping future retirees with the development of their retirement plan. Everything I offer; the online seminars, tools, and resources are complimentary. I don’t sell financial products or anything else for that matter. My goal is to reshape retirement one person at a time. It’s kind of like a “Be Happy in Retirement Movement.”
I encourage folks to pursue the following strategy:
* Put Your Financial House in Order, Balance Your Lifetime Checkbook
* Develop Your Life – Long Work Stages Transition Plan
* Execute Your Plan to Keep Your Life – Long Living Costs in Check
Turning on my side I ask my question directly to the river. Am I truly financially prepared for retirement? Weather is moving in, birds are chattering, the current seems to be moving faster. Feels like wading in now would result in getting washed downstream. Many would argue it is all about hitting a magic number. It’s good to hit that number whatever it is but I still disagree. “The American Psychological Association recently published an analysis of multiple studies. Researchers from Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand analyzed questionnaires from 420,000 people in 63 countries. “Having the freedom to change careers or pursue our passions makes us happier than does a hefty bank account.” “So while wealth can provide you with more choices; it is really having the ability to realize your dreams that leads to greater happiness,” says study coauthor Ronald Fischer, Ph.D.”
Basic needs aside (See Maslow’s Hierarchy of Basic Needs) money likely does not necessarily ensure one’s happiness in retirement. Hitting one’s magic number by saving early and aggressively is a remarkable achievement and worthy of praise. For others not so fortunate comparing their financial circumstances to that of others living in say Hattie may offer little comfort.
Today and tomorrow’s economic uncertainty is the fly in the ointment. Health care costs are the elephant in the room. If you think about it; whom was it that had the most difficult time while ship wrecked on Gilligan’s Island? Whether you are Bull or Bear or both on the next 30 years the question is really “What has yet to happen?”
Good economic news abounds; DOW is up and breaks 1300, tech stocks are back, data on auto sales, manufacturing and consumer confidence are solidifying. Job creation is rising while the unemployment rate is dropping.
But what is the actual size of a U.S. citizen’s bill to be paid collectively on the day (s) of reckoning on potentially ten trillion dollars, likely half of this decades U.S. debt? This represents roughly 89k per household over this decade. For the sake of argument let’s say the second round of cuts (two trillion) after the initial four trillion currently in play is then followed by another four trillion. This third round of U.S. debt reduction will likely alter a bit the way America looks to most any retiree. However these changes will prove manageable for those properly prepared.
Additionally some economists predict multiple waves, periods of high inflation lasting many months and in some cases even years at a time over the next 20-30 years.
Common concerns cited are:
- U.S. printing too much money, Quantitative Easing
- Inflation used as a tool, potentially to erode U.S. debt
- Future drought impact on U.S. farmers
- Future U.S water supply, impact on farmers
- Increased cost of oil, impact on large-scale agriculture
- Increased cost of oil, impact on trucking industry
- Arab spring and beyond, impact oil production
- Climate change results in famine in global hotspots, impact on food supply
Baby Boomers will hit entitlement program budgets hard while at the same time they will be exiting their big spending years. Unfortunately our economy relies too heavily on consumer spending. Military conflicts and increased demand from China and India will likely increase the cost of oil. The growing divide between the have and have not’s, and the European debt crisis helps fuel continued economic uncertainty.
In my view it comes down to our nation’s new economic fragility. How well we retirees weather the economic storm fronts on the horizon will be determined to a large extent by our own ability to ensure our own “future micro economic” certainty. Honestly I have no idea exactly what economically speaking is going to happen over the next 30 years. My gut tells me things will be different (more chaotic) then they’ve been over the last 30 years. Greater personal economic self-reliance is the new mantra.
Staring intently into crystal clear, braided pocket water, I smile, recalling how yesterday I was getting lost in what I love doing. Today I’m trying not worry about the things I can’t control. Instead I’m developing multiple streams of informal income from creative work without relinquishing my freedom. I schedule creative work around my life. My financial house is in order and I’ve balanced my Lifetime Checkbook. I know precisely how I can keep my life – long living costs in check. I genuinely enjoy being as busy as I want to be creatively. I’m laser focused on what I can control fueled by the faith it is all worthwhile no matter what.