For better or worse, language has a significant influences on who we are and what we do in life.
What, for example, is the definition of the word retirement? How has this shaped your life? More importantly, is this definition yours? Or is it shaped by conventional wisdom? If you haven't formed your own concrete definition of retirement, which may be the largest single financial (and non-financial) pursuit of a lifetime, you're unknowingly allowing the conventional meaning of retirement to shape your actions—to define your life.
When planners talk about retirement, they often use the metaphor of a three-legged stool. The three legs of this metaphorical stool include:
- Social Security
- Employer-sponsored retirement plans (pension, 401k)
- Personal savings (IRAs, CDs, savings accounts)
With Social Security income becoming less and less reliable, and traditional pensions all but extinct, the three-legged stool has become quite a balancing act: Today's retirement plan is not your father's retirement plan!
Two Legs Down, One Questionable
Social Security will pay out more this year than it gets in payroll taxes, and leaders in Congress are now seriously talking about raising the retirement age to 70. Also, the traditional pension plan, especially in the wake of the Great Recession, is all but dead.
Can freedom be bought? Are there any (financially) poor people who are free? Are there any (financially) wealthy people who aren't free? If someone were to ask you, “What's your definition of financial freedom?”, what would you say? Be honest with yourself: Would you reply with a concrete definition? Or would your answer be more abstract?
The conventional definition of financial freedom goes something like this:
Financial freedom comes when you've saved a nest egg large enough that the interest earned from your savings will replace 80% of your current income, adjusted for inflation, when you decide to retire. (Assuming your savings are your only source of retirement income.)
"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." — Reinhold Niebuhr
Recent volatility in the financial markets and a weakening US economy have tested the resolve of even the most patient of investors, and cast a shadow of doubt upon the most resolute in personal finance. What if the stock market continues its decline? What if the economy slips into recession? What should I do, if anything, to protect my investments? Where can I find the answers?
While these questions are normal in the face of uncertainty, the problem with them is that they are reactionary and seek answers from external sources. Those kind of questions suggest we have not sought answers from internal sources and, perhaps, have failed to ask questions that may be a bit more difficult, such as "Who am I?" and "Where am I going?" Continue reading...