Ah, retirement strategies. Either a dream or a worry, but either way, you need them.
Dreaming of retirement is part of the evolution of life. As a 20-something, you spend time envisioning the amazing career you'll have and the important work you'll do. As a 50-something, what you picture is a hammock, an ice-cold beer, and a good book. You picture retirement.
For years, The Husband has laughed about the retirees who snag the earliest oil change and dentist appointments simply because they are so used to getting up at the crack of dawn every day of their working lives. So in retirement, they keep the schedule. Not me. I. Am. Sleeping. In. My vision of retirement consists entirely of not having the alarm go off every morning. Never. Not for any reason.
At our age (I am 53 and my husband is 54), we are in a contradictory stage of life because we have two kids on the cusp of college but we are also nearing possible retirement. So it's important to ask the questions…
- A) Can we retire?
- B) At what age can we retire?
- C) Can we live comfortably in retirement?
Looking under the retirement hood
I recently took advantage of the T. Rowe Price retirement calculator tool on the company's website — at the suggestion of the company. This is a simple online tool, and it's free. (You do have to create an account; but there is no cost to do so, and so far I have not had any hard-sell follow-up.)
Before we go any farther, a quick side note: The Husband gets much of the credit for however ready we might be for retirement — he pays attention to all that. He has handled all our mutual fund investing, etc. Basically, my role has been to enroll in whatever plan whatever employer I was working for was offering at the time — and I always did it right away and at the maximum allowed.
Hitting the maximum allowed for a 401(k) is especially important if your employer offers a match! No matter how old you are, enroll in your company's 401(k). It's what I call mindless investing in your future, because they do it for you. If the 30-year-old me had to worry about depositing money every month for my retirement, I'd be shopping for tent cities right now.
Back to the calculator. The tool has you input all your retirement account amounts, including 401(k)s, Roth IRAs, other IRAs, investments, pensions, and your estimated Social Security disbursement. I chose 67 as the age of retirement because, well, our two kids are on the cusp of college. Also, I am currently self-employed. (Wait! Do self-employed people even GET to retire? Who is going to buy me that watch?)
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In a few clicks, I got what seemed to be good news — the calculator thinks The Husband and I will need $11,000/month to live (this includes travel, gifts, charitable donations, and entertainment in addition to the bare necessities). It thinks I will have about $16,000 available. Even better, if I can do it all on $11,000/month, they are 99 percent confident I can live to the age of 95, housed and clothed and entertained. Woohoo!!! If, on the other hand, we go hog wild and spend the $16K/month, they feel 70 percent certain we will be comfortable to the age of 95. This is great news for me, because I have longevity on both sides of my family.
Most aren't saving for the hammock
The bad news is that The Husband and I are apparently in the minority. My friends at American University's Kogod School of Business sent me some information about the state of Americans' retirement, and it is not a pretty picture. Thirty-eight percent of Americans say they haven't saved anything for retirement. Also, 38 percent of Americans over age 65 rely on Social Security completely in their retirement! If we did that, we would have $48,000 for the whole year to live, about 35 percent of our total income now. Remember that tent city unit we might've been shopping for?
Fully 80 percent of Americans between the ages of 30 and 54 believe they won't have enough for retirement. This is in direct contradiction to the results of a 2015 Wells Fargo survey that showed the majority of Americans believe a financially secure retirement is the epitome of the American Dream (96 percent). It used to be buying a home. But if you are going to lose your home in your retirement, I guess all this makes sense.
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So what to do? There are some great tips here, but the bottom line is this: Get off your duff and start saving/investing now. It's important. That song “Forever Young”? It's a song. Some day you will be old; and when you are, you want to be safe and snug in some kind of decent housing, with medical care and good food. Maybe you won't be taking a cruise around the world, but you want to be secure. If you are in your 20s, get going and be aggressive. If you are in your 40s, get going and be aggressive. If you are in your 50s or older, get going and play it a little safer, but stop going to the movies and drinking lattes and save! Pennies always add up to dollars.
What about you? Are you saving for retirement? Do you feel secure, or do you need to do more? Leave your thoughts in the comments!
Author: Elissa Bass
Elissa Bass is a nationally award-winning journalist who has been a reporter and editor for both print and online publications for 30 years. After a layoff in 2013, she now runs her own marketing/social media/PR company. Born and raised in western Massachusetts, she makes her home in Stonington, CT with her husband, their two children, and their rescued pit bull. Visit her website at http://www.elissabass.com/ to learn more.