We know from experience here at AgingOpti0ns that millions of Americans approaching retirement age are worried – about health, about family, and mostly about finances. And while we remain strong advocates of careful planning, sometimes we run across an article that reminds us that there’s a lot more to retirement than money. That was our reaction to this article by Ann Brenoff on the Considerable website. The title speaks for itself: “How I quit worrying if I could afford to retire — and just did it.” We can’t agree with everything she says, but this article will get you thinking.
If Money Is Your Biggest Worry, Maybe It’s Time to Get Off the Fence
After 45 years as a journalist, Brenoff recently retired, and she has advice for her readers. “I’m here to convince you – maybe, more like give you permission? – to retire, too, if you’re on the fence and money is mostly what’s stopping you. Because while I’m just a month or so into what a friend has dubbed the ‘land of unstructured time,’ I honestly don’t know what took me so long to get here.”
Brenoff quickly explains that her attitude toward retirement wasn’t always so casual. “Like much of the rest of the middle class, I was choking on the financial insecurities of older age,” she writes. She quotes this 2018 survey from the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) that says only about one worker in six describes themselves as “very confident” that they’ll have enough money to live comfortably in retirement. That figure, 17 percent, is the lowest since 1994 except for 2009, in the aftermath of the Great Recession. When Price Waterhouse Cooper released their 2018 survey of employees’ attitudes toward their financial health, they found less than half expressing confidence they would be able to retire when they wanted to.
Lots of Questions About Retirement Finances Come with “Fuzzy Answers”
In her Considerable article, Brenoff acknowledges her financial worries. “Would Social Security continue to be a safety net, standing between me and a menu of cat food?” she asks. “Would Medicare still be around when I hit my 80s? Will my house be worth anything in five years; will the stock market crash and leave me penniless; will I be struck down by illness and wish a Mack truck had finished the job? Even the simplest and most straightforward question – ‘How much money do I need to retire?’ – came with a fuzzy answer.” As an example, Brenoff cites the common rule of thumb often recited by financial advisers that retirees should save enough to replace about 70 percent of their pre-retirement annual income once they stop working. But this target, which may cause boomers to worry, may be unnecessarily high. If you’ve already paid off your mortgage, you might only need to replace 60 percent of your pre-retirement income, as the fine print on some retirement calculators explains. “On the other hand, if you’re going to travel a lot, you might have to sock away enough to replace 100 percent or even 110 percent of what you made before you called it quits in order to live comfortably after retirement.” In other words, your lifestyle choices drive your retirement income needs.
As we said above, the most important point Brenoff makes, we think, is that retirement is about far more than money. “For me, the light bulb that illuminated my path to retirement came on gradually. It became clear to me that I did not want to be carried off the job on a gurney, but it took a while. A two-year stint as my husband’s caregiver – he died in January 2017 of kidney and heart failure – left an indelible mark on me. I learned first-hand that life is short and a healthy life even shorter.” She began to be preoccupied with the frailty of life. “Each week seemed to bring news of a former colleague or neighbor, a friend or a friend of a friend just diagnosed with an illness. And with each new ache, my own body reminded me that its parts were not covered by a warranty.” As a result, Brenoff said, “I began to recast retirement in different terms. This crucial question was really this: Could I actually afford not to retire?”
Can You Live on Less? At Some Point, Whatever You Have is What You Have
When Brenoff decided to retire, she realized she could live on less by resetting priorities and differentiating between wants and your needs. “You can live smaller, own less, and still find ways to be happy,” she writes. “Whatever you have – Social Security, a rare company pension, a 401(k), IRA, investments, or income from rental property, or, yes, even the occasional freelance or odd job – is what you will have. Period. The challenge is learning to live on that amount.” She finally made the choice that having “healthy time” in retirement to do the things she wanted to do was more important than incessant worrying about money.
But Whenever and However You Retire, Make Sure You Have a Plan
“Someone much smarter than me once said that worry was nothing more than our futile attempt to control the unknown,” says Brenoff. “And unless you are a one-percenter, your future is filled with plenty of unknowns when it comes to retirement.” While we work with many high-income individuals and couples, our long list of satisfied clients is made up largely of average men and women who decided to follow the lead of Rajiv Nagaich and take a fresh approach to planning for their future. These retirees and future retirees came to see that retirement planning that’s truly comprehensive must include not just financial preparation but also a housing strategy, a legal structure, a medical safety net and a family communication plan. Rajiv calls this approach LifePlanning, and he wants to invite you to discover “the rest of the story” when it comes to preparing for your future.
Please join Rajiv on this journey of discovery by attending a free, information-packed LifePlanning Seminar. You’ll find a calendar of upcoming seminars here on our Live Events page – simply select the date of your choice and register online, or call us for assistance. There’s far more to retirement than money. Come get the whole picture at a LifePlanning Seminar. Age on!
(originally reported at www.considerable.com)