I had to tell a close friend of my family that, in all likelihood, he has not saved enough money for his retirement.
This is a man I’ve known since I was a kid. The same man who taught me how to turn a 4-6-3 double play is asking me for financial advice, and now I’m telling my little league baseball coach he does not have enough money to retire when he hits the age of 65.
Not exactly a fair trade if you ask me because I felt like an jerk after delivering the hard truth.
Like most everyone, his retirement account has been hit hard by the downturn in the stock market. His 401k has lost nearly 50% from it’s maximum value, and because he got a late start saving for retirement, he has been hit with a doubly hard.
His long term outlook isn’t perfect, but it has a few bright spots:
His situation, while difficult for me to discuss since this hits so close to home, suggests that he will likely be forced to delay retirement. This means he will almost certainly be forced to continue working until he is in his late 60′s, potentially into his 70′s, and perhaps until the day he dies.
I would imagine this is a scenario that many Americans will be facing in the upcoming 10 to 20 years. Thinking that we saved enough for retirement (some even dreaming of early retirement), only to find out in end that we have come up short when it’s too late.
We’re a nation of spenders, not savers after all. It’s no longer in our nature to save, much less invest.
In doing some research for this article, I came across a video from PBS – Frontline asking Can You Afford to Retire? If you haven’t seen it, and your 401k and/or IRA balance is keeping you up at night, I highly suggest you watch the program.
It’s far and away the best documentary on the subject of poor retirement planning that I’ve seen.
If the statistics aren’t enough to shock you into submission, it should at least help you understand that you’re the only pilot of your retirement funds, and lollygagging (another famous baseball reference) with your 401k account is a very bad idea.
A few brief highlights:
In particular, video segment #3 entitled “Save Yourself” of the Frontline video is the minimum you should watch. It details the struggles of those who have not saved enough, what the rest of their lives will be like being dependent on social security, and perhaps most importantly, how people in their 50s and younger can salvage their retirement dreams.
I’ve never been the type to depend upon anyone for anything, but here are a few suggestions to get you started on learning how to repair a 401k retirement account using some outside resources, or better yet, prevent such a meltdown from occurring.
Not likely. I don’t hold such a grim outlook because I still have some faith in the system. At least, for those who actively work at growing and protecting their retirement funds.
However, the example above is a tragic example of those not stepping up to do the required research, as well as some wishful thinking that has gone horribly wrong. I think that many people, particularly those in the baby boomer generation (there are always exceptions), have an unfounded belief that somehow everything will turn out for the best or the government will somehow bail us out of trouble.
Yeah right – maybe in fantasy land!
Sadly, we don’t live in this type of a world, and with pension plans going the way of the dinosaurs, I do not see any other methods available other than to educate yourself about the investing world or hire someone to do this for you.
As for my parents, they are in a fairly good situation because they are both state government employees, which means that they will have a decent pension check rolling in once they complete their minimum years of service, or until they choose to retire.
If you find yourself asking if your parents are ready for retirement, irregardless if you know anything about investing or retirement planning, I would still advise you bring up the subject at an appropriate time with a preconceived plan. At the very least, you can gauge how well they are versed on the subject matter and how much work — and worrying — you should be prepared for.
Photo by StuSeeger