Retirement…sounds nice, doesn’t it? Being able to wake up, not rush anywhere, and spend the day focusing on family, friends, hobbies, and taking care of the house and yard. It is often thought of as the light at the end of a long tunnel we’ve been journeying through our entire adult work life. Most of us have parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents, or family friends that retired and seem so relaxed, comfortable, and care-free. Seeing friends and family retire happily makes us realize that it is an attainable goal, and gives us a little more motivation to get up each morning – week after week – month after month – year after year… getting closer and closer to the time when daily responsibilities, morning commutes, and being accountable to a team, boss, or company are replaced with freedom, unallocated time, and real independence from the pressures of daily society. So…if all of those friends and family were able to do it, it can’t be that difficult, right?
Unfortunately, there are many factors that will make it more difficult for you to retire than it was for your parents and grandparents. And these factors are worth understanding since they affect your ability to choose how to spend your days during the last major phase of life, which will hopefully be the best one yet.
- Near extinction of private pension plans – pension plans, or defined benefit plans, used to be very popular and were one of the primary ways employees were able to retire. With a defined benefit plan, the employer contributes funds on behalf of the employee and invests these funds, taking on the investment risk themselves. The pension will then provide a monthly income after the employee has stopped working, supplementing Social Security. Now, 401(k)’s and other similar vehicles (e.g. 403b, 401a) are used instead of pensions. With a 401(k), the employee defers some of their income to fund the 401(k), taking on investment risk themselves. Some companies also provide a “match” or an amount they are willing to contribute in addition to the employee’s contribution. The transition from pensions to 401(k)’s requires much more on the part of the employee – funding their own retirement at their own risk. In addition, most funds must be moved to a different vehicle upon the employee retiring to provide a guaranteed income stream like a pension would.
- People are living longer - with major advancements in medical research and technology, retirement has evolved from a 10-year phase of life to a 30-year phase of life, potentially even longer. Even someone living a modest lifestyle could need over a million dollars to replace their income for 30 years, not accounting for inflation or any extraordinary expenses.
- Societal change - families are financially supporting their children well into their adult years, detracting from the amount they could be saving for retirement. Divorce rates have also increased substantially, leaving many people relying on only one income and one retirement nest egg to fund their retirement.
These are only a few factors among many – including but not limited to pressure on Social Security and the low-interest rate environment we are in. To adequately save for retirement you need to make a series of calculated decisions from an early age. If you have surpassed an “early age” it is even more important to focus on retirement goals and planning. A good place to start is figuring out where you are now, where you are trying to go, and start making a plan to get there. A qualified DecisionCoach can help you, whatever stage you’re at, put a plan together to make retirement a reality.