Can Reading Be Dangerous To Your Future?
I was scared by a recent issue of money magazine. I don’t read this type of non-information generally – for some reason they started sending me a free issue about 6 months ago and usually I toss it - but the title of the lead article sucked me in – the 15 minute retirement plan. Did you see it? Did you read it?
Perhaps it should have been called the 15 minute retirement non-plan. They looked at several people and their current retirement savings and financial situation without any indication of whether those savings would get them where they needed to go. The author dismissed the idea of comprehensive or long-term retirement planning by opining you can’t tell what the future will bring so just plan short-term. Wow. Anything to sell magazines, I guess.
Does anyone really believe it when they read that stuff? The money you save in your younger years grows so much more than those last minute dollars many try to stuff into their 401k plan in the 5-10 years before retirement!
Retirement planning from the worst beginning to the successful end is about getting out of debt (and saving an emergency fund while doing it), it’s about changing your attitude from a spender to a saver. It’s about protecting yourself and your loved ones now and in the future so some unexpected catastrophe – like illness or a law suit - doesn’t take down your plan.
I hope the magazine readers look past those happy, smiling faces and find the flaws in the assumptions.
Life would be simple if we just got a set of instructions with it – or would that be more like the town of Stepford?
If we had a set of instructions, what would they be? Perhaps they would start with the premise that the best things in life are free. That people are more important than things, that staying in touch with those we care about is a priority. Financially, the instructions might be to give to the poor (if there were any poor) or your church, save something from everything you make (10% is a good number) and broadly diversify – into at least 7 or 8 places. Don’t spend money you don’t have. Eat healthy fresh foods – especially fruits and vegetables. Be aware that the earth has most of what we need to stay healthy. Walk every day – preferably with someone you love.
I suppose that would all be boring to many. They prefer rock climbing or having a million dollar mortgage on an 8000 square foot house for the summer.
Each of us has to find our own path. That’s what free will is all about. And then, of course, there is the government and regulations. Many people make a life’s work out of figuring out how to help clients avoid as much tax as possible.
Can you imagine how many CPAs and financial planners and debt counselors would be out of work if everyone had common sense about money?
People would save from the time they started working and would be able to have some fun in their 50’s instead of hunkering down to make up for the fact they saved little or nothing in their youth.
What is it you want – and how are you going to get it?
I started something a couple of weeks ago that is having an effect on how I am living my life.
I bought some neon 3x5 cards and began writing – one phrase to a card – what I love, what I hate, what I want, what I do not want.
Last Saturday, I spent a couple of hours going back to childhood memories – rediscovering the adventure and romance that drew me as a child. If you’ve been reading the book The Purpose Driven Life – as thousands have in our area for the past 7 weeks – you know that one way to determine our purpose – why we are here – is to go back to our childhood and find the clues – they are generally there. The things that happened – or didn’t – the experiences we had the things and people we loved.
Once you’ve figured out what you want and don’t want, you may find that your life today does not reflect your values. Or you may find that you actually are on the journey you were meant to take.
Years ago I had a dream list. I read somewhere it was a good thing to do – so I wrote one. When I rediscovered it last year, I found I had done most of the things on it. Some of the things I want today include a reliance on other people – so they may not happen. The older I get, the more I find that the relationships are the most important thing. I must not be alone in that. In the past few months, I’ve had a visit from my best friend in high school whom I hadn’t spoken to in 25 years or more, the gal who lived up the street from me as kids is pulling together a list of email addresses of all our 8th grade class and planning a reunion – an 8th grade reunion! A few years ago I reconnected with my best college buddy and last week I got an email from a guy I dated in college for 3 years – he married my sophomore year roommate.
How about you? Is it time to reconnect or reexamine your past for clues to the future?
You may know what you want to retire from – but not what you want to retire to.
Janet, a young 56, does not actually want to retire but wants a life change at age 62. She wants to split her time between Syracuse and Florida and do what she loves most – estate planning and developing friendships with clients. She wants to do more entertaining. She’d like to travel with her husband, Jim and would work a schedule of one day off a week, one week off a month and one month off a year – write that book she’s been meaning to write.
Jim wants to retire and go back to school to reinvent himself. He wants to pursue interests he’s had to put on hold throughout working and raising the kids – maybe history or archeology.
They both want to stay in touch with the family. If the place in Florida is big enough, they’d like everyone to visit once a year and at the holidays. Or they will do the traveling.
Are you dreaming of the future without have any plan how you will get there? Or have you stopped dreaming altogether because it seems so impossible?
Maybe you need a financial architect – someone who can help you build that blueprint to get to your dream? Maybe you have that architect sitting right by you at the dinner table? Whatever you decide. Just don’t give up dreaming!
Are you part of the ‘now’ generation? Can you possibly transition to a last things first way of thinking?
Most 20 or 30 somethings don’t want to admit it, but they will be working a long time before they can retire. Many dream of retirement at 40 – but barring some kind of financial miracle – that’s not going to happen. Many are waiting for Merlin and his magic wand – not recognizing that their life is out of balance and if they continue that way too long, it will become an unbreakable habit that will bankrupt their dreams.
For those of us a little older – life balance planning or life balance groups could be the answer. If you are anywhere from 45 to 70 something, you may be reexamining what you are doing with your time and your life. Perhaps you’ve been retired for a year or so and find it isn’t all it’s cracked up to be – or you feel like you are too young to throw in the towel. Perhaps you and your spouse are early 50s and need to have some intensive values and direction discussions – and maybe it doesn’t work well to do that alone.
We’re working on a questionnaire that can help you discover – or rediscover your values and direction. I wonder if getting together in a workshop format with other like-minded individuals and a facilitator who is practiced in the areas of psychology and finances – could be what we need. Or maybe just a mediator!