Money & Retire

Are You In Danger of Falling Into a Retirement Trap?

Let’s start with Sandtrap #1 – Fear.

In her article, “Live to 120? No Thanks, Many Americans Say,” Sharon Jayson (USA Today – August 2013) states that “63% of U.S. adults believe that advances that prolong life are generally good for society as a whole.” What? Are you kidding? No way do I think that I will or will even want to live to 120+. Maybe not, but the reality is that with contemporary and future advances in science and medicine, that possibility is fast becoming a probability.

When some Boomers retired, they were assured that they had a realistic grasp of their financial situation. Either through fate, fortune, or hard work, they were well positioned to live comfortably to and through their 80’s, and even into their 90’s. Or they realized that they were numbered among those who knew that they would need to continue to work to some degree in order to supplement their moderate or meager retirement nest egg.

In fact, Northwest Mutual’s 2013 Planning and Progress Study, as cited by Rodney Brooks, in USA Today, July, 2013, found that 51% of Americans say they are less financially secure than they thought they would be at this [their retirement] point in their lives. How could we have foreseen the curve ball that would extend our life to 100+, and with it a chilling fear that, no way, no how will our current retirement kitty protect and provide us with enough income to subsist for, perhaps, 20 years more than we had planned?

That’s precisely it! We fear what we don’t know. Yes, at this stage of our life, we’re still battling the demon of realizing that often our fears are founded in ignorance and lack of action. And happily, if we can just step back to recall how, often throughout our lives, we dispelled that demon with knowledge, with positive action, and with practical preparation, we, as “already retired Boomers” or as “almost retired Boomers,” can start to dispel and repel this demon of fear.

Either you’re at the threshold of retirement or have already entered that blissful state. Reality check: Yikes! It’s too late to do long-term planning!… Or is it? Think about it! ! If you’re currently 65 or so, and you now have accepted the possibility of being around for 35+ more years, long term financial planning suddenly sounds not only possible, but necessary!

So … where to start? What are some strategies you can activate right now so that all your tomorrow’s, both immediate and distant, are safe, stable, secure – moneywise?

You Might Stay Put!

Brooks, in his article, “Can You Really Find A Job In Retirement?” suggests some practical moves you can make right now to assure your long-term financial solvency. First, stay in your current job, even if it’s in a reduced capacity. In fact, more and more Boomers are officially retiring from high-profile, pressurized work environments only to return as independent consultants with the same organization. Such a plan becomes a win-win for both the employer and the Boomer. The employer compensates the retired person according to a per diem or hourly or task based agreement, thus saving on the usual perks which come with full-time employment, yet profiting from the Boomer’s professional experience and familiarity with the organization. You, the retired person, continue to receive your retirement entitlement benefits, while simultaneously earning a supplementary salary on your flexible time terms, opting to pick and choose which projects you want to assume, and how much time you want to invest in employment.

Get Connected… or Re-Connected!

Think about it.  In the course of your prolific career, how many diverse roads have you taken? Who did you meet along the way? It’s time to find, network and communicate with all those former professional colleagues who may be familiar with your skills and experience. Often these folks are looking for capable, reliable employees to fill positions in their current job situations. If they, too, have joined the ranks of the retired, they may be ripe for collaborating on a new work project adventure.

A great practical tool for developing your on-line professional network is LinkedIn, often referred to as the “Facebook for Professionals.” Once you establish your presence there, you’ll be amazed to uncover and re-discover past and present professional colleagues who want to connect with you on a professional, career-track level.

Turn Play Into Work

Brooks’ second suggestion is to consider turning a hobby or career fantasy into a job. You’ve always wanted to be…. You’ve often thought you’d be great at…. You’ve secretly wished you had the money (or time or courage) to try…. Isn’t it about time you began to live your dream, while earning some discretionary income? The web, TV shows, magazines — all constantly feature ordinary people like you making an extraordinary living by taking that gigantic leap to follow their passion. Ironically, once we open ourselves to the possibility of earning a supplementary income doing what we love, an entire spectrum of practical resources becomes available in the form of hard research, web resources, human interaction and practical advice.

In SHIFTING GEARS To Your Life and Work after Retirement, we read about the real adventure of a retired couple whose interest was working with crystals. Together they opened a shop called The Crystal Underground (http://crystalunderground.com) They then not only developed a sales website; they also joined the Renaissance Faire circuit, where they now offer their crystal, quartz, and gemstone creations to a broader audience. In the process, they have made a whole new group of friends with whom to travel and to socialize, all the while earning substantial supplementary income doing what they love.

Or what about the true story and re-invented life of a 73-year old native of Warsaw, Poland, who spends her retirement days behind a DJ console, playing music at a club in Warsaw three days a week, and watching people dance to her rhythms. She plays disco, rumba or samba for a mostly older audience, because she feels she is giving them a new take on life. Not one to discriminate against any age group, she has also been involved in other musical projects, including parties where she plays for a younger audience. Talk about doing what you love and loving what you do!

Yes, you’re right on track if you’re thinking, “If these Boomer retirees can live their dream and re-invent their final life passage, so can I. So… banish those demons of fear with “yes I can, I should, I will. Just go do it!

A warning: Brooks points out one important caveat: Be prepared to make a lot less money than you did in your full-time, full-steam-ahead career. But let’s think about that supposition and keep things in perspective. First, your new venture or work project is meant to supplement, not to supplant your retirement income. When you do the math, including your decreased tax bite, you will find that the numbers add up quickly to meet or even surpass your past fulltime income. Secondly, you have come to appreciate and welcome the trade-off between more control of your time, and even possibly more leisure time for less income.  Thirdly, how can you be sure that your newly discovered or developed “dream job”’ won’t become a lucrative financial success?

In future articles, we’ll explore two other Retirement Sandtraps –  Guilt and Obsessive Overload.

By: Dr. Maria Langworthy

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