I’m 47 and retirement is on my mind.
How could it not be? Here at InsuranceNewsNet, I spend my days reading, writing and editing stories that force me to be aware of this thing called “retirement readiness.”
I read about Americans who tap into their retirement fund and end up regretting it. Dipping into a retirement savings plan is expensive because of the penalties associated with withdrawals. Advisors generally caution against people doing this.
I edit stories on how Americans expect to live longer (yay!), but are completely unprepared to pay for it (boo!). Two-thirds of Americans believe there is some chance that they will outlive their savings, with one in three saying the likelihood is 51 percent or better.
Apparently Congress is in a pickle with Social Security. Everyone in Congress knows the money is going to run out, but nobody really want to get serious about finding solutions.
Yet they insist that Americans need to get their heads out of the sand and face retirement planning head on. Congress, heal thyself.
Back to me. I am a typical American and I never paid much attention to retirement planning in my 20s and 30s. Thankfully, I managed to get into a 401(k) plan many years ago.
I picked some funds, set a percentage and forgot about it. My only awareness of my investment came via quarterly statements that I glimpsed at and tossed in a box.
These days, after a year soaking up insurance, annuity and retirement planning info at INN, I obsess over fees, Wall Street trends and whether my portfolio balance is appropriate.
Therein lies the problem with retirement planning. Why didn’t I take this kind of responsibility sooner?
I’ve tried to think back to my younger days and get back into that frame of mind. What was I thinking? The best I can recollect is that I considered retirement age so far off and so sketchy that saving for it just wasn’t a legitimate concern.
That amount of time is also fertile ground for dreamers. When you have 30 or 40 years to go until retirement, it’s hard to conceptualize it in present-day terms.
It’s much easier to recognize that you’ll experience so many changes during that time and some of those changes will probably yield a plan for retirement. Maybe it’s an inheritance, or a big job promotion.
For a lot of folks, just getting by day to day takes all they have. Other needs are prioritized and retirement saving usually loses out.
So I am thankful I landed at INN, and was forced to confront my retirement reality. Another thing happened – an epiphany of sorts. When October rolled around, I realized I had been in central Pennsylvania for 17 years.
I remember moving into my little High Street apartment in Carlisle and unpacking on a Sunday while I listened to the late, great Myron Cope broadcast a Steelers game.
And it really didn’t seem like that long ago. I thought more about it, and I did some math. I hate math. Forty-seven plus seventeen equals sixty-two, I thought.
This is a method annuity expert Jack Marrion uses to help clients recognize just how close retirement is. If 17 years can go by that quickly, I better get serious about this, I thought.
So I have. I think I am getting serious about it in the nick of time and I am confident I’ll be able to retire and maybe work a little, write a little and travel a little.
But according to this story, many Americans don’t get the wake-up call in time.
I’m glad I did.
InsuranceNewsNet Senior Editor John Hilton has covered business and other beats in more than 20 years of daily journalism. John may be reached at [email protected]
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