Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Why thinking about Retirement now is important

Paying off my debt is the first step though. I work hard. I think that most people would say the same thing about themselves. However, in this hustle and bustle of 403Bs, Roth IRAs, defunct pension funds and Medicare worries, we often lose sight of what retirement is all about and why these financial issues are so important.

Recently, I had a nice, long vacation. Eleven days to be exact. And during that time I did some relaxing, some chores, and overall just enjoyed myself. This was what I would expect out of my retirement and what I am saving for.

But I realized that many people are not in that position in their retirement. They are having to choose between their heart medicine and a decent dinner. This is not meant to scare anyone. However, the simple fact is that in our retirement we will likely be earning less than we do now. The worst shock of retirement for many people is realizing that the day they retire they will only have about 1/3 or 1/2 of the monthly income that they used to live on.

Some people are able to adjust, but many aren't. They end up broke because they spend too much, sad because they can't work anymore and aren't living the way they used to, and finally having to make choices that are not easy or fair for a person who 'worked hard' for 40 years.

Seeing this as a phenomenon has made me want to reclaim those retirement years. Even in the next several decades we are going to see people live easily into their late eighties. If I retire at 65 or even 70, I could still have close to 20 more years of my life. Although my generation is being retrained to think about retirement at 70, I'd still like the idea of a semi-retirement at 55 or 60. What does that mean then? I mean, retiring but not being able to eat because I am so poor is not terribly exciting.

So, I think the key is to lower my current standards of living to be a little closer to what I think that my retirement could be like. This saved money is then applied to debt and retirement savings. You know the drill from here. As each debt is paid, apply the full monthly payment to the next debt in line until all are paid off. Then take that monthly amount and invest it for retirement and shorter term goals to ensure adequate income as I grow older.

So that's my plan and I'm stickin' to it!

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