Insight 1 — Waiting For Fate…

One thing that helped me during my recent discernment period was a book by Ernie Zelinski entitled: How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free. Ernie has written several very popular books about retirement. I don’t really know what drew me to this one but it was worth the effort as it addressed many of my concerns that other books on retirement have not. It seemed this book was mainly a collection of clichés but that was ok. It was what I needed.  Let’s talk about a quote from that book:

2014-12-21_13-47-42Regardless of how talented you are and how successful you are in the workplace, there is some danger that you will not be as happy and satisfied as you hope to be in retirement. This may be the case even if you end up having friends to spend time with, living the lifestyle you want to live, residing where you want to live, and having many interesting things to do. What may be missing is a sense of purpose and some meaning to your life. Put another way, you will want to keep growing as an individual instead of remaining stagnant….

Most people have at least a vague sense that they should set aside some surplus cash now for retirement so they don’t have to rely on meager government pensions sometime in the future. But when it comes to how they will spend their time, the majority of individuals are waiting for fate to show them the way. The more that these people expect from retirement without any effort on their part, the more likely that their retirement will be filled with boredom — even depression.

In my business life I had little time to sit back and contemplate my purpose. It was always to get the job done and to keep paying the bills. I put off any serious thoughts of life but when I retired that changed dramatically. For a good while just couldn’t find my “new” place in life. Much of this indecision was put off as I went from retirement from corporate world to six years of owning my own cabinet/furniture making business. But after those six years my “purpose” in life hit me head-on.  What do I do now??

I, like so many others just let life happen. I had always been a planner so this coping strategy was very foreign to me. Foreign but easy!! I initially spent most of my time in front of a television waiting for fate to show me what I was meant to do. As stated in the quote above that decision lead to some periods pretty deep depression and boredom that sometimes took weeks shake off.

I have come to the conclusion that the main reason I become bored is because I am letting my life happen instead of making things happen. Will I ever completely extinguish the feeling of boredom in my life?  Given my personality I am certain the answer to that is “no” but it is a matter of degrees not absolutes. Basically when I don’t challenge myself enough I fall into boredom. It seems as simple as that to me now.

Lets finish off this post with another quote from the book–

As would be expected, some retirees were bored, some were physically active, a few were expanding their minds, and a lot were waiting for destiny to show them the way.  

 

 <<<This is part 2 of my year-end discovery period. Go to the home page and then scroll down to see earlier posts>>>

A Dangerous Game…

RetirementCongressional leaders are playing a dangerous game with their constituents’ money, their livelihoods and their retirement savings. On Wednesday, all Congress did was flip over the hourglass on a game of chicken that cost our economy $24 billion and left America’s future up in the air — and, by doing so, may cause some of our hard-earned retirement savings to disappear into it.

via Your Retirement: A Victim of the Debt Ceiling Deal – ABC News.

Discover Your Passion: Know Who You Are

 

Under construction. Maintenance area.I had to discover a passion for retirement because I had worked all my life at something that I was not passionate about. I understood that in order to discover a passion I had to understand who I am. Figuring out who I am was not complicated, but it required time and effort. It took a lot of mental work, the hardest kind of work. It took a lot of experimenting and trial and error, the scariest kind of work. But almost anyone can do it. You don’t have to be a monk, priest, philosopher or psychologist. You don’t have to have a college degree.

source:  Satisfying Retirement: Discover Your Passion: Know Who You Are.

The above quote comes from a fellow blogger Bob Lowery over at Satisfying Retirement a few days ago.  It was a guest quote from Boyd Lemon. I was very surprised that it didn’t get the usual number of comments for that site. Several things in the post struck me as almost profound in their wisdom. Particularly the quote above.  Sometimes I write a post that I think has at least at some level a profound message only to see that it gets a minimum of views. I don’t understand why?

As I have faced lately, I have finally come to admit that I was probably in the wrong profession throughout my corporate years.  I blame the indecision to admit that early on and do something about it at least in part to a lack of guidance counseling in my high school years. I went to a very small high school in the 1960s so I understand the lack of guidance. I hope that is not the case today but I fear that it is.

One of the most profound responsibilities that a parent has is to help their child learn their ingrained passions and talents early in life. If appropriate counseling is not available in the school system then it should be sought elsewhere. When a person is passionate about what they are doing they are much more likely to make a difference in this world and isn’t that what most of us end up wanting? To make a difference.

But of course I realize that most teenagers think they know it all and would probably resist this type of guidance. Forming young minds is probably the most noble of all professions and guiding them to listen and learn about their compassion is one of the most critical things that you can do for a person.

It is not that I didn’t have a fulfilling life in the occupation I ended up in but instead it is more of a road not taken type of thing. I will always wonder if I had recognized earlier on what I felt strongly about if it would have been even more fulfilling?

Thanks Bob for doing the guest post that got me to thinking about this….

Take a lifestyle cut in retirement — Please…..

Source:  Don’t take a lifestyle cut in retirement — Fidelity Investments.

I know the source article says basically the opposite of what the title is. That is because I think the article is, at its foundation, wrong.  It wouldn’t hurt almost any of us to take a lifestyle cut now or even in retirement. I know that my wife and I are now living on a little over half of what we spent but prior to my retirement. We moved from the “high cost” State of New Jersey back to my roots in Indiana.  We quit buying much of the things we bought before and to tell you the truth we are living a much more happy life in the process. I have fallen thoroughly into the mantra of “Simplify, simplify, simplify….”

The U.S. being a capitalist society teaches us that if we want our country to prosper we must continue to spend and consume more as each year passes.  If we don’t our businesses will die on the vine or so they say. The problem with that is that for most of us working folks we make little if anything more in income than we did twenty to twenty-five years ago.  So in order to consume more we have to buy it on credit. Being good little citizens many of us now have $10,000 or more in credit card debt and often times a second or even a third mortgage on our houses to pay for our ever spiraling spending.

I think it is time for us to get out of the “spend more this year than we did last year”. That is especially true for those of us who are now living in our retirement years. We should have learned it much earlier in life but we should at least now know that having more and more stuff does not insure a happier life. In fact I have found the exact opposite to be true.

So even though I trust my friends at Fidelity Investments to manage my retirement saving I did indeed take a lifestyle cut in retirement and am having a ball.  If only I had learned this secret much earlier in life. My country is going to have to somehow figure out how to prosper without my increased spending…..

Many have little savings as retirement looms

Source: Many have little savings as retirement looms – USATODAY.com.

Ravages of the stock market. The people Redmond encounters most who are lacking sufficient retirement savings weren’t necessarily delinquent or negligent. Many had money saved but were wiped out by the sour stock market in the past decade and poor investment strategies, Redmond says.

That’s what happened, in part, to Robert and Connie Cabana of Tampa, who are both in their 60s. Robert built up a sizable 401(k) working as a financial executive at Verizon. Connie was a business assistant for a local irrigation supply company. Connie was laid off four years ago; Robert was let go three years ago.

But the serious hit to their retirement, which wiped out half their 401(k) savings, resulted from the stock market and an overexposure to risky stocks, they say. Now, 75% of their 401(k) is gone, and they have “very little” left, Robert says

I can remember in the early 1990s wondering if I would have enough to retire on. Fortunately for me the 1990s Clinton era was a prosperous one. My savings more than doubled during those years. I was never one to take a lot of risk so I was pretty much unaffected by the dot.com melt down that occurred in 2000 as I got most of my savings out of the markets before that happened. But I did have a friend that insisted that the “good times” would go on forever. He, like the people in this article, lost a good portion his 401(k).  I haven’t heard from him in years. I wonder how he and his wife are making out in their retirement?

I can remember the stories from the pundits about how people are not prepared for retirement throughout all my adult life.  First there were the oil embargos of the 1970s then there was the savings & loan fiasco of the 1980s followed by the melt down of the dot.com era and now due to deregulation the near meltdown of our entire financial structure. But this is the first time I have seen times remain as dreary as they have for more than ten years now. I can see the “malaise” has grown exponentially since President Carter’s famous speech.  Maybe if we had actually listened to President Carter and freed ourselves of dependence on foreign oil back in the 1970s we would be in much better shape today. Who knows what that alternative history might have been if one of our past presidents had been brave enough to make that happen! Who know how many young lives would have been spared if we didn’t need so much middle eastern oil?

Will any future generations ever be prepared for a secure retirement? It’s hard to say.  About the only thing you can do is keep putting a little of each paycheck back and hope for things to get better. There is not much else an average guy can do.

Do Retirement Savings the Old Fashioned Way…

Let me start of by saying that I am by no means an investment professional but that doesn’t keep me from having an opinion. And I will also admit that looking backwards is a lot easier than looking forwards, especially in money matters. That being said there is something to saving for retirement the old fashioned way and that is to save the money while you are in your income earning years. Fortunately I retired just before the dot.com bubble burst. I had already moved much of my savings into more, some might say very, conservative areas that were somewhat unaffected by the coming down markets. I was more fortunate than many of my follow front-of-the-herd baby boomers in that regard.

It seems that, especially during the boom years of the Clinton administration everyone was betting their retirements savings on doubling or tripling via the stock market’s constant upswing.  The feeling was “if I can just put $10,000 into the stock market it will be worth $30,000 to $40,000 in a few years. Many people were planning on retiring with the new found wealth in the their forties instead of waiting for the usual sixties.

And then came the Bush years of stagnation. When Mr. Bush came into office the stock market was right around 10,500. Now more than ten years later it is at a little over 11,000. that make for an annual percentage basis of about 0.3% annual gain. If you had bought $1,000 worth of U.S.Savings Bonds in January 2000 it would now be worth $1500 or the same amount of profit as your $10,000 would likely have gained in the stock market over the same period of time.

I know all you financial advisers out there are saying “what you say might true be but these are unusual times”.  To that I say over the very long term you might be right but this has been going on for almost twelve years now. To many that is well over one-third of the earnings years and there seems to be no reason to believe that things will change any time soon. Given the vitriol atmosphere in the congress now there is little reason to believe that your government will ever be able to help bring back prosperity even if they could in the first place.

So, here we are again back to the old-fashioned way. If you want to be more assured that you will be able to live comfortably in your senior years you are going to have to give up some of the “stuff” you deem important today. This includes things like that $3 cup of coffee, the vacation home, the $300 monthly budget for new clothes, and the new car every three years. Instead put it away for retirement. It doesn’t seem to matter much where you put it; if putting it in your mattress makes you feel secure then put it there. Just put it aside where you can’t get to it too easily.

One of the things that we let our corporations get away with is shedding any responsibility for their employees future well being. The company pension plans of my generation are long gone now so the only thing you can be assured of is the social security you will receive. It will be the only thing that will provide even the most basic safety net.  And, no I don’t think we U.S. voters, especially us senior citizens, will allow anyone to take that away. But then again what do I know 🙂