Wes Moss: What are your retirement plans and concerns?

What does retirement mean to you? The word itself comes from “retire,” a French word that means to withdraw to a place of seclusion — a monastery, perhaps. That’s probably not how you see yourself spending your post-career years, at least not all of them.

Wes_Moss-for-Web-smaller-fiBut how do you envision your retirement? And will you be ready when the time comes to give up the daily grind? Not just financially ready — but emotionally and psychologically ready?

“Old age is no place for sissies,” Bette Davis famously said. And, it turns out, neither is retirement.

First, let’s address an anxiety I’ve seen plague people at every income level: thinking retirement isn’t even possible, regardless of whether you’re making $50,000 per year or $500,000.

Impossible? No. Difficult? Yes. But between your savings, Social Security, the potential of a company pension, and the reduced cost of living you will incur as an empty-nester retiree, you will almost certainly be able to stop working at some point. Maybe not at 55 or 65, but retirement will be possible in some form, somewhere down the line.

Here’s the bigger concern: How will you adjust to life after the retirement party? Too many of us spend our adult years working, fretting and saving for a chapter in our lives we haven’t really thought about. As a result, a surprising number of the retirees I meet are less than satisfied with their new situation.

Take “Peg,” for example. She retired at 57 with great health, plenty of money and modest living expenses. The woman has the freedom to do whatever she wants. What she does is spend a lot of time pondering whether she should have retired. She’s not alone. A recent study found that only half of all retirees felt retirement was “better than” pre-retirement.

The emotional side of retirement

It’s not uncommon in my experience for new retirees to experience any number of troubling emotions, including fear about money, guilt about not working and a sense of uselessness or disconnection from the community. The guilt can be especially bad if a spouse is still working a job they don’t love. As the years roll by, some retirees realize they are adrift – just passing the time in a mundane, unrewarding routine.

Others deny themselves the potential joys of retirement – travel, hobbies, helping younger family members – and even put themselves in a financial bind by continuing to save at their pre-retirement levels. I’ve talked to retirees who actually take extra money out of their IRA every month, pay the taxes and then put those funds in a savings account. That’s typically not necessary or financially wise.

As a certified financial planner, retirement is at the core of my profession. I take pride in my firm’s ability to help clients fund their post-career dreams, whether that’s spending more time with their grandkids, running a small business or climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. But retirement is about more than money. As a result of my experience with clients, friends and family members, I’ve developed a desire to help people prepare mentally and emotionally to enjoy what should be some of the best years of their lives.

I’m putting together a study – ‘The Problem with Retirement’ – and I would very much like your input. If you are still working, I’d like to hear your concerns about retirement — financial and otherwise. I’m especially interested in learning whether and how you are actively talking about and planning for life after work. Do you have a “bucket list?” If so, what’s on it?

If you are retired, tell me how it’s going. What was the best thing you did to prepare, either financially or mentally? What came as a surprise? Is your financial plan holding up? If you are running low on money, what’s the plan?

What things did you worry about needlessly? What would you have done differently? Would you have worked longer? Retired earlier? What’s it like being with your spouse around the clock?

I hope you will share your experience, wisdom, questions and stories with us through your comments below. And, if you have further thoughts, you can email me at moneymatters@wesmoss.com or go to our Facebook page, Wes Moss Money Matters, which we’ve just launched.

- By Wes Moss, for Atlanta Bargain Hunter

13 comments Add your comment

2by4

February 21st, 2011
4:09 pm

One thing I find about retirement plans is the plan itself. It is not simple to understand, secondly how much does one really need to be putting away on their 401k. everything also depends on your job and the amount you make. I believe it needs to be more simple and user friendly. if one lives a long life will the money be enough.

Secondly people that retire with everything and are still complaining can nver be statisfied they should be thanking God and if they are bored they can volunteer or get a part time gig somewhere else.

Blade

February 21st, 2011
4:31 pm

I am nowhere near retirement it but I don’t think I would stop working at any age. I would get bored. I don’t think it’s realistic to think that someone is going to scratch and claw to save for thirty years and then magically retire and then suddenly start throwing money around having the time of their lives. If you are frugal, then you’re spending habits won’t really change. If you live a simple lifestyle, then that won’t change.

What will change is the amount of advisors out there trying to confuse people into becoming their clients. There are thousands of advisors out there and 99% of them take the wrong angle because they are more focused on growing AUM as compared to managing a client’s portfolio. They claim things like great client service or access to exclusive managers.

It’s anything to avoid talking about the real bottom line which is, how are you going to grow my portfolio in a way that minimizes fees and provides superior risk adjusted returns compared to an index.

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looking ahead

February 21st, 2011
5:03 pm

Like a lot of folks we made the mistake of not saving at an early age, but we both have been socking away a fair amount for the past 15 years. As we grow older and our finances change and the economy shifts, we continue to do the math to get an idea of when we would like to and can afford to retire. We realize we have several options as long as Social Security stays intact and we don’t have another recession in the next 10-15 years before we have a chance to retire. The government keeps pushing the retirement age out as well which I know is probably a necessity. A bad economy had also prompted us to build an emergency fund for the last couple of years in case one of us loses a job. But what it boils down to is will we have enough to retire comfortably and remain that way without fear of depleting our savings? We have seriously considered the lifestyle we live which is not really extravagant. We could always cut out a few unnecessary luxuries if need be. We have talked to some retirement specialists over the years and read several books and listen to different speakers and have been to some classes on retirement techniques so we have learned a few things. It does get a little confusing. I think a bucket list is a must! I hope most people think about what they want to do when they retire, but I do know some people that don’t have any real hobbies. A lot of people travel, but that can get expensive, too. So what do you do? Work in your garden? Wash the car? You’re going to have a lot of time on your hands!

Woody

February 21st, 2011
5:58 pm

With folks living so much longer, this really adds to the complexity of this area. Also the economy has really hit people hard and could add a tremendous amount of additional working years needed to reach retirement goals.

MrLiberty

February 21st, 2011
7:23 pm

I have great concerns about two things in particular.

The first is that there is active talk in government circles that the feds are planning on stealing everyone’s IRAs, 401(k)s, etc. and giving us all annuities backed by the worthless government and their unbacked, bankrupt Treasury bonds. Muck like Social Security, these will pay out if they feel like it, you won’t be able to will them to your heirs as you can now, and they will be likely worthless by the time anyone in their 40’s actually needs the money. The value meanwhile will be used as collateral to finance even more wasteful government spending, most likely to prop up the pension plans of state and local government workers so they can be secure in their retirement.

The second concern is that the Federal Reserve will continue printing money like its going out of style to the point that it actually does. Weimar Germany, Argentina, and Zimbawe have all see the effects of a collapsed currency. I have no way to get my money out of my 401(k) to protect it from a collapsing dollar. Thankfully I took a small IRA and converted it to silver about a year ago. It is now worth double what it was and if the dollar collapses it will be worth a ton. But then there is my first concern.

Inflation is directly caused by the government printing presses and has caused the 1913 dollar (the founding of the Federal Reserve) to lose 98% of its value. It is no wonder nobody can save and must invest in risky stocks, etc. to try and stay ahead. Before the Fed was founded, gold actually increased in value and people’s savings actually supported them in their retirement. I am afraid that people have lost touch with the realities of history and are now just believing the lies of economic idiots like Bernanke, Greenspan and others.

Ole Guy

February 21st, 2011
7:38 pm

To anyone in their 20s, 30s, or 40s…one word/four letters: ROTH. To those in their 50s/60s, the ROTH probably won’t gain an awful lot. To the under-50s…study it, learn everything about, and capitalize!

Sammy

February 21st, 2011
7:59 pm

How about putting topics like this one in the Business section? I’m here for bargains and deals. This column/blog has really gone off track since Lauren Davidson took over. I’m not saying her efforts are good or bad. It’s just that the focus is only on bargain hunting about half the time.

Bostonian

February 22nd, 2011
10:05 am

For me, the concern with retirement is to go from putting money away and growing my investments for years to stopping contributing and simply withdrawing every month. I cannot imagine not seeing my balance going up every month from my deposits, but instead, seeing it go the other way.

With money market rates so low and the uncertainty that surrounds our govenment, I am not sure how to weigh risk and return once I stop saving. Do I just run the risk of running out of money by going through principal, but at least I would know how much I was going to have in the end or do I risk seeing my nest egg go down by 25% by investing it somewhere in the market. You never think about these questions when you are just putting your head to the grindstone and saving aggressively all the time, but now the question needs to be addressed.

Obviously many other uncertainties: which account do I take money out of first? Do I pay off my mortgage? Do I need any more insurance?

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DW

February 23rd, 2011
1:00 pm

@MR LIBERTY Go back to watching Fox News while the rest of us have an actual discussion. Thank you

Rose

February 28th, 2011
10:09 am

I would like to see something written about “forced” retirement. My husband was downsized and I haven’t worked in over 25 years. Although he has a BS and an MBA, he has not been able to find a job in two years. We do have savings, took advantage of unemployment compensation, but all this talk about working longer is not working for us – can’t find a job. He has stated, don’t want to work at a Lowe’s or Home Depot and would take a lower paying professional job (his background is financial as well as sales and marketing), but he can’t get an interview. His resume is up to snuff and he’s well versed on technology (sold whole house computer systems in the automotive world). He has started his own company, but is not making any money. We are in our early 60’s and thinking about just going for SS when I reach 62 in about 6 months. But it makes me sick that he wants to work, is skilled at what he does, is up to date and we can’t continue to make income. Needless to say, I can’t get arrested either. Mine is more understandable – I don’t have a profession (was always admin) and have a job gap that is huge. But he’s a workaholic, ready, will and more than able.

Wes Moss

February 28th, 2011
10:40 am

What awesome responses to this blog…Forced retirement is a great issue to write about and I will put it on the docket…

Also, low money market rates, the Roth IRA and taxes, the Fed printing money, inflation, not starting to save soon enough, and lack of trust in advisors and Wall St. – all very important concerns that you have raised. This is valuable input and I appreciate the feedback as it will be of great help in my project “The Problem with Retirement”!

Look for today’s blog about skyrocketing oil and gas prices…!