My life is chaotic. There are six of us in my family. Our four kids go to three different schools every day. They are involved in church, band, volleyball, baseball, soccer, basketball, etc. They have social lives. They can’t drive yet, so guess who is the chauffer? Well, mostly my wife is, but I help when I can. Our family motto is “Cherish the Chaos.” It is a daily reminder that as frustrating, and out of control as our lives sometimes seem, someday, when our children are grown, we will look back on these days with great fondness. It’s our attempt at perspective. When you’re busy living life, perspective is hard to grasp.
It’s that way with our financial future. Life is full of problems that need fixing. If you’re like me, you prioritize those problems in order of urgency. If you have a leaky toilet, you need to pay an overdue bill, and you need to make reservations for your anniversary dinner, which are you likely to deal with first? As much as I want my wife to have a memorable evening, I would like my floors not to be ruined even more. There’s a pecking order. And because of that, there are minor projects, hobbies, and activities that get put on the back burner for years. And so it goes with planning for retirement. It can seem so far down the list, that we never give it the attention it deserves. That can have disastrous consequences.
According to an annual report from the Employee Benefit Research Institute, a whopping 26% of working age Americans have less than $1,000 in retirement savings. More than half (54%) have less than $25,000. Combine those startling statistics with this: the average American retires earlier than they expect, on average around 60 years old. Life expectancy in the United States is expected to reach 80 by the year 2020, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That’s average. That means millions of us will live longer. We could realistically spend up to a third of our lives as adults who are NOT earning a paycheck. Let that sink in. From birth, through elementary school, high school, and college, and the first few years of your adult life could be equal to the time you spend in retirement.
Our perspective needs to change. But, we should recognize the problem is actually an opportunity.
In my short time at GenWealth, I have visited with clients who recognize that. And I can tell you, they are just like you and me. I believe they worked through a simple process that can get us all to where they are.
1. DECIDE THAT DOING NOTHING IS NOT AN OPTION
This is the shortest step. But it sets everything else into motion. It takes an internal resolve that I will not live with my head in the sand any longer. Perhaps, it means my spending habits need to change, or that I need to set goals, or make a budget and stick to it. Whatever it takes, it’s a decision that I will not be deterred.
2. BECOME INTENTIONAL ABOUT YOUR FUTURE
I recently read “Retire Inspired,” the N.Y. Times best seller from Chris Hogan, the guy Dave Ramsey calls his “trusted voice on retirement.” Near the end of his book, Mr. Hogan tells his readers to write down that “I am the CEO of my retirement.” I wrote it on a sticky note, and stuck it to my desktop. Simply put, nobody can do this but you. Not your family, not the government, not a lottery ticket. You can’t listen to, or act on the things that distract you from keeping focus on doing it.
3. GET HELP CREATING A SMARTER PLAN
While it’s up to you to prepare for your retirement, it’s hard to do it alone, especially when you likely can’t devote the time needed to figure it all out. Remember my family motto? Life is chaotic. You need someone you can trust to guide you to, and through, retirement, so you can focus on living, knowing the plan is in place, and working.
I can’t say I’ve always done this. Most of us haven’t. But, I can tell you I am undeterred now. I will not let the noise of a culture full of self and selling derail me from my goals. Every time I hear the commercials say you “need” this, or you “deserve” that, I audibly answer back, “No I don’t.” It takes resolve. It takes commitment. And yes it takes some balance. I still want to enjoy today, but not to the extent that it puts tomorrow in jeopardy.
I want better: a better future and a better sense of purpose. I hope you do too.