Work until you die or can’t was the mantra for thousands of years. It wasn’t until 1889 that the modern idea of retirement was introduced in the form of pensions by German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck. President Roosevelt didn’t sign The Social Security Act into law until 1935. The life expectancy at that time was under 61, yet you had to be 65 to collect. Today the average life expectancy has skyrocketed to over 80. The original intent was never to provide benefits to our citizens for an average length of 10-15 years.
Social Security was formed to limit poverty, unemployment, and the burdens of widows in American society. We all pay into the system and feel the right to receive it back, but it wasn’t the intent of the policy.
Retirement is not a right, it’s a privilege. My intent isn’t to throw a wet rag on your dreams. The point is to put these things into historical context and to realize the modern privilege of retirement beyond subsistence is something for which we have to fight. The American retirement system has shifted the responsibility to you. If you want a retirement of financial stability for 10, 15, or even 30 years, then you will either need to survive on the safety net of Social Security or take action to secure your goals.
A comprehensive financial plan is a great first step in the right direction of securing a comfortable retirement. Even if you are already retired, a financial plan can help identify the dangers to guard against and plan the legacy you hope to leave. Don’t let fear or complacency stagnate you from taking inventory and an honest look at your financial health. Transform any fear or stress you might have to drive you forward to making meaningful change.
Aiming for the bullseye greatly increases your odds of hitting it. I’ve seen the power of how a financial plan can bring the focus that people want and need through counseling those with great resources as well as limited means. A financial plan helps you identify what it would take to accomplish your goals, the probability of securing them in different scenarios, the different risks involved in falling short of them, and outlines the steps you can take to realize your dreams.
New technology is allowing financial plans to act like a Fitbit health monitor to help track your progress and keep you focused and put worries into perspective. The tools to unlock and guide your potential are there and it is never too late to improve your financial health. An independent advisor can help with those questions an algorithm can’t respond to and provide encouragement when needed.
Most of us spend more time planning our next vacation than we do for the longest vacation of our lives: retirement. I want to see you eating steak and lobster rather than pork and beans.
(Aaron Pickert, CRPC is Associate Advisor for Stewardship Capital. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Advice is intended to be general in nature.)