The common thread connecting almost everyone we work with is a desire to retire on their own terms. Of course, for this to become reality, planning and preparation need to begin years in advance. The opposite of retiring on your terms is having someone else calling the shots in retirement. No one likes that option but based on the data, that’s exactly where many folks with retirement on the horizon are heading.

The biggest issue we encounter from those calling us for help is too little money and too little time. We have decades of experience guiding individuals toward retirement but it’s a process that requires time…years of time. As they say in contract law, “time is of the essence.”

The Reality of Retirement Savings

According to Census data, the majority of 65-year-old Americans have no retirement savings at all. The median retirement nest egg per the same study is only $104,000. In terms of retirement expenses, the average out of pocket health care costs for the typical retired couple are estimated to exceed $258,000 during retirement. Simple arithmetic shows this as a scenario where the average retired couple will end up with others making decisions for them because of insufficient savings.

If you don’t want to be in the “no good options” group of retirees, what can you do? The answer is to start serious planning for your eventual retirement at least 10-15 years before your anticipated retirement date. For most, this translates into roughly age 50-55. If you’re already past that age, it may not be too late, as long as, you have resolve and discipline concerning the amount you will need to save for the remainder of your working life.

What Do You Want Retirement to Look Like?

The next step toward creating a sustainable retirement is to decide where you want to go. That is, what do you want retirement to look like? You need to achieve crystal clear clarity on what you want. You simply won’t be able to muster the needed motivation and discipline unless the destination truly excites you.

From there, it’s possible to determine how close or how far away you are from being able to fund retirement on your terms. If you are not in close proximity to your goal, consider saving more (maybe much more); working longer; or lowering your target retirement income. The hard truth is that many spending choices are “nice to haves” and can be deferred, eliminated or financed. You can’t finance retirement.

The Ultimate Solution? 

There’s another option that many individuals nearing retirement talk about these days…never retiring. I have even heard colleagues talk about this as the ultimate solution. Well, there are exceptions but the actual data strongly suggest that relatively few people are able to fully function, mentally and physically in high level jobs past their mid 70’s.  With many individuals living well into their 90’s, that still leaves potentially a two decade-long retirement time frame even when working into your mid 70’s. Therefore, sailing into the future with no savings and a plan to work until you drop probably won’t work.

Many individuals carry around pain from being far, far away from their retirement goal. This is where pretend (non-fiduciary) advisors from investment firms and insurance companies swoop in to offer expensive product “solutions”. Simply put, most of these are con jobs and will only make your dilemma worse.

There are no magic fixes for catching up on saving for retirement. There is a stark juxtaposition between the seemingly unlimited spending “needs” of today and the very real spending needs in the future. If you want to control your financial future, you can but only by shifting your gaze from today toward where you want to go. Start there. Ready for a real conversation?

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