The increasing number of elderly Americans means an increasing demand for services, which will strain public resources at all levels. The demand will be great, but it is nothing preparation can’t take care of, and the time to prepare is now. Unfortunately, the economic recovery underway in the U.S. is slow and halting. The consequent lack of tax money means governments will likely be unable to handle the wave of elderly citizens that will soon engulf many communities. Continue reading →
Before retirement, most of us live in established routines. We rise early and head to work, where we perform familiar tasks; we come home to our families, have dinner, enjoy the evening, and go to bed. One day grows into the next.
Such patterned living is built on years of small adjustments to the demands of school, then work, family and community. It started in kindergarten — showing up, following instructions, adopting goals and meeting expectations. By the time of retirement, most of us live with a sort of automated proficiency.
At retirement, we chuck the job, but without a deliberate effort to break the routine, ingrained living patterns remain; retirement slides along with new responsibilities gradually filling the time spent at work. There is nothing wrong with that pattern, but it may amount to a missed opportunity.
I was born on the cusp between Generation X and Generation Y (a.k.a. the Millenials). As a member of the middle-child demographic recently dubbed Generation Catalano, I have some insight into how members of both of these generations view retirement. And I have to say, it isn’t pretty.
Pessimism and the American Dream
According to the results of a spring 2011 Gallup poll, confidence in the American dream is faltering. Defined by Gallup as the opportunity for each generation to earn a better life than previous generations, the data show that indeed, the American dream appears to be slipping away.
If retirees pay regular living expenses from their investment portfolios, and then spend some of those investments to resolve emergencies, they put future withdrawals at risk. It’s different in middle life when living expenses are paid from salaries or wages, and savings are commonly used for emergencies.
Some Financial Approaches
One solution is to set aside a portion of a retirement portfolio for emergencies. A retiree with a $500,000 portfolio could set aside $100,000 for emergencies, using only $400,000 for ordinary living. If the withdrawal rate is 4 percent, the retiree would withdraw $16,000 annually for ordinary expenses. The $100,000 emergency fund would be left alone.
An idealized retirement story might sound like this: Saving for years, retiring from work, then taking planned withdrawals on through retirement. It sounds orderly and easy, yet many retirees know it is anything but.
Emergencies arise, not only in a retiree’s life, but also in the lives of loved ones. Ordinary life includes a leaky roof, a needy middle-aged son or daughter, or a troubled grandchild. If retirees have savings, even if they rely on them for monthly living, there is the ever-present urge to liquidate savings and put some money on the problem.
An Ugly Trick
There is an ugly trick with the urge to be generous, and it’s subtle.