It seems like every week there is some new gloom and doom news report about baby boomers and retirement. The latest report making the rounds in the mainstream media this week is a study from something called the Employee Benefit Research Institute which shows nearly half of those currently aged 56 to 62 won’t have enough money to cover even basic living expenses during retirement.
In USA Today, the study’s author, Jack VanDerhel, says this should wake us up to the reality of today’s retirement challenges:
Stop deceiving yourself that you are going to have enough money for retirement,” he said. “If you believe that there is a chance you’re going to be at risk, you must start doing some financial planning and do it now.”
Hello? Contrary to your belief, Mr. VanDerhel, lots of us haven’t had our heads stuck in the sand these past few years. We’ve been doing “financial planning” till we’re blue in the face. Most of it in the form of contributing to 401(k) plans, like all you “experts” told us we had to do to avoid spending our golden years in the poorhouse. And I don’t have to remind you what has happened to those investments these past few years. Most of us got to watch them plunge faster and lower than Pamela Anderson’s neckline!
When watching our 401(k)s tank, I thought about an old uncle of mine back in Oklahoma. The only bank in his small town was closing, and a big city TV newsman had come to town to report on it. He stuck his microphone in my uncle’s face and asked what he thought about the bank closure. My uncle replied, “Hell, I don’t care…I got all my money stuffed in my mattress.” Probably not the smartest thing to announce on television. But the point here is I couldn’t help thinking I would have done better financially with a mattress than a 401(k). So much for the experts.
What we need is less scolding and vague admonishments to do financial planning, and more concrete, realistic advice as to what our options are and where we go from here.
Could it be that our only two remaining choices are 1) win the lottery, or 2) work till the day we die?
I don’t know about you, but I’ve taken to practicing phrases that may become very useful in the future…starting with “Welcome to Wal-Mart…are you returning that item?“