• Too many of us aren’t ready for retirement
    November 03,2013

    At the risk of ruining your Sunday-morning coffee routine, there’s some eye-opening news out there that bears your consideration.

    Well, it’s not really news; in one form or another, it’s something we all know. But for me, it’s just one more reminder of the seriousness of an important financial challenge for many Americans — living after the alarm clock no longer has to go off before the sun comes up.

    Retirement is the single most important life event you will plan for. There, I said it. I am not usually one for such demonstrative statements but it’s really true.

    We can borrow to buy a car, a home, for college, a wedding or even a funeral. But you can’t borrow to fund retirement. There is no loan program like one that allows you to go to college and pay later.

    And yet, despite these facts, according to a recent retirement study, nearly half of Americans do not feel confident they will be able to save enough for retirement. A third of the 1,000 middle-class people surveyed for the study believe they will have to work until they are no longer able, just to get by.

    The top savings priority for 59 percent of the middle class was paying bills, while saving for retirement was a distant second at 13 percent. Perhaps even worse, nearly half of the respondents said they did not believe you could save for retirement and pay their bills at the same time.

    Talk about disturbing and distressing news. To think that so many Americans, and perhaps you are one of them, believe they will essentially have to work until they no longer can — it’s not what the American Dream is all about.

    Granted, two-thirds of those surveyed are confident they will be able to provide for their retirement. That raises the question of what factors separate the confident group from those who are not.

    The line in the financial sand is having a plan. Of those who have a written plan, a road map to save for retirement, 70 percent said they feel confident they will be able to save enough to retire. Only 40 percent of those without a plan feel the same way.

    Only a third of the respondents have a written plan. Using a nest egg of $200,000 as a benchmark needed for retirement, those with a written plan are at 32 percent of their savings goal. Those without a plan are at only 10 percent of their savings goal.

    Having a plan keeps you on track. You have a road map and you have systems in place that provide you with discipline to save.

    We are not a country of great savers. We have what economists call a “propensity to consume.” While this propensity does fuel our economy and a good economy does have its benefits, that urge to buy does not help our savings rate.

    Saving is not easy but it’s definitely harder without a plan. With a plan comes knowledge. And it will give you options.

    No matter how much you love your job, none of us wants to work forever. Plan now and know where you are headed tomorrow.

    Karen Paul is a financial consultant in Burlington.

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