Retire Better Blog Resurrected

There has been a seven year gap in my posts since I created Retire Better Blog.  So a bit of explanation is due.  I began with two posts, but then was forced to put the blog into mothballs for reasons I’ll come back to in a moment. I created the blog out of my strong desire to help and encourage a community of people searching for ways to prepare for a better retirement. The 2008 great recession had dealt a staggering blow to many family retirement plans.

Before I could make my third post I was presented with the opportunity to become a Financial Advisor with Edward Jones, a prominent US financial services firm. Because of Edward Jones’ conservative observation of FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) regulations, their company rules would not allow me to continue writing a blog that deals with financial matters.  I had to stop then but I’ve recently retired from my role as a Financial Advisor.   I now want to continue pursuing my passion to help families prepare for their future financial well-being here in the blog world.

During my years as a Financial Advisor, I became painfully aware in my initial interviews with over a thousand family units that most of them were woefully ill-prepared for their financial future.  More disturbing still, many seemed too pressed by their current life concerns to even think about their future life, their future well-being.

Some years ago I became obsessed with discovering what was causing this serious lack of preparation for the financial future of our nation’s families. Depending on which national statistics you look at, somewhere between 50% and 70% of the nation will not be able to live in retirement a standard of living that is close to what they had while employed. Most actually retire with little more than Social Security.  I wasn’t willing to just accept that and write it off to an irresponsible lack of discipline in our society.  There had to be a cause, a serious reason for such a pervasive problem. How can such lack happen when you consider the fact that every dollar invested in the S&P 500 fifty years ago would have grown to over $100 today?

So I’m resuming this blog to share the findings of my years of study and the solution I’m confident would change those national retirement statistics drastically for the better.

What Retirement Do We Want?

What do we want?

If you’re like most of us, your first obstacle to having a better retirement is your lack of motivation to take whatever actions are required today to make it better.  In large part, this lack of motivation usually stems from the fact that we haven’t yet decided what we truly want our retirement to be like.

Before we can determine what will be required for us to create a better retirement, we need a clear picture of what we really want our retirement to look like.  A typical response to that question might be that we want to have a “comfortable retirement”.  But what does that mean?  Obviously, it means different things to different people.  For many, comfortable could mean being financially secure.  But others might focus on what they want to be doing during their retirement.  Some may concentrate on what they want to have or where they want to live.  We are probably conscious of all of these in one sense or another, but if we probe our motives further, we’ll find that our true goal is usually something more unconscious.

Why do we want what we want?

Here’s an exercise I found to be very helpful in order to get a better handle on what I wanted my retirement to be like. While on vacation in Hawaii, I spent a quiet afternoon soaking up the beauty of my surroundings and   jotting down 4 or 5 things I wanted for my retirement.  Then I wrote a brief paragraph on each describing why it was important to me.   What motivated my desire?  How would having that desire make me feel? At the subconscious level, the motives behind nearly everything we want, including our retirement, can be reduced to how they will make us feel if we have them.  We want it because we want to feel the sensation it will give us.

How do we want to feel?

The truest way to discover what we want our retirement to look like would be to ask ourselves how we want it to feel. If we consider a comfortable retirement as being “financially secure”, we’re actually sensing that we want to feel free from physical or mental distress.  We want to feel contented or at ease.  Being financially secure will certainly go a long way toward giving us those kind of feelings.

If, on the other hand, something you want to do when you retire is race sailboats, ask yourself why that is important to you.  It might be because you love the exhilaration of getting the most out of your sailboat, or it could be the thrill of competition or the feeling of peace you have when you are at one with the wind and the water.  Your desire to experience that feeling is what drives your desire to own the sailboat when you retire.

The point is, it’s easier to know what you want if you determine what feelings associated with your retirement are most important to you.  Our feelings have a deeper impact on us than things do.  When you know what you want to feel, you can then relate those feelings to the activities, people, places, climates or resources that you think will provide the feeling for you.  Knowing which feelings are strongest for you will also help you prioritize your various retirement objectives.  For example, if you also enjoy the exhilaration of snow skiing, is that a stronger feeling than your desire to race your sailboat?  The answer to that question could affect a lot of decisions about your retirement.

What are we willing to do to have what we want?

There’s a purpose for getting down to our deeper feelings about what we want for our retirement.  Find yourself a quiet location to spend some time vividly imagining pleasures you want to feel in retirement and why you want to feel that way.  Then write down your description of both.   Next, try to get a sense of the pain you will feel if you don’t have the opportunity to experience what you want?  Write a description of that feeling of regret as well.  When you’ve recorded both, it’s time to make an important decision.  What effort are you willing to make today to ensure that you and your family will have that retirement you’ve dreamed of?

You see, when we only think about the “things” we want, it usually doesn’t have the strength to drive us into action.  But when we vividly imagine what the experiences associated with those things will “feel like”, these feelings have the emotional power to motivate us into sustained action.  And that sustained action is what will be required if we’re actually going to overcome the main obstacle to the better retirement we dream of.

Finally, there are two good reasons why it’s important to write down what you want to feel and why you want to feel it.  First, it forces you to be clear about what you want.  You’ll never be motivated by some vague goal.  Second, put your written record of what you want into a three ring binder along with your other retirement planning notes so that you can review them frequently.  This review will allow you to renew your motivation to focus on and sustain weekly action toward your better retirement.

Introduction to Retire Better Blog

Are you in your 50’s or 60’s and hoping to retire sometime in the not too distant future?   Do you have enough resources to produce the income you will need to continue living at your current standard of living for the rest of your life?  Have you calculated how much you will need if you live into your 80’s or 90’s?  I have!  My name is James Vickers and I’ve spent the past five years working on the answers to these questions and many more like them.  The statistics tell us that most people reaching retirement age in the next ten years are not financially prepared to retire comfortably.  Most are nowhere close, but take heart.  There are answers for this dilemma.

Our Changes

Take a moment or two to think back over some of the major changes that have occurred in just your lifetime.  There certainly have been many beneficial changes that have given us a better standard of living.  Advances in innovation and technology have provided for better health and a longer life.  We have gained greater access to everything.  Computers, cell phones, electronic devices and the internet have greatly increased our productivity.  It’s hard to remember what it was like to live without these things and many more like them.

By the same token, there have also been a bunch of adverse changes that have reduced our standard of living.  Ironically, many of the positive advances have also ushered in some of our greatest challenges today.  For example, the communication advances that were made possible by the internet and fiber-optic cable are a major cause of our job losses to other countries.  New drugs and medical devices have improved the quality of our health but have also had a big part in driving up the cost of health-care.  On balance, how have good or bad changes like these affected your expectations for the quality of your approaching retirement years?

Our Purpose

The purpose of our Retire Better Blog is to examine the impact these kind of changes have had on our retirement expectations, particularly for those of us in our 50’s and 60’s.  We will look for ways we can make our retirement better.  Who doesn’t want to live a better life in their retirement?

So what would you like your life beyond 66 to look like?  What are you doing now in order to live those years to their fullest?  I don’t know about you but I’m looking forward to more travel and the chance to do the things I’ve never had the time for before.  If you have a list of retirement activities you are looking forward to, spend some time thinking about why you want them to be a part of your life.  Are your plans important enough for you to spend some time and energy now working to achieve them?

Our Expectations

Are you hopeful that you will be able to live the lifestyle you want when your time comes?  Rising healthcare costs, collapsing real estate values and the financial melt-down are only a few of the serious threats to the plans of many approaching their 66th birthday.  For many of us, there just isn’t enough time left to save our way out of our retirement shortfall.  We need to save all we can, but we should also be aware that there are additional  steps we can take beyond saving.  Some of them may be unconventional, but when you’re running out of time, creative approaches are often necessary.  Most of us have spent years thinking that saving  is how you prepare but I’ve discovered that you have to take a multi-pronged approach when you’ve run out of time.

Our Plan

It’s our hope that the ideas and strategies we share here will truly enable all of us to create a better retirement for ourselves.  I use the word “share” because I mean it.  I’ve spent the past five years doing the research and study that will form the basis of this blog, but I’m the first to acknowledge that I don’t have all the answers.  What will make the information we find here truly valuable will be the contributions and perspectives that each of us provide.  The challenges we face are huge, but take courage.  Be encouraged!  There are answers that will enable us to retire better.  And by all means, enjoy the journey!