Why Retirement is Well Earned

Getting yourself to retirement is no easy task. Many individuals who reach retirement age are finding themselves unprepared for their second act. For some people it is a matter of not having enough money to support themselves in the future. Other people discover they have not put any real thought into life after the job and find themselves ill-equipped to fill their day with enough activities to occupy the hours. Across the board seniors are realizing there is no guarantee of a fulfilling retired life.

For those who are fortunate enough to finally join the ranks of the retired, the journey to get there is often a story worth telling. But the story of those who are unable to retire is equally worth listening to and paying close attention. We don’t just happen into retirement; we have to earn our place.

What exactly is required of would-be retirees to increase the odds of realizing a happy retirement?

Most people who arrive safely in retirement can relate to long hours spent on the job and plenty of uninspiring duties. While there are some people who are blessed with a career they truly enjoy that inspires them each day to get out of bed and get to it, there are certainly others who work primarily for the paycheck. Most people learn to put up with the annoyances and stress that comes with the job because they are compensated for their troubles. Some people may not agree the compensation is commensurate with the trouble, but no paying job can be taken for granted these days. We stick with it and move forward.

Along the way, successful retirees likely learned to do without today in order to prepare for the future. There are many stories of delayed gratification and past sacrifices. Without putting off our immediate wants we would not have been able to meet the demands of raising a family and steering them down a safe course. Many successful retirees sacrificed short-term rewards in hopes of better long-term security.

Personal wants and needs become secondary to those of our children. Years of providing for schooling, doctor visits, braces, clothing, food, cars and weddings can sap the energy of the strongest, to say nothing of the impact on savings. But we soldiered on with a stiff upper lip and love for those we hold closest in our hearts. Faith in what the future might hold allowed retirees-to-be to keep their noses to the grindstone.

Many of us had a spouse who accompanied us on this life journey. Together we shared successes and failures and hopefully were able to support one another when things got too tough to handle alone. When you finally enter retired life, the two of you have earned the right to focus on each other and your future together.

Most of the baby boomer generation understands the importance of maintaining good health if you hope to enjoy a quality lifestyle as you age. Time spent in the gym, the pursuit of healthy eating habits and avoiding the many practices that are bad for you are all essential to maintain good health into your later years. Having paid dues for so long, retirees hope to enjoy a healthy second act well aware that those good habits will need to continue.

It is not easy to understand the tremendous amount of sacrifice, work and focus it takes to arrive safely at retirement until you personally make the journey. Only then can you justifiably look back on the incredible accomplishment you have achieved, knowing you survived a journey shared exclusively by fellow determined retirees. Consider yourself part of an elite group that charges a steep price for admission. You earn every moment of your retirement. Once you are there, enjoy.

From my blog for US News & World. Dave Bernard is the author of “I Want To Retire! Essential Considerations for the Retiree to Be“. Although not yet retired, he focuses on identifying and understanding the essential components of a fulfilling and meaningful retirement. He shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement-Only The Beginning.

5 Simple Steps to a Shiny Financial Future

Written by Paul Watson

When Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy protection in 2008, they became the first major bank to crumble since the start of the credit crisis – and its cataclysmic demise led to financial aftershocks felt around the globe.

In the subsequent five years, individuals and business have slowly picked up the pieces and begun to look to the future with renewed optimism, albeit with nervous glances at the economic car crash smouldering in their rear view mirror.

Although this monetary mess has been undeniably challenging, it has served as a reminder that solid financial planning will cushion the blow should the credit crisis dare to rear its ugly head again in the future.

Consequently, read on for five simple steps to help YOU improve your pecuniary prospects …

Sort Your Funeral Finances

Talking about death is a sensitive subject – especially when it’s your own. However, the financial issues often associated with bereavement can cause loved ones more pain, as many of us choose to bury our head in the sand rather than face the reality of our own mortality. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

By buying a funeral plan, you can pay for your funeral at today’s prices, as opposed to your family paying increased rates in the future. Not only will it offer unrivaled peace of mind that your loved ones are protected, it allows you to tailor your service and receive the send-off you deserve.

Create a Budget

One of the most important parts of preparing for a healthy financial future is the creation of a budget. After all, how else can you plan your finances if you’re unaware of your incomings and outgoings?

By creating a map of where you are leaking cash and areas you can tighten your belt, it will help you obtain a better grip on your expenditure. The upshot, of course, is that you can begin to squirrel the cash into a savings account or put it towards clearing your existing debts.

Boost Your Emergency Fund

Although we’re putting the financial uncertainty of 2008 behind us, redundancy and unemployment, even today, are unfortunate reminders of the economic havoc wreaked by the collapse of the world’s biggest banks – which is why an emergency fund should be a top priority.

Previously, experts reckoned an emergency fund should cover expenses for three months if you find yourself out of work, but opinions now advise individuals to plan for six months’ worth of outgoings, with mortgage payments, energy costs and food shopping eating up the majority of costs.

Wipe Out Credit Card Debt

In the aftermath of the Christmas period, your credit card has likely taken a pounding – and exorbitant interest rates will do little to soften the blow. In fact, average credit card APRs stand at around 17.1 per cent if your balance is not paid in full each month.

To avoid paying through the nose and throwing cash at your plastic for the rest of your life, it’s crucial to make a concerted effort to slash your credit card debt now. Use existing savings and ensure you budget sufficiently to clear the balance as quickly as possible.

Slash Your Mobile Phone Bills

It’s a mobile world – and nine in 10 of us own a mobile device. However, research has found that more than half of us are paying over the odds for our contracts. This means, considering we’re not taking full advantage of our tariffs, we’re wasting over £150 per year.

As a result, it’s important to determine exactly what you need from a tariff – whether it’s unlimited calls, texts, or both – and remove the “waste” from your current contract. Individuals can use a comparison site such as billmonitor.com to help identify their optimal mobile tariff.

Why 65 is Too Young to Retire

The magical age 65 that signaled retirement time for our parents might not hold true for the baby boomer generation. Sure the idea is appealing to call it quits before we are too old to appreciate and enjoy our second act. But the reality may be that 65 is just too young to retire. Some 76 percent of employees say they will continue working past retirement age, with 40 percent working because they want to and 35 percent because they will have to, according to a 2013 Gallup survey. Here’s when it might make sense to delay retirement past age 65:

When you still have a job. If you are currently employed, still able to effectively perform your duties and the job itself is not driving you crazy, it can make sense to stay at it for a while more. The longer you can delay taking Social Security, the more your monthly checks will ultimately be. For each year beyond your full retirement age that you delay collecting Social Security benefits up to a maximum of age 70, you will receive an additional 8 percent. You can also delay the time when you will become 100 percent responsible for your own health insurance premiums as long as your employer is picking up part of the tab. Finally, should you leave your job beyond the age of 50 either by choice or for reasons beyond your control, there is no guarantee you will quickly find another. Since 2007, job seekers over 55 have consistently experienced longer durations of unemployment than younger workers. For many people it makes sense not to give up a decent job before it is absolutely necessary.

When you are not yet financially prepared. If you retire at age 65, chances are you will live another 20 or more years in retirement. If you have worked and contributed to Social Security over the years, you will receive monthly benefits. However, these benefits were never intended to provide all or even most of your retirement income. The average monthly benefit for retired workers in August 2013 was $1,270, while the maximum monthly benefit for someone retiring at full retirement age (age 66) in 2013 is $2,533. Some bills will disappear in retirement, especially if the kids are done with their educations, the mortgage is paid off and the cars payments are done. But other expenses may quickly take their place, and health care costs will need to be an increasing consideration. Plus, when you retire, you don’t want to just get by. You want to enjoy yourself. You finally have the time to do what you want to, but if you lack the necessary funds you may find yourself unable to partake. Financial preparation for retirement should not be about just making it, but making it memorable.

When you have few other interests. If you have worked the last 30 plus years, your daily activities have to a large extent been defined by your job. Hours are filled with projects, deadlines, meetings and strategy sessions as you do what you were hired to do. When you retire you effectively flip the switch and become individually responsible for filling your time. Although the new freedom you will have is exciting and allows you to explore what you never could while tied to work, the hours can drag on if you do not have enough interests. It helps to prepare before you retire rather than suddenly go from a busy 40-hour work week to an empty calendar.

When you enjoy your current situation. There are some fortunate people who look forward to each day and the challenges it offers. They thrive on interactions with fellow workers and the camaraderie felt working toward a shared purpose. Even if a boss does not regularly offer recognition for a job well done, the steady paycheck does. If your job itself is interesting, why look for a way out? Various studies have found that one of the main things people miss when they quit working is the interaction with those they worked beside over the years. Some of our best friendships may start on the job. Retirement should be about having a choice in how you spend your time. If work is what you want to do in your second act, go for it.

Dave Bernard is the author of “I Want To Retire! Essential Considerations for the Retiree to Be“. Although not yet retired, he focuses on identifying and understanding the essential components of a fulfilling and meaningful retirement. He shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement-Only The Beginning.