It was a cheerless piece
detailing the failure of 401k’s as an investment vehicle, the decline of
pensions, the lack of employer-sponsored healthcare benefit plans and the
consequent reduction of Boomer’s retirement expectations. A dreary,
rain-drenched, out-in-the-street future was being painted focusing on stark data
from EBRI that states: “only 22 percent of workers 55 or older have more than
$250,000 put away for retirement and 60 percent of workers in that same age
bracket have less than $100,000 in a retirement account.”
Taking this information
as the only premise from which you work out your retirement, you may as well
give up. -- Just chuck the idea of having any appealing options, start on the cat
food now and simply get used to it.
However, we feel
differently about this scenario.
Houston, we have a
Remember the 1995 movie
Apollo 13 starring Tom Hanks and Kevin Bacon? The future of these
astronauts looked pretty bleak also, with the seeming possibility of arriving
back to earth safely being all but a lost dream. What they did – what they
HAD to do – was put everything available to them out on the table and take a
hard look at what they had to work with. There was no room for mental
darkness, no room for whiners. And time was running out.
From unrelated bits and
pieces they fashioned the part they needed to repair a life-threatening problem
and made it unscathed into their future.
If you find yourself in
a future-threatening financial situation today, you, too, need to ask yourself
“What do I have available to me, and how can I make it work?”
Almost 3 decades of satisfying retirement
But… but… but…
When we retired nearly 30
years ago, we had no pension and no guaranteed healthcare plan. We were 38 years
old and too young to draw
Social Security. Today, that situation would be
described as a crisis. In the wisdom of the current moment, we would be told
that our retirement is out of the question. Talking heads would paint a bleak
picture, emphasizing the drop in our standard of living and the possibility of
bankruptcy due to medical costs.
Accompanying this gloomy
description from the media would be the bleating chorus of: “If only Wall Street
wasn’t so greedy. If only health
care was guaranteed and free. We need another safety net. What a shame to find yourself in this state of
affairs at this time in your life. Don’t rely on yourself, all is lost.”
Back to your future
In those long-ago years
we chose to look at creative combinations to fashion our future. Mind you, there
no guarantees our plan would work, and there still aren’t any today. Our stance has
always been to take advantage of options that are available, and make the most
Keep in mind that
it’s impossible to reach for the stars when your nose is pointed to the shadows.
Caution! Looking only at the dark side of a situation is a dangerous road to
walk. Believe us, you can find anything you want that will support this line of
According to the
U.S. Government Social Security Website, the average monthly benefit received in 2016
will be $1,341 per retired worker. That equates to $16,092 annually. For
easy math, let’s call it $16,000.
Billy and I just
finished living in
Guatemala for 6 months on just over $48 per day. That equates to $17,520 a year, and that was for the both of us.
We ate out, took boat rides across gorgeous
Atitlan, sent presents home to
family and friends, grabbed beers at a bar with friends and drank the best
tasting cappuccino every afternoon. It was not a hardship.
We met other couples in the thriving Expat community
doing the same exact thing – living in beauteous
surroundings with views of volcanoes, the lake, or
majestic waterfalls and paying as little as $200 per
month rent. All of us chuckled to ourselves over our
Living in this location
on one’s Social Security payment would be a breeze. If there were two checks
coming in, you’d have money to spare.
Medical Care in the larger cities of
Antigua or Guatemala City is top notch, and there were several dentists in our
town of Pana who were highly recommended.
The natural beauty of Lake Atitlan is
If you are one of the
“unfortunate ones” who only have $100,000 in retirement savings, you can still
bump your $16,000 annual social security income up another $5,000, and that
$100,000 will last you 20 years.
Do you really want to
keep your current standard of living? How’s that working out for you? If
supporting this lifestyle involves the pressure of maintaining a mortgage,
car payments, upkeep and fuel, credit card debt and hefty monthly payments - you may
want to think twice.
Just because someone
else imagines that you are “taking a cut in lifestyle” doesn’t mean it’s true.
It’s entirely possible that they don’t know what they are talking about!
It may take a while for
you to find the right combination in your new lifestyle. Allow yourself time.
There is a natural process in letting go of the "American Expectation Syndrome."
Years ago when we first retired, we had been living pretty high – we had a new
home, and were illustrious members in the local town. We had gardening service,
house cleaning service, dry cleaning service, and we owned two new cars. Dining
in the best places wherever we went, we took high priced vacations, and our
medical care was paid for through our employer (which of
course, is no longer the case). We expected our lives to go UP from here
(which meant more spending) and we “couldn’t” see
value in simplicity.
But the stress was too
much. We came face-to-face with some very significant personal choices; Keep up
our expectations which incurred more spending and therefore more pressure, or
simplify and set ourselves free.
We chose freedom
To be honest, the
hardest part of the
transition to retirement (and our freedom-based
lifestyle of today) was just letting go of the psychological and financial
weight of having these expectations. Equally as hard, was letting go of
peer pressure to consume, peer judgments over our choices and our peers’ expectations
– of us and of themselves.
However - just to clear
away any confusion - we have been retired now nearing 30 years, have traveled the
globe and opened our world (which has gotten larger not smaller), and our
friends have continued to work for all this time. Now those same people are
wondering how they can ever afford retirement.
If you feel that your
retirement plan is in tatters, why not put everything you have on the table,
take a hard look and be willing to consider the possibilities that are right in
front of you?
There are many
workable solutions if you are willing to look.