Troublesome things

June 5, 2007

I’ve encountered a new first in my career.  I have met with a family recently who is within a decade of retirement- who have pretty much no way outside of winning the lottery to achieve their retirement goals.  My partner says “Well, we’ll have to remember to smile, at least.”  I wonder if that will help.

I get the feeling that they were hoping for some kind of approval of their retirement plans, or perhaps some kind of suggestion that will magically make their money dance itself into an interest-earning frenzy.   The simple fact is that they make too little money to reach their goals.  They’re either going to have to keep working long after they’d like to, or lower their expectations. (A daunting task for a family who lives on so little.)

Alas, I have no such dance-inducing spell.

At least, not for money.

Of course we will make suggestions, and if followed, the family may find that they are able to get pretty darn close to their target retirement income for the first few years.  But it isn’t going to sustain them forever, nor at levels that grow with inflation. The upside is that they may be more willing to suggest we talk to their children and prepare them for retirement in a way more suitable than “Well, I have a 401k.  Isn’t that good enough?”

Life is strange sometimes.  I think I would hate to get to within a few years of retirement and find myself looking around wondering where my money went.  I got into the business because I was worried that my parents were in this situation.  Turns out they’re pretty much okay – much to their own surprise!  (and my relief.)  But now as I meet people who are really facing this problem – basically being forced to work till age 75  or beyond – I feel somewhat helpless.

Strange strange world.