Listen to Your Elders Please

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People do not like to hear advice from their “elders.” But shouldn’t retirement be an obvious exception?

The options for what most workers can do to salvage their retirement finances rapidly narrow as they get closer to retiring. After 50 or so, it’s also tough to find a better job, and only so much can be saved in short bursts – retirement saving requires years of diligence.

If you’re still listening, the following is sage advice drawn from two recent New York Life surveys of older workers on the cusp of retirement and octogenarians.

  • Workers in their 50s and early 60s said they started saving too late for retirement. They put the “magic age” at around 26.
  • Automatic savings vehicles such as 401(k)s (or even insurance or paying down a mortgage) turned out to be crucial to the sense of how secure pre-retirees feel about their futures. This was particularly true when children were living at home.
  • Realistically, they said, it was extremely difficult to save more money outside of these automatic savings vehicles.
  • The octogenarians said their financial well-being was the most important factor in deciding when to retire. For this older generation, however, financial security often meant working long enough to get a pension, with retirement largely determined by an age and service record clearly identified in their pension plan. It’s much harder in today’s 401(k) world to figure out if you’ll be okay. Making retirement a top priority is even more crucial.
  • Don’t underestimate your lifespan, the octogenarians said – and the amount of time you’ll be retired. Indeed, U.S. longevity is rising, and most of us will need more savings to pay for more years of retirement than today’s retirees.

The good news is that octogenarians said they enjoyed retirement, particularly the early years after they left the work world. But, again, one’s financial condition has a lot to do with enjoying retirement.

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Another great piece. I always like it when I hear one of my peers say:

Save early, Save often.

Just like what was said about voting.

Paul Brustowicz

I got serious about retirement saving at 38.
First an IRA and the company’s 401(k); always took advantage of company match. Made sure my wife had a TSA at her employer, too. Rolled everything into IRA’s at retirement along with a chunk into fixed income annuity. All saving was on payroll deduction, so I never “saw” the money. When there were salary increases, up went the contributions.
Not a big risk taker, more interested in return of my money than return on my money.
Same advice: start early, save often, and be consistent.

    Ken Pidcock

    “Not a big risk taker, more interested in return of my money than return on my money.”

    Never heard that expression before. I like it.


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Advice about the requirements to ensure security in an unknown future is the hallmark of the crack-pot realism the sociologist C Wright Mills said was a characteristic of social research in the USA.
Best advice I would give, based on my research career in economics is this: Be born rich. Why?
If the last decade of political-economic shenanigans in the US has taught us anything, it has taught us to organize against the plutocracy determined to deny our children a fair chance at employment, savings, house-holding and so forth. The nostrums of financial advice to save, to calculate for an unknown future are made as if we could ignore a younger generation marching into penury. Its idiotic noise.

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