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Retirees Are Trading Their Golden Years For the Golden Arches
It seems like every time I take my 10-year-old to McDonalds lately, I’m giving my order to someone who probably hangs out with my grandparents. In fact, I’m guessing most of them ARE grandparents. I started to think that maybe they knew something I didn’t about the best place to work: a free uniform, quarter-pound discounts, an extra order of McNuggets, but then I realized that these retirees worked not because they wanted to, but because they had to do it After all, if you could choose between traveling, playing golf and enjoying your golden years, or being behind the cash register at the golden arches… well, the choice would already be made.
Unfortunately, retirees are returning to the workforce as a result of seeing their nest egg lose between 25 and 50% of its value in recent years. All were convinced by the financier gurus that the best way to retire was to spend 30 years contributing to a plan that would be heavily taxed and prone to losing money for 80% of participants. They listened to the lies of the Ramseys and the Ormans about unrealistic returns and believed the hype that “there’s no other way!” when it comes to preparing for the day when you (hopefully) stop working (for good) and start living your dreams. The result, hundreds of thousands of baby boomers frantically trying to find a way to recover, and even more retirees returning to work; finding that the competition is so tough, the only place they can easily find employment is somewhere where you ask, ‘chips with that?’
For retirees, it’s too late. The damage is done and they will recover for the rest of their lives. For baby boomers, now is the time to take big steps to secure their future. Sticking with the status quo will get you to the same place as today’s retirees. Waiting for the market to recover is NOT a plan, it’s insanity (insanity: doing the same thing and expecting different results). Do the math; if your account lost 50% in last year’s sale (ie your balance went from $100,000 to $50,000), the market has to go up 100% just for you to SELL. The average time it takes for the market to rise to 100% is 7 to 10 years!! The average recovery time (a flat market) after a recession is 16 years. Are you starting to see the problem?
Fact: The average mutual fund investor lost one percent a year, adjusted for inflation.
Fact: 80% of all investment advisors and mutual funds underperform the overall market each year.
I’m a counselor so the truth hurts…but that doesn’t make it any less true. I’m sure you’re thinking you’ll be one of the 20% whose account keeps growing—beating the market and building a fortune for your later years. That’s what today’s retirees thought too, convinced of this lie every time they turned on CNBC or talk radio. If you’ve been convinced too, keep doing what you’ve always done: the world will always need someone to put another batch of French fries for lunch.
People in their thirties and forties need to start planning for their retirement in different ways. They need to change some of your retirement savings in accounts that don’t fluctuate with the market. Another lie in the media is that the stock market averages 10-12% per year… NO WAY! The real long-term inflation-adjusted average is 6%, and it comes with all the stress of the constant roller-coaster ride and the knowledge that the year you decide to retire could be another year, the market crashes and you lose 1/2 . of your money
The other problem that retirees face is ever higher taxes. Convinced that their 401(k)s were the best place for their retirement savings, they built up as much pre-tax savings as they could. They were told (as you are today) that it is better to defer taxes until retirement because you will earn less and be in a lower tax bracket. There are TWO problems with this line of thinking:
1. No one is in a lower tax bracket now than they were 20-30 years ago because taxes have gone up and are still going up. We are expecting more tax increases in the coming years, a necessity to pay for increased government spending and bailouts. Seniors who were in a net 15% tax bracket 20 years ago no longer have the tax breaks they had when they were younger (kids at home, mortgage interest, etc., and today pay 25-30% in taxes).
2. Who wants to plan to be in a lower tax bracket when they retire? Think about it, that means you are planning to have less money than you do now. Do you feel like you have too much right now? If not, why would you want to PLAN to have less in the future?
There’s never been a better time to sit down with an advisor focused on tax-free, risk-free planning and assess the path you’re on to determine where you’ll be when you finally reach retirement. A Chinese proverb states, “no matter how far you discover that you are going in the wrong direction…GIVE UP! Continuing will only take you away from your desired destination.”
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