Let me start with the bottom line: If you haven’t started saving for retirement, you need to start today. And if you have started, you need to sit down, ideally with a financial planner, and seriously consider whether you need to save more, even if it means making sacrifices with your current lifestyle to do it. Why? Because if you don’t plan for your retirement now, there will be few options for you later. But beyond that, there are three retirement killers, identified in the book Achieve Financial Freedom—Big Time!: Wealth-Building Secrets From Everyday Millionaires by Sandy Botkin and Matthew Botkin—that you have to face down now, before it’s too late. (By the way, I consider this book a must-read if you’re serious about building wealth and gaining financial security.)
People are living longer. Of course, this is generally a good thing, but not if you haven’t planned for it. When you consider that the traditional retirement age is 65, but people are now routinely making it to age 90, you need ask yourself: How will I feed, clothe and shelter myself for the last quarter century of my life? Not to mention provide for medical and other expenses. One of the saddest stories I’ve ever heard—and a wake-up call for me—was that of a former flight attendant who’d rejected the help of a financial planner early in her career, and in retirement suffered financial lack so desperate that she later told that same planner that it would be better if she had not lived so long.
Many people end up spending more than they planned to in retirement. That’s because we tend to think of the expenses that will go away, such as the cost of raising children or paying a mortgage. We often forget about new expenses, such as for medicine and the costs of new hobbies and interests, in retirement. Not to mention providing financial support for adult children and grandchildren. If focused on planning now, you’ll be better prepared for—and more realistic about—what your costs of living will be later.
Inflation. Too often, we don’t take into account the rate at which the value of a dollar diminishes over time, which means you will need more of them to cover the same costs. Also, keep in mind that while the costs of living is all but certain to increase, your income will not likely match that of your peak earning years, but be fixed or even in relative decline as your expenses go up. You need a plan to deal with that, especially if you don’t have a plan to continue to generate income into old age.
It’s never too soon to plan and save for retirement. The earlier you begin, the better. When dealing with retirement planning killers, the worst thing you can do is nothing.
Black Enterprise Executive Editor-At-Large Alfred Edmond Jr. is an award-winning business and financial journalist, media executive, entrepreneurship expert, personal growth/relationships coach, and co-founder of Grown Zone, a multimedia initiative focused on personal growth and healthy decision-making. This blog is dedicated to his thoughts about money, entrepreneurship, leadership and mentorship. Follow him on Twitter at @AlfredEdmondJr.