When new clients come to see Dwayne Grady, a financial planner with American Express Financial Advisors in Wilmington, Delaware, many of them expect him to start by soliciting detailed data about their assets, liabilities and investment history.
Instead, Grady often asks them to write their own obituaries. Only in this case, the obituary is something akin to a financial autobiography.
“I tell them to think about how they want things to end up,” Grady says. “When they do that, they kind of get a feel for what they really want to accomplish in life.”
One man wanted his obituary to say,”I left a legacy for my grandchildren.” Others have written: “I traveled extensively,” or “I volunteered to help others.” Whatever the obit proclaims, however, the process of writing out such a document inevitably helps the client focus on achieving certain financial objectives, Grady says.
Among Americans of all ages, perhaps no other group of people is more concerned with reaching its financial goals than people in their 50s.
Unlike people in their 30s and 40s, who can-and often do-put off serious retirement planning, the writing is on the wall for those 50 and older, as they are just on the cusp of retirement. Fortunately, more and more people in this age bracket are realizing their peril.
It seems like almost every other day we hear about how Americans aren’t saving enough, how medical advances are helping people live longer in retirement than any previous generation and how most individuals aren’t counting on Social Security to provide a safety net during their golden years.
Then there’s the Wall Street boom that has created a new breed of millionaires and helped a whole generation of Americans retire early because they’ve cashed in their stock options. Many in the 50-plus age category would love to say good-bye to corporate America before the age of 65.
HAVING THE OPTION TO RETIRE EARLY
Barbara Cassel is an early retiree of sorts. Instead of taking advantage of the latest Internet IPO, she checked out of the workforce early the old fashioned way: in addition to putting in more than 25 years at the University of Pennsylvania, located in Philadelphia, she also invested for the long term.
When she officially retired from Penn on December 1, 1998, Cassel, 57, was associate vice provost for university life and was earning close to a six-figure salary. She then stayed on as a consultant until June 30.
The job was extremely demanding. She managed several departments and oversaw the university’s crisis-response efforts, answering the needs of the campus and the community whenever there was a major incident, such as an assault or the death of a student. As a result, she was “on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” she says.
Now Cassel lives in Pompano Beach, Florida, and enjoys things she only dreamed about while she was working: biking and playing tennis, reading and spending time with her husband, who retired recently from his job as a federal court employee.
“Retirement is wonderful,” says Cassel. “It’s great to