Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Running out of Money is NOT America’s Biggest Retirement Fear

What a bunch of baloney.  I don’t buy it, and I certainly don’t eat it.  I’m talking about what is reported to be America’s number one fear about retirement.  All of the top reasons, according to this particular article, Survey-americans-racked-by-retirement-fears, have to do with money.  Health care costs are scary and not enough savings are scary, and not being able to afford daily expenses is also apparently scary.  Are you kidding me?  These things are NOT scary.  I’ll tell you what’s scary…the grim reaper.  The tall, faceless, black-cloaked, scythe-wielding personification of death scares the pants out of me.  And you too, I’m sure, though some of you may not like to admit it.
A quick and unexpected death (R.I.P. Mr. Dave Goldberg) can happen to anyone, at any time.  I think this is why many of us live in the moment and say, “f-it!” to retirement planning.  One of the cultural differences I’ve come to appreciate about Americans is that in contrast to Mexicans, who acknowledge and celebrate death (Day of the Dead, e.g.), Americans are all about living; it’s as if Americans believe they will live forever:  “Next year I’ll be traveling to…” OR “Next year I’m going to do…” A grandma could be 99 years old still talking this way.  Gotta love it!
Although a quick and unexpected death would suck, it’s not my biggest fear.  Living with fear of dying at any moment is not living at all.  However, dying just before and right after retirement would epically suck!  This is my worst fear, followed by dying young from a disease like cancer.  In my 14-year career as an educator, I’ve had six colleagues die either just before or right after retirement.  These great folks had put in over 30 year careers only to croak without truly enjoying what they had worked so hard for, a long, comfortable, and relaxed lifestyle with their remaining years on this planet.  Sad.
Now, I know what many of you are thinking.  But if we don’t die, then money becomes concern number one.  That’s because you’re not thinking about dying hard enough!  I get that life expectancy rises like every year it seems.  That’s what the mortality statisticians say, and the retirement industry is right there to pump it all up, to scare you into buying their services and products.  I’m not against the retirement industry or their urgency to get you to save as soon as you enter the workforce.  On the contrary, I’m on their side, but not because I’m afraid of not having enough money when I retire.  I’m a heavy proponent of saving and investing so I can retire early!
I don’t want to take my chances on this “expectation” of living longer.  And don’t take me wrong, I love my job for allowing me to make an impact in peoples' lives.  When I return to teaching next year, I’ll be even closer to restoring a healthier work-life balance and further away from this type of scenario:  Five-charts-show-life-balance.
Mexico leads the industrial world of keeping their company, or other type of “managers,” on the job.  61% of Mexican managers work over 40-hour work weeks.  Surprising, isn’t it?  See…I told you, Mexicans are the least concerned of dying.  Bring on the grim reaper!  Curse you USA for assimilating me.  Just kidding…God bless America!  But yeah…when it comes to working, although I’ve put in multiple 40-hour plus work weeks as a high school administrator, it was never either willingly or blissfully.  To me, stress that comes working long hours is like skin exposure to the sun.  Being out in the sun may not always cause sunburns, but over a lifetime, the damage is real and permanent.  The same can be said about stress.

Encinitas, CA
My motivation for saving and investing right now is a chance at early retirement.  There’s no guarantee that I’ll be around tomorrow, and for that matter, that I’ll save enough to shave off 5 years or more from my career.  Nonetheless, this is what drives me.  Like everyone else, I make compromises, deciding what is okay to splurge on, and how to financially balance my lifestyle so that I don’t deprive myself of memorable experiences for being a miser.  A great example would be the sport I love to do, road cycling.  Since 2007, when I bought my first carbon fiber bike, a Bianchi, I’ve easily spent more than $3,000 in upgrades, replacement costs, and maintenance.  That’s not counting the cost of the bike, $2,200.  It’s not a cheap sport.  But I don’t care.  The memories I’ve made cycling throughout the state of California are priceless.  And I’m in better health for having taken up the sport.  Barry Bonds, the retired and controversial former major leaguer, claims cycling saved his life.

More of cycling, having time to write without being pressed for time, spending time with family, dating my wife, helping people by mentoring them, is all I can think of when I envision retirement.  I don’t see myself being bored at all.  I guess I’m confident about money and knowing that if I make the decision to retire, rather, when I make my decision to retire, I will have my number.  There will be no question in my mind that I will have the necessary dinero to call it quits on the 7:30 to 3:30.

La Cumbre Peak, Santa Ynez Mountains, Santa Barbara County
Don’t let the lack of money scare you into working longer years.
Do let the lack of money prior to retirement worry you into saving and investing more.
Enjoy your life today, and if you have tomorrow, enjoy it too!
If you’re not having fun at work, make it fun!  If you can’t make it fun, leave the job and find one where people aren’t all uptight and serious.
Ride a bike.  

Palomar Mountain
Final Comments:
@BarryBonds, were you getting dropped on that hill by them beautiful cycling gals?  It’s okay.  We can’t all be mountain goats.  
Do you road bike?  Join me on Strava: Carlos Gomez, Oceanside, CA.   
Thanks for reading!        

Amgen Tour of CA, Escondido, CA

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