I remember my mother when I was very young telling me that she and my father would not be home for dinner one night because they were attending a retirement party for one of my uncles. Itís my first memory of the word ďretirementĒ and itís not a memory I will easily forget.
My mother wore her fancy black high heels which rested in the back of her closet, the ones she only took out for special occasions. My father came home early, showered and got redressed in a suit my mother had picked up that morning at the dry cleaners. At first I thought they were going to a funeral.
The next day, I remember asking my mother about the party, which included a lot of speeches, good food and some dancing after. I was left with the impression that retirement is an event and after you retire, you donít really do anything. It wasnít until my grandmother retired that I realized that retirement, like everything in life, is what you make it. And my grandmother filled her retirement with travel, events, painting, sports and, most of all, spending time with the people who mattered to her. I was lucky to be one of the lucky ones.
Once upon a time, retirement was about leisure, the proverbial shuffleboard shuffle, sitting back, maybe not doing anything much, only doing what you wanted. Today, that vision is, for many retirees, either laughable because their lives are so active or itís equally laughable, though not very funny.
For many victims of the Great Recession and the damage wreaked on retirement portfolios and home values, to say nothing of job security (or lack thereof), it is a different reality. If you donít have a pension, many Americans and Vermonters are planning to work way past the traditional retirement age. Some will do so willingly because they love their work, others will do so because they have to, and still others will want to but health issues may get in their way. Retirement isnít about a gold watch and a farewell dinner anymore.
In survey after survey, more than half of private sector-employed Americans are saying they wonít be able to amass enough money to fund a secure retirement ó even if they work and save and donít retire until 65.
Some market gurus talk about the ďnew normalĒ in the stock market and how we need to get used to lower returns from this point on. I donít know if thatís true, at least the ďfrom this point on,Ē but every American needs a Plan B when it comes to retirement. Itís important to save and to plan, but not to plan to save. Itís important to get started now, today, and itís important to diversify and be conservative in your estimates for health care needs and other necessities.
Planning means anticipating the unexpected. If you are already nearing retirement and the money isnít in the bank like youíd like it, your road map in retirement may include downsizing your home, moving to an area thatís less expensive or doing a reverse mortgage to get what you can out of your home when you need the cash.
Health problems can happen at any time. As you move closer to retirement, itís critical to make sure your health insurance picture is complete with no gaps that could be costly if you are ill for any length of time.
Retirement isnít an event. Itís a life journey, and like all journeys, there is a beginning, a middle and an end. We only know when it begins because usually we determine that. We donít know how long the middle will be and when the end will come.
I had a friend years ago who worked for a company that went bankrupt. She had all her retirement assets invested in stock in the company. She lost essentially everything. She picked herself up at 45, started a business and 15 years later sheís made back what she had saved in the first 20 years. And then some.
It wasnít easy to start over at 45. But my friend did it. The company she worked for? A little utility company in Texas. Maybe you have heard of it: Enron.
Expect the unexpected. Plan and have a backup. If you donít lose sight of the importance of providing for your retirement, you will be on the road to a secure retirement.MORE IN World/National BusinessREDMOND, Wash. ó Microsoft thinks it has the one. Full StorySAN FRANCISCO ó Yahoo is buying online blogging forum Tumblr for $1. Full Story
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