Byron Moore, CFP®
Question: I’m starting to get serious about retirement. Should I start by maxing out my 401K and investing it in one of those target date retirement funds?
Answer: You’re talking about tools. I suggest you start with goals.Just what is it that you want out of retirement? Specifically?
If your answers sound anything like, “sleep till I wake up” or “fish when I want to,” let me suggest you’re not talking about retirement, but a three day weekend.
For too many, retirement represents the elimination of a negative (a job, an alarm clock or a boss), rather than the elevation of a positive (time with grandchildren, travel or volunteering).
I am not suggesting proper use of financial tools (like your company-sponsored 401K plan) is not important. It is. But without specific life goals, even the savviest use of retirement tools can be like a like a jet pilot without a flight plan – no idea where she’s going, but making record time.
Over the years, I’ve seen several ways individuals approach retirement, some healthier than others. See if you can identify with any of the following.
Survival. Like a drowning man, a retiree with inadequate income will cling to anything and treat it like a life raft. Life guards know to approach the struggling swimmer with great caution, lest they get pulled under themselves and a double drowning result. A “drowning” retiree is struggling to make ends meet and grasps at any solution – even spending down their assets to zero or falling for overly aggressive sales pitches that promise rosy investment returns for “no risk.”
Survival mode is not a goal, but a result of inadequate planning for retirement.
Leisure. This is the great American retirement dream and the focal point of most Wall Street advertising. “Work with our firm and you too will be taking beachfront walks at sunset with an impossibly good looking person with silver hair.”
That may sound really good to you if you are inundated by deadlines and dreary duties at work. And some may never tire of a lifestyle of perpetual leisure. But from what I see, there is only so much travel and beach combing some retirees want to do.
Will leisure be enough to satisfy you in retirement, or might you want something more?
Legacy. Others experience a heart hunger to know that their life has had meaning or purpose. For many, that meaning can be captured in a word: family. For them, it is deeply satisfying knowing that their life’s work will mean they can leave a financial legacy that will impact their family. It may mean money for grandchildren to attend college. Or a tract of recreational land on which their family can hunt, fish and enjoy the outdoors, even after they are gone.
Others have larger or different legacy desires. They may have religious, scientific or educational institutions whose missions they admire and support. Knowing that their legacy gift will mean a significant step forward in that mission brings great satisfaction during retirement years.
Would leaving a legacy give deeper meaning, purpose and satisfaction to your retirement years?
Goldilocks. People do not often fit neatly into one category or the other. We are messy combinations of many categories. So a strict survival, leisure or legacy label may not fit you. Maybe you are some combination of them all.
So I’m glad you are getting serious about preparing for retirement.
Just make sure that you first identify what you specifically want (your goals), then plan what financial instruments and products (the tools) you will use to get there.
It’s a good idea to know your destination before you focus on getting there faster.
Byron R. Moore, CFP® is Managing Director / Planning Group of Argent Advisors, Inc. Mike Jones is Managing Director / Investment Group of Argent Advisors, Inc. Write to either at 500 East Reynolds Drive, Ruston, LA 71270 or call (318) 251-5800. This newsletter is available via email on a free subscription basis. You can subscribe by clicking here. Direct any questions, comments or suggestions to Byron Moore at email@example.com or to Mike Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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