Question: My husband and I have had several financial setbacks during our lives. We are now in our fifties and we have hardly anything saved for retirement. I know we need to do something, but my husband just seems so discouraged. He agrees we need to do something, but I can never get him to make a move. What can I do?
Answer: It sounds like his soul is about out of air. He’s deflated.
I doubt he needs any more lectures about what he’s done wrong. And he doesn’t need a magazine article taped to his shaving mirror talking about 401(k) catch-up provisions.
This guy needs hope.
Hope is not just a vague wish. It’s a confident expectation that something good is coming in the future. It isn’t even necessarily certainty…it’s just a feeling that you’ve got a good fighting chance.
And it sounds like your husband doesn’t think he has even that. He thinks he’s dead in the water. Some version of “let us eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die…” is playing in his head.
When people come to me in this state of mind, a pep talk is just irritating to them. They don’t believe pep talks. What they need to see (and desperately want to believe exists) is a road map.
That’s what a financial plan ought to provide for your husband (and any anyone else in his shoes): a road map of how to get out of the quagmire he’s in.
He knows he can’t work forever and once he’s retired, fired, let go or put out to pasture, he’ll experience what I heard someone recently call “cliff retirement.” That is, you retire and your lifestyle falls off a cliff.
My suggestion is to find a financial planner who will help you do a realistic assessment of where you are and what it will take to retire. Unless you’ve got a rich uncle on his deathbed, this will probably involve some combination of saving more now, spending less now (and perhaps in the future), working longer and possibly working some in the early years of your retirement.
So, yes is it a complicated puzzle with many moving parts. But it’s your puzzle and you need help putting it together.
Your husband doesn’t need this sugar coated. He needs the see the facts laid out in all their dire reality. Then he needs to understand just what it will take to get to the place he needs to be financially. And then he needs someone to help him do the things necessary to live out the plan you and your planner put together.
That process–involving reality and a road map–might just be what your husband needs to give himself permission to believe that he might actually make it.
And that belief is called hope.
Moore for your Money, by Byron Moore, CFP