The Post-Pandemic Retirement Survival Guide - Part 2

A real-life example.

I worked with a 67-year-old gentleman who was planning to retire at 72. Then the pandemic hit. He wasn’t affected financially. His plan remained on track. However, what changed was his realization that life is short, and perhaps lofty overseas travel and other big-spending goals weren’t that important after all. The quarantine altered the client’s retirement aspirations. From a quality of life perspective, he gained five years of richness beyond what dollars can purchase – more significant time with loved ones, peace of mind, flexibility, sleeping in!

Formulate a grand reset that adds rich layers to retirement that have nothing to do with spending. Can you reduce a financial goal, downsize, work a part-time job at something you’re passionate about, all to gain another year or longer away from daily rituals that exhaust you?

What are your rules?

I have a friend who used the pandemic time to create a series of NEVER AGAIN statements. He wrote them on an index card.  The note serves as a constant reminder to follow the rules and avoid the temptation to spend on impulse items or extravagant wants. 

NEVER AGAIN will:

  • I live above my means.
  • Society dictate what’s right for me.
  • I have personal boundaries crossed, financial or otherwise.

You get the picture. Here’s one I created: NEVER AGAIN, will I be unprepared for financial vulnerability. Thus, my motivation to maintain at least a year’s worth of living expenses in a cash reserve. At RIA, we call it a Financial Vulnerability Cushion.

Write your NEVER AGAINS. Review them regularly, so you remember long after this event passes.

NEVER FORGET your NEVER AGAINS.

It’s not the Great Pandemic; it’s the Grand Reset. Use the experience and aftermath to discover a more authentic, pragmatic retirement planning process. 

 

Action #2: Are your thoughts around money ‘sub-optimized?’

Thirty years of partnering with others through financial challenges, thousands of words, and oddly I experienced personal angst over this one -“sub-optimized.”

It’s rare the word arises, if at all. There was something about it that captured my curiosity. I wondered about the obstacles that create what I call “dollar drag,” whereby the highest and best use of our money is overlooked or ignored, thus throwing us off track to hit retirement or any other financial goal.

Sub-optimization is an equal opportunity offender. We all are afflicted, even if our track record of handling money is better than average. There can be great intentions, even good core money habits, and yet sub-optimization thrives because we’re human.

As in the case of this fifty-something couple: Six-figure wage earners, ambitious savers who set aside 20% of income for retirement and saddled with dangerous credit card debt levels due to a failed real estate venture, overall, I give them high marks when it comes to handling their money. However, a simple solution to reduce the high-interest debt was clearly in front of them, but they couldn’t see it. They couldn’t wrap their minds around their financial condition in its entirety. There was a mental barrier between the personal and business debt even though they were the business. In other words, the burdensome interest charges affected their household net worth.

Sub-optimization is a challenge for all of us.

As a financial professional, I realize nobody can avoid some degree of sub-optimization or dollar drag. Much of it stems from a failure in our logic called mental accounting. See, we like to categorize money: We create mental walls that prevent us from considering how each dollar can flow freely through and across various goals to the final and best destinations on our household balance sheets.

Dan Ariely, a professor of behavioral economics at Duke University and New York Times best-selling author, helped me understand how to position “highest and best use” in my mind. He said, “every financial decision has an opportunity cost. You cannot make the best money choices in a vacuum.” It’s sort of how Social Security recipients perceive the retirement benefits claiming strategy through the lens of break-even and not how taking benefits before full retirement age can reduce overall consumption dollars over a lifetime.

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Disclosure: Real Investment Advice is powered by RIA Advisors, an investment advisory firm located in Houston, Texas with more than $800 million under management. As a team of certified and ...

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