When Retirement Goes Wrong, Can Anything Go Right?

When I help someone plan his or her retirement, we focus on two goals: Making the most of what they have, and protecting their interests should retirement not go exactly as they’d wish. That second part is becoming more and more important. Today’s retirees have more challenges than their parents’ generation. Here are just a few of those challenges.

1. Longer lives, bigger bills

It’s not longevity alone that can tank your retirement savings – it’s the healthcare costs. At-home caregivers, hospital stays, hip replacements, and physical rehabilitation treatments snowball, and may swallow up your savings and backup plans.

2. No pension

Your parents had pensions, giving them a sense of security the rest of us may never know. When your retirement is in your hands, and you’re busy making a living and raising a family, the results generally are not good. If you’re like most Americans, you’re not saving enough.

3. Sandwich generation

Speaking of your parents, they might be moving in with you! Even if they don’t, many retirees are still responsible for taking care of their aging parents, and possibly their recession-struck children as well. You may not only have to plan for your own retirement needs, but your family’s needs too.

4. Living in a “C” grade nation

A new report comparing the U.S. with 24 other nations gave our country a “C” grade on pensions and retirement plans. Other nations garnering the barely-passing “C” grade were Poland, South Africa and Brazil. That grade stands for “some good features” with “major risks and/or shortcomings that should be addressed.” Chief among those is inadequate income generated from retirement plans.

Now, I don’t mean to make you depressed. Just understand that there are challenges, and some things may go wrong. Hope for the best, plan for the worst – that’s our motto. Let’s say the worst happened and the only income you could count on was your Social Security (no laughter please, this is serious). What might your options be?

The Good News

U.S. News & World Report recently came out with The 10 Best Places to Retire on Social Security Alone, where Social Security can cover basic monthly expenses. With the average monthly Social Security check coming out to $1,294 ($31,056 per year), five of the most affordable cities are: Albuquerque, New Mexico; Austin, Texas; Buffalo, New York; Columbia, South Carolina; and Grand Rapids, Michigan. Many of these places don’t even tax Social Security income.

However, the secret to living relatively well in any of these cities is owning your house free and clear. Yes, even when all else fails, you should still plan to pay off that mortgage.

Our generation faces more retirement challenges than any other generation has experienced, but let’s not forget that we are intelligent, educated, well-traveled people. With a little planning, we can tackle those challenges and set the example for our children and grandchildren to follow.

And, if all else fails, we can move to Albuquerque.

 

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