You Will Never Be Able To Retire

You will never sit in these seats

If you listen to the financial industry you will fall into utter despair because you will realize you do not have enough money saved for retirement. Nor will you ever have enough money saved.

Do you feel that way? I certainly did. Before I quit work they had me convinced. I don’t have enough saved. I’ll never have enough saved.

The Financial Industry

Save, Save, Save

Save, Save, Save

This TIME article quotes various sources saying that you will need to save 8 times, 11 times, 12 times, 18 times your ending annual salary if you are to have any quality of life in retirement.

Or, looking at your needs rather than savings, this CNN Money article says this about what your post-retirement annual income should be:

When I started writing for MONEY magazine in the 1980s, people routinely referred to the “70% rule” when discussing the percentage of pre-retirement income one ought to shoot for. Soon 70% expanded to 80% or 90%, and before long, some people began suggesting that 100% was a more realistic benchmark. A few years ago, one retirement research firm even came up with a figure of 126%.

The financial industry has a strong interest in convincing you that you don’t have enough saved. To have any hope of ever retiring you will save as much as you can, investing in the stock market and in mutual funds. That makes money for the financial industry: the financial advisers, the brokers, the mutual fund companies. The money they make from you will allow them to retire with large incomes. The better they convince you that you need to save, save, save, the easier it will be for them to retire.

Just in case you are not already scared enough that you don’t have enough saved, the financial industry causes periodic financial crashes that wipe out your already meager savings. Just when you thought there was a glimmer of hope you might have enough saved, crash, there it goes. Oh well, you’ll need to save more money.

A funny thing happened

Decisions, Decisions

Decisions, Decisions

Before I quit work they had me convinced. I don’t have enough saved. I’ll never have enough saved. But then I started thinking. If I’ll never have enough saved, maybe I should just stop working now. Maybe I should focus on doing the things I want to do while I’ve still got my health and my body still works.

It took a while to make the decision to stop working because I owned a house and the equity in the house was the biggest part of my savings. I first needed to come to terms with selling the house, which is another story.

The Daily Decision

The Daily Decision

Eventually I sold the house, then stopped working. Then something funny happened. I stopped worrying about whether I had enough money. Suddenly everything seemed okay. My focus was no longer on whether I had or would have enough money, but was now on what to do each day.

Tanya and I moved from Boulder to Tucson to enjoy the warmer winters. We take trips to Phoenix, to Sedona. We explore the hiking and cycling and culture around Tucson. We go back to Boulder to volunteer with our beloved Conference on World Affairs and see our Boulder friends. We do stuff.

We’ve discovered that contentment in life comes more from experiences than from possessions – except the bicycles we own so we can have the experiences 🙂 .  It comes less from buying things and more from what we do, the effort we put into things, the friends we have. We create memories through experiences, which doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. And that sounds like a great topic for another post.

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5 Responses to You Will Never Be Able To Retire

  1. Mostly I agree, for those who have no financial obligations to others (don’t know if you are in that category). Some of us elderly people (I’m soon to be 66) still have children who want to go to college. (I got a very late start… my children are the same age as my contemporary’s grandchildren.) So, I do need 8 times, or whatever.

    I look forward to more blog articles from you!


  2. Ellen says:

    This will be a great way for me to keep tabs on you!!

    Hi to Tanya! I miss you both.


  3. Hollis says:

    Thanks for your two courageous acts: quitting and blogging about it! These are questions that pray heavily on our minds. When will we be ready, have enough saved and how will we know? As you point out, maybe these aren’t the right questions to be asking.


  4. HI Alec,

    I think it bears mentioning that the ACA (aka Obamacare) has changed the landscape for those in their 50s or early 60s. You can now retire early or more likely work differently due the ACA breaking the chain that bound employees to employers. I think that we will see this group starting over with meaningful part-time work or fulfilling their dream or opening a food truck or working as consultant or…. We may need to start thinking differently about what retirement means and how we define it.


  5. Frank LaForge says:

    I am getting ready to make the opposite transition (more or less) that you have recently made, and while I’d like to be happy for you that you’ve freed yourself from this psychological burden, the only thought that pops into my head after reading your blog is, “Great, I have 50 years of worrying about money to look forward to.” Needless to say, I am trying to come up with any way possible to delay my entry into the world financial insecurity and to keep doing whatever I want to do for as long as possible. This line of thought has led me to decide that, once I’m done with summer classes, I am going to go live with my distant family in Germany and work on their sheep farm. I won’t truly start thinking about a career until I’m satisfied that I’ve regained perspective and my mind has been fully returned to Now, or the present. With all of the great hefeweizen they have, this shouldn’t be too hard to do 🙂

    Hope all is well.



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