. . . learning that my social security income if I retire at age 66 will be only 25% of my current salary. If I wait until I’m 70, it goes up to a third of my current income. I checked this out a long time ago, but I read the monthly income as weekly income and assumed I was fine. I’ve always been phobic about money, so I guess at the time I was feeling so much anxiety I read it wrong.
My pension savings, assuming the stock market goes back up, are not nearly enough to make up the difference. So, I may be working for the rest of my life.
I responded in the comments section:
. . .Pete and I know what that’s like. It made for some significant changes when we realized we, too, would probably be working forever. We decided that had better be at stuff we liked doing, so that it didn’t seem like…uh..work.
We’ve originated some side businesses online and through networking. You might want to investigate some similar options now to supplement your income, and then replace it when you are required to opt out of your job. If you need any suggestions or recommendations, I’d be happy to help.
There were a number of supportive comments on that post (including one from Jeanne, who lives my nomadic RV fantasy). I didn’t expect to get a request for further conversation, but it came from Dot a few days later:
I’m officially requesting advice. As in, I need all the help I can get. I’ve never run a business and have a mild case (formerly severe) of money phobia. It’s so nice of you to offer to share some of your experience with me. . .
I re-read the email several times and got scared. Here was someone asking me for advice about business – not about the business about which I’m more ostensibly qualified to respond (my communications position where they, uh, actually pay me). Had I inadvertently created an impression that we knew what we were doing? We certainly don’t profess to be John Chow or Shoemoney, thankfully. But still.
I kept thinking, “I only know what I know. How do I know it would be good for her?” And then, the answer came: I didn’t and don’t know if what we’re doing could be good for Dot. All I know is that it’s currently providing an assist to us. I just didn’t want to inadvertently put ourselves out there as some kind of online business gurus, because we’re certainly not!
If knowing about what we’re doing could provide an assist to Dot, well, that would be a good thing. She needs one, and she needs to get started because she’s got about 10 years before she’s got to retire. This is the exact same process Pete and I went through when we assessed our situation prior to and during the first year of our marriage.
The more we looked into things, the less pretty they got. It became abundantly clear that neither of us had married for money. It was even more clear that I had married a reasonable, practical man who didn’t get caught up in the net of recrimination or excuses. Praises be! We were in this together, kind of like a couple of mules pulling the same wagon. I could work with it.
We figured we had limited options: about 17 years and then the oldest of us (uh, that would be me) would begin drawing Social Security.
The monthly income from that was, in a word, grim.
It wouldn’t even cover one of the mortgage payments. I could see myself taking in boarders if something happened to Pete. Ick. By the time my youthful husband retired (at 70 as well) our monthly income would max out in an amount equivalent to our current first and second mortgages.
So we had seventeen years in which to come up with a get-rich/make-it-all-back-and-then-some scheme. The trouble is, we had no idea what that might be. It was a recessionary economy. Whatever we did would need to be relatively risk-free, as in we could afford to lose the money we could invest. Which wasn’t much.
It was realistically clear we needed to consider that we were not going to have the vacation-like retirement our parents enjoyed. Our 401Ks had dwindled to 201Ks and were now hanging out in the general vicinity of K, with no numbers. We were pretty much going to be working until the day we dropped.
It was also clear that eventually we would have to sell the house. The sooner the better, thought I in the midst of housing market stagnation. Curses, foiled again! The cherry on this sundae is that it needs additional remodeling – mostly cosmetic except for the kitchen, which requires a hand grenade. Ick. I am not convinced there is enough lipstick for this voracious porcine wonder. Real estate’s nosedive coincided with our needing to sell, and precluded us from taking advantage on the buy side. I’ve come to think of assets as not so asset-like.
Was I really willing to share those disappointing details with someone we know only through online interaction? At the very least they could provide cover for our less-than-guru stature. I thought of a post that we put up about a year ago, that still accounts for sizable monthly Stumble traffic. I went and re-read that post.
When I finished, I knew: I couldn’t not share what little we’ve learned. All information, if truthful and un-garnished, is useful. I realized that by helping Dot out with what I could provide, I would probably go through an evaluation process of my own. The result might be better goals, an improved strategy, and more information from which to make these decisions (due to devouring all sorts of online resources in the interim). And so, I responded:
About the money and side business thing. I’m going to apologize in advance for thinking this way, but I’m thinking our communicating back and forth might make a wonderful series of posts. To this day, we get stumble-upon hits, over 100/month, on “Proceeds,” a post from last year. Here it is for back-story, if you’ve not already read it: Proceeds. . . .
What followed was a friendly, lively back-and-forth exchange that did, we decided, make for a wonderful series of posts. We’ve decided to share our emails with you, and to be as candid as possible about every aspect of the process. To me, this feels somewhat like traveling through the dark in a rope line, but I’m definitely game. Why not come along for the ride?
Make sure you subscribe to Deeper Issues so you can read about Dot’s reactions and thinking as we make our way through this together.
Front Yard: Peter Wuebker
Employee Pension Plan: Tobias Higbie
All Others: Public Domain
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