Unprepared to Retire

At the age of seven I decided I wanted to play baseball. I was always a small kid who spent much of his youth trying to avoid being shoved into a school locker. 

My Dad agreed to teach me how to play baseball but said that since I was small and not naturally athletic, I would need to make up for it by working harder than anyone else. I was so excited to play that I agreed to whatever he asked. 

The very next morning, as the sun was just coming up, the light went on in my bedroom. My Dad, holding a bat and a ball, told me to get dressed. I complained at first but he reminded me I had made a commitment and I was expected to keep it. For the next several months we practiced pitching and hitting every morning. It wasn’t easy, but the hard work paid off.

I thoroughly enjoyed my years playing little league baseball. I was always the starting pitcher and had the highest batting average on all my teams. I remained the smallest, but I worked harder than anyone else. I couldn’t hit the ball very hard, but I learned that home run hitters also struck out the most so I was content to hit short singles and just get on base. 

I am continually amazed as a financial advisor at who has the money. My years of experience have taught me that it is rarely the home run hitters. With few exceptions, my wealthiest clients tend to be just average working people who started young and spent their life just hitting singles and getting on base. It is amazing how much money you can accumulate if you save regularly, invest carefully, and live on a budget.

There is a lot of political talk about our unfunded liabilities. This refers to future commitments for Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security for which there is no money set aside.

Government is not the only problem, however. Individual families have huge unfunded liabilities when it comes to their own retirement. The vast majority of Americans are unprepared to retire, and based on current trends, will never be prepared. Over 60% of American workers have less than $25,000 in savings, while 75% of current retirees say they have not saved enough to last out their lives.

We complain that our government manages money badly but we should look at our own balance sheets. Many blame tough times or poor wages for why they aren’t saving, but excuses won’t pay the bills when you are too old to work. I work with hundreds of families who saved during some very tough times, but they still stuck with it and now have retirement funds to be proud of. It can be done. If your family is to survive, it must be done. The secret is no different than what my dad taught the littlest kid on the team. It doesn’t take great strength or unusual talent. Just start early, work on it daily, and hit a lot of singles.