Retirement Advice. For You?

Does it seem like all the retirement savings advice you see these days boils down to “you need a better job?”

It seems that all of the articles I read about starting to save late in life lead off with the wonderful news that the US government wants to help you by upping your retirement allowances. Now you can take advantage of loopholes that allow you to save up to $30,000 a year for retirement. And that’s just for starters! Wow!

Of course, most websites where you will find retirement advice are looking to funnel their readers into some sort of investment, so by their nature they are focused in people in higher tax brackets. But still.

The average worker in their fifties in the United States makes about $50,000 a year. A little quick math makes it obvious that there is a problem with the retirement advice readily available today.

And yet, ads on these types of websites traditionally start with the phrase “If you have 500,000 dollars to invest…”

Many of the people in the American heartland live in places where an income of $50,000 is something that can only be aspired to. The idea that after 30 or 40 years of work, raising a couple of kids and hopefully getting them well on their way, that you might have 500 grand laying around is pretty laughable. And who in their right mind would think that you might be able to save 30 grand a year?

Still, it’s the mindset that is questionable, not necessarily the advice. While someone who hasn’t spent their life in a high powered job in a high powered industry might not have quite as many options to improve their retirement prospects, that doesn’t mean that all is lost. In retirement planning, as with most other things in life, mindset is key.

Not only is having a good attitude important for developing a plan for retirement and for living a good life after work stops, but looking at things from a different angle can be a great benefit when deciding how to bolster your prospects between now and then.

It is possible to look at most things from more than one angle. Take the idea of getting a part time job. It is rational to not want to work more than you have to. After all, work is not the purpose of life for most of us. As the saying goes – don’t live to work, work to live.

Yet when we are young and wages are low and energy is high, working an extra job in order to be able to afford extra “stuff” seems like a good idea. With age comes wisdom, and we realize that trading time for stuff we don’t really need is not such a good bargain.

But another facet of wisdom is the ability to look ahead. To trade some of today’s pleasures for tomorrow’s. It might be true that you energy is less than it was a few years ago, but it is probably also true that the demands on your time are less. Trips to band concerts and high school sporting events are largely a thing of the past, and there are far fewer weekend parties on the schedule.

If you think of part time employment these days, it is largely a matter of trading in a bit of settled existence for a little income. Working just a few hours a week and saving all of that income can be a big boost to retirement security. And there are other benefits – variety and socialization to name just a couple. Meet new people, bust up your routine. Realize that you are not being forced to work, you are doing something to improve your life in later years.

Adjusting your thinking just a bit can help with another extra income opportunity. Sharing your knowledge with others. It is common for us to discount the things we do well. To just assume that others can too. But coming to the realization that that’s not true (it’s not) can open up a world of possibilities, not only for side income, but for a potential income stream well into retirement.

The things you have learned over the years have value. Not only can you share that knowledge and wisdom with younger people, but also with those who didn’t have the time to acquire them over the years and are interested in learning them now.

Teaching or consulting in old age can not only be lucrative, it can also be rewarding. There is pleasure in sharing knowledge. There is value in teaching, not only for the one being taught. but for the teacher as well.

These are just a couple of the ways that looking at things a little differently can alter the way you look at retirement planning.

Of course, if you have an extra 500 grand laying around…

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