Start at Zero

So there you are, staring down the face of retirement, knowing full well that you aren’t ready. You don’t have enough money saved up, and there just isn’t enough time left to get any.

You remember all those retirement planning sessions you went to at work where it was explained to you that if you saved a thousand dollars a year for ten years and stopped you would have more money at retirement than anyone who started later.

But then life got in the way. Perhaps you were laid off and had to live off your 401k for a while until you could find something else. Or maybe you just somehow never really got started. Or it could be that you were sailing along just fine until the great recession and even though you tried to hang on, you lost everything.

Whatever the reason you find yourself in this situation, there are a couple of things you need to know.

First, you are not alone. You are not a dummy for letting this happen to you, or a fool. 10,000 people are retiring in this country every day, and 3,000 of them are in the exact same place as you are. We are all trying to figure out how we got here, and what, if anything, we can do to fix it.

Second. It’s not too late. There is still time for you to fashion a good retirement for yourself. One that is fearless, fun and fulfilling.

That retirement might not look like the one you were raised to covet Рwork 45 years, retire to a life of leisure on your fat pension for 10 years and then die. On the other hand, all these years later is that still what you think retirement should be?

You have one big advantage that your parents didn’t have. You are still young. I remember clearly when I was growing up 65 was pretty old. And it wasn’t just whippersnapper me that thought so – a lot of those retired folk thought so too.

Haven’t you heard? 60 is the new 40. You are probably in better shape physically than your parents were at this age, but more important than that is your attitude. Most of you have no desire to retire to your dotage, tottering around the yard admiring your roses and weeding the lawn. You have a whole list of things you never got around to, and now is the time to do them.

I’m sure you can point to a time in your life you passed up an opportunity because you thought you were too old. Thinking “in 5 years I’ll be 40, or 45, or 50, and that’s too old to be starting a new career.” I sure did. More than once.

So now you are older sitting and thinking “if only I had taken that opportunity…” Well, it’s come by again. Are you going to use the same excuse this time around?

This time the opportunity is to spend a little time truly thinking about and planning how you want to live the rest of your life. Putting it off just isn’t going to get it done. Ignoring it won’t make it go away. The good news is that it’s probably not as scary as you think it is.

You aren’t where you hoped to be at this point in your life? That kinda sucks, but take comfort in the fact that almost no one is. Years ago you set your sites on a target and missed, but that’s OK. While you weren’t looking the target moved. Now you need a new one.

That dream retirement you grew up with? Chuck it. Start from zero, without all of the assumptions you accumulated over the years. Make yourself a new dream, dictated by the new you.

You are older and wiser, you have a better idea now of what your real values are and what it is that really makes you happy. Start there.

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