Justin and Cecilia’s Uncertain Future
The situation: Justin and Cecilia are in their early 50s. They both have decent-paying jobs, but their retirement savings are nonexistent. They have two kids, one of whom had significant medical problems as a young child. Justin was in a car accident ten years ago, and was unable to work for several months. Due to these various emergencies and other setbacks, they accumulated a fair amount of debt in their 20s and 30s. All of their financial resources have gone toward raising their kids and paying down their debt. Now, they’re depressed and worried about the future. How can they possibly have enough for retirement when they haven’t even begun to save?
The solution: First of all, Justin and Cecilia should congratulate themselves for being debt-free—that’s no small thing. Nor is raising two kids! Yes, ideally we all get to start saving for retirement in our 20s. But life happens, and that’s just not the reality for many—or even most—people.
And second, if you’re in the same situation, don’t despair! Retirement savings is truly a “better late than never” situation. Yes, you’ll face a few more challenges if you start a bit later in your working life. That doesn’t mean a secure retirement is out of reach.
The good news is that a dual-income debt-free household can save quite a lot of money, unless their income level is very low (and if your income level is low, Social Security will replace more of your income than if you’re a higher earner, which will give you a bit of a safety net for retirement).
The first step for Justin and Cecilia is to—wait for it—sit down with a financial planner. Of course, they can also try figuring out retirement on their own, and many people do. But a financial planner can help them come up with realistic savings goals that fit their income and budget, as well as recommend specific financial instruments that best suit their needs. How and where they can best save for retirement depends on any number of different factors—do either or both of their jobs have any kind of retirement account benefits? How much longer do either of them expect (or want) to work? Are they in industries that they are likely to age out of before they’re really ready to retire?
Justin and Cecilia might need to plan on working past traditional retirement age—say, to 70 or so—in order to have enough to retire comfortably. That’s perfectly fine and normal, too, even if it might not be ideal. Wherever you’re at in your retirement planning, the important thing is to remember that, here as with anything else, there’s no judgment involved. Being able to save more doesn’t necessarily mean someone is a better, smarter, or more financially savvy person, and not being able to start saving until later in life doesn’t mean someone has failed. Retirement planning isn’t a test—it’s life. Sometimes things happen to derail our most careful plans and our best intentions. The important thing is to look to the future and never give up (and talk to your financial planner)!
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