Most of us think about retirement as a constant drumbeat. When we first start out in the world of "jobs" and careers, the drumbeat cannot even be heard. We have a different focus, and that focus is on maximizing our "future" for the best possible outcome, professionally, personally, and financially.
The retirement noise is out there, but we are working too hard, playing too hard, and living our young lives to the best of our abilities.
As we get older the drumbeats get louder and louder until one day we wake up and read a few books, speak to a few professionals perhaps and actually take a peek at where we stand.
For me, it came at the age of 34 when my father was terminally ill, passing at age 62....two weeks after he "retired." I questioned everything and was very afraid that since my family has a short life span history for the guys, I would never be able to retire and enjoy the golden years.
My fear was reinforced by most of the experts out there who had really wonderful formulas for retirement that kept telling me that I needed more money than I ever imagined I could accumulate just to retire at the same standard of living I was currently at.
I had decided that I would retire when I wanted to, and enjoy whatever remaining years I had, comfortably.
To that end, I read every single book I could find and when a new one on the subject was published I was the first to buy it.
I became my own "expert" spurred by the fear that most of the "real experts" instilled in me. I retired without having anything near the amount that many of them said I MUST have (or else I would be doomed!). Some of the numbers were ridiculous to me, and simply not possible the way I lived my lifestyle.
I found out that ANYONE who decides that they want to retire, can. You can, we can... and by keeping your eye on ONE area, you can figure out how you will retire.
The thing to focus on is how much you spend, and how much you will be able to reduce that spending, so that no matter what you savings accounts look like, you do not have to work forever.
Once each of us figures out the spending question, you will have clarity. Spending less than what you have, at every stage, will allow your income/savings to last forever.
In my own very humble opinion, by tuning out most of the scary "retirement experts" and spending less than we have either in the bank, or invested, or just coming in on a monthly basis, we will know almost exactly what we should invest in, spend on, where and how to live, and enjoy the priorities we have decided upon for our retirement years.
Granted, lifestyles will vary, and there will be people who are not self-disciplined enough to reach even the barest of needs... however, anyone can change that and have a healthy quality of life, if they decide to.
There are some basics which all of us require, but having some of the luxuries that life has to offer is also the investor's goal. For that, I invest in dividend-producing, well-managed, well-capitalized, blue chip companies.
To name a few: Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), AT&T (T) General Electric (GE) Exxon Mobil (XOM) Ford Preferred shares (F.PA), Procter & Gamble (PG), Altria (MO), Annaly Capital Management (NLY), all offer yields that are better than the fixed income products out there, and unlike annuities, still offer you complete access to your funds.
They offer me a flow of income that along with my other income, pays my bills.
I also see absolutely no reason to avoid spending down my savings for anything I want on a regular basis, and winding up with ZERO by the time I am no longer among the living.
There are people who prefer to leave a large estate for their kids, and the rest of the living. However, when I decided how I wanted to retire, how much I wanted to spend, and how I wanted to live, I found I had to ignore the conventional wisdom, tell my (grown) kids not to expect anything, and use my savings for myself and my wife.
I read ONE book that I really found useful, and still subscribe to many of its revelations: "Die Broke" written by Stephan Pollan and Mark Levine. It's filled with a wealth of real answers for real people... like you and me.