By Roger Nusbaum, AdvisorShares ETF Strategist
Ten years ago, I wrote a post called A Blogger Looks At 40, which was a play on words of the Jimmy Buffett song, "A Pirate Looks At 40" (long story short, that post is no longer on the internet). Recently, I turned 50, which like other round numbers can be a good time to review and assess where you are in life.
Not much has changed in 10 years, but a lot has evolved. First, I will say it was not a difficult birthday. The only difficult one I've had was 25. I think I viewed that as a line in the sand between being a kid and being an adult. Also, I did not enjoy what I did for a living. A theory of mine has long been that if you're happy at home and like your job, then you have a much better chance of not dreading big round numbers.
At 50, you probably start to take a closer look at your financial reality and begin to understand how on track you really are for whatever your idea of retirement might be. We've been good savers and maybe, kinda, sorta we could retire but a lot of things would have to go right including Social Security being there as advertised which is not enough of a margin of error for me. It would boil down to whether we would exhaust our savings by the time Social Security kicked in. In a poor market environment, it would be more likely that we would exhaust what we have and so have to give up a lot in short order, which seems unnecessary on multiple levels.
My wife and I have an ongoing bit that I have mentioned before where I say I am going to retire and she asks what I would do in retirement. I answer her that I would probably spend a lot of time on the computer studying the stock market and write the occasional blog post. "Oh, so you're just tired of getting paid for what you want to do?" This is of course all tongue in cheek, I can't see a scenario where I want to stop working.
We do however save like we are way behind for a big philosophical reason that may be familiar to some readers. You never know what "the future you" might want to do or may have to do. A lot of people face meaningful but unexpected change for reasons that can be good or bad and if there is something you want to do, it would be nice to have the financial cushion to do so. If your hand is somehow forced into an expense you weren't expecting, it would be nice to not have it be financially ruinous as opposed to merely financially inconvenient. Also, more in the bank obviously means you have more options should you need them.
Volunteerism: Monetizing a Hobby
A big cornerstone to my beliefs on successful aging is to volunteer with some organization you feel strongly about and that you can have fun with. Equally big is the idea of being willing to work in some sort of post-retirement career. I think by really committing to some sort of volunteer work you can create an opportunity should you need it. Additionally, there are countless other forms of interesting part time or seasonal job opportunities, but finding them requires work. The above as opposed to staying in a job you don't like or taking something/anything because you have to in order to make ends meet. If you have to do this, then you have to do it, but it can be avoided with enough planning and work.
My involvement with the fire service continues to evolve in the exact manner above and I am building an opportunity should I ever need it. I am a Logistics Section Chief (trainee) for a Type 3 All Hazard Incident Management Team (IMT), which means we respond to emergencies while they are still relatively small incidents or we would handle one component of a very large (Type 1) incident. We are a new team, I have a lot of hours in with no pay (it is fun and I am learning a lot), and we will probably be called out for our first assignment this summer or next summer.
Logs Chief is the perfect position for me; it is a lot of sitting in an office (more like a classroom in a school) on the computer and setting up internet access falls under my domain, which is perfect for my day job. This is obviously not my career, but I would like to go out once or twice in a summer (Type 3 assignments are typically short, which again is perfect for my situation). There could also be opportunities to work on large incidents as an EMT or possibly even an engine crew for a private contractor. This is not option number 1, but I am all in on creating this opportunity should I ever need it.
Fitness & Health
Everyone knows it is important to exercise and eat decently. Aside from exercising being important for everyone, my involvement in firefighting demands trying to stay in shape. A couple of weeks ago, we had to carry a 200lb patient down a long set of steps in a stair-chair. Patients and their families expect you to be able to make it down the stairs without dropping the patient. There are parallels to structure fires and wildland fires that require fitness. I want my firefighting activities to be fun, and that would be much harder if I was spent before we even started.
As I have said here before, the best part of your workout should be finishing your workout. The financial implication is obvious. Staying fit reduces the likelihood of medical problems - not guarantees, but improves your odds for a better outcome. You probably know about the Fidelity study from a couple of years ago about a couple needing two hundred and something thousand for medical expenses in retirement. The more fit you are, the better the chance of needing to spend less. While we're at it, don't drink soda.
Random Hippie Nonsense
I've talked many times before about the importance of living below your means. If you have a relatively small financial footprint, then you probably have less financial stress, and if as a married couple, you have less financial stress, then you probably have fewer arguments over money, which probably makes it easier to be happily married. Obviously, in the face of a shock like a job loss, it is easier to cover a $4000 lifestyle than an $8000 lifestyle, which is the dollars and cents argument for living below your means. This is all the easier if you are lucky enough to be on the same page as your partner on this issue.
I've long been a believer of the Law of Attraction, also known as the Secret. I lived that way from long before I knew those terms.
It is very important to be genuinely thankful for what and who you have in your life (only you know if it is genuine).
Get a dog, and then get a dog for your dog.
Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.
I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it. I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.
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