A Different Path to Retirement

09 Feb 2016 14:42

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A friend showed up an hour early for my Super Bowl party and luck would have it I was actually ready and had the luxury to grab a beer and sit and talk with my old friend. We have been friends for just over 30 years and one of the secrets to our good friendship is we never pry into each other’s personal lives.

Sitting and enjoying a beer together, I casually made a joke of how we are now 48 and actually have to start thinking about retirement and how it stinks having to be a grown-up. I was shocked when he turned serious and in a solemn tone replied “My only option is to work till the day I die…”.

How do you respond to something like this? The first thought that ran through my mind was “You A—hole we were supposed to retire together, what were you thinking!” but of course this is not what I said. Instead I took a long swig of my beer, which felt like an eternity to swallow as I searched for words that wouldn’t sound like pity or be condescending. Both he and his wife have decent jobs and a wonderful marriage, I could only guess he had no savings and the effort to get there was so large he relegated himself to the position of why try. This was a defeatist attitude which I never seen him have before and it pissed me off seeing him like this.

There was a pretty long silence between the two of us. The silence actually gave me time to pull some words together without prying into his personal life. I sighed and took a quick second swing of my beer and then turned to him and said “you know, a mound of cash isn’t the only way to get to retirement”. This statement did more than just break the awkward silence, it actually got his attention as he replied “Okay, I’m listening”.

The rest of the conversation went like this …

Me: Instead of worrying about a mound of cash how about you focus on other aspects like reducing your spending and debt?”

Friend: No way can I live like a pauper or a hermit. Besides my wife and the kids wouldn't buy into it.

Me: No nothing like that. You can set small goals each year, like reducing your debt by some percentage each year till you are debt free by retirement age. As far as expenses, you could look to relocate someplace more affordable, it sucks living in Connecticut. Heck I’m paying $5,500 a year in property taxes alone. If I move down south that cuts expenses by $5K a year. How much are you paying?

Friend: About $6,200. But my wife probably won’t want to move. She wants to be near the kids and her family.

Me: You could keep the house and let one of the kids live there and pay the taxes. It still gives you an anchor to the area for your wife.

Friend: Yeah but I don’t have two nickels to rub together to buy another place.

Me: You can rent.

Friend: And where do I get the money for the deposit and moving expenses?

Me: So you set a savings goal for that like $10,000 or something. You got what, 15 to 17 more years till retirement? That’s like $60 bucks a month.

Friend: That might work.

Me: Talk it over with your wife. If you guys are good with it come back and talk with me and my wife. Maybe we could co-ordinate a move to the same area.

Friend: That would be cool.

A couple minutes after our conversation a few other guests arrived and we did not speak of it again. Throughout the night my friend seemed more chipper than normal and it reminded me of how he used to be in our younger days. I don’t know if I was our conversation that put him in a good mood or the alcohol but hopefully he found some solace and a way out of his problem.

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