Friday, May 23, 2014

Boomers, listen up!

I am a baby boomer and proud of it.  I won’t bore my readers with the definition, as even homeless people have access to the Internet thanks to our current administration.  Not to be rude, but suffice it to say I do not fit the usual mold of growing up having everything handed to me, in fact quite opposite.

I do not remember my Dad ever fixing a flat tire on one of my 3 bicycles I owned before I left home at the old age of 18.  The 3rd bike I owned, I bought with money I earned when I was 16 and it was a Schwinn Varsity and I was very proud of it.

Being born in 1952, I was part of the explosion of children following World War II and the Korean police action to stop the spread of Communism.  My older sister and 3 younger brothers never went without room and board, but if we wanted anything considered extravagant, it was up to us to go earn it.

My first venture into Capitalism that I remember was in 1960 living on the Compton line in Long Beach, California.  It is also the first time I ate what would later be known as a Jack in the Box taco.  My 8 year old blood brother David Bradshaw and I started a door to door shoe shine business.  If I remember correctly, we would shine a pair of shoes for 5 cents per shoe.

10 cents would buy 2 Hollywood candy bars, which looked like a modern day Zero bar with delicious nougat inside and caramel.  I’d pay 5 dollars to have just one more right now.  David and I had heard about blood brothers and took a small knife and cut our fingers to mix our blood.  I hope he’s still out there somewhere.

The title of this column is an alert of sorts, as many of us have yet to cross over into Social Security benefits or retirement.  Seeing I am throwing in the towel in a month or so, I am approaching the whole thing the same way I do everything else – full immersion.  I wasn’t a Marine, but I do beach landings on anything I tackle.  What I’ve discovered from my peers is, well, either partial ignorance or full blown head in the sand behavior.  So much so, that many are now turning to me to give them what I’ve discovered and this is frankly disturbing.  We are baby boomers for goodness sake; the change the world generation.  Maybe peace, love, and dope took its toll?

A number of years ago, a very intelligent coworker retired after about 40 years of service and I saw him when he visited us at the Texas A&M Fire Field.  He shocked me when he confessed he had no idea what he was worth at retirement.  “If I would have known how much money I had, I would have retired years ago.”  He lived about 3 more years and passed quietly on his farm.

Another bright fellow with 37 years service told me he was retiring August 1st of this year.  I asked him why August 1st?  “Because it’s my birthday!” he exclaimed with a toothy grin.

“If you leave on the 1st of the month, you will forfeit an entire month’s pension as working one day in the month, counts for the entire month.  You won’t get a check for August.  Why not leave at the end of July and draw your pension for August and take your birthday off?” I said dryly, but meant every word of it.

My company offers free consultations with the financial wizards that handle our 401k, but almost none of my coworkers have taken advantage of it, living in fear that inflation will deplete what they have socked away for 30 years.   

Note: Boomers, if you do a small bit of homework, you will know what your financial future is rather than living in shaky ignorance or fear.  Do not let this time in your life creep in front of you like something scary or spooky hiding alongside the trail.  Grab a stick of knowledge and beat the bushes.

Finances are something most people (read men) don’t usually discuss, but as that retirement date stands like a monolithic marker in front of you, it’s high time to seek advice.  No one wants to end up like the starving grasshopper who unlike the ant did not put back provision for the harsh winter.  It is far better to know you may not be ready to retire and get out there and make emergency corrections then wondering if you are going to be living in a van down by the river.  Chances are you will find peace instead of confusion.

I know men approaching 70 years of age that apparently are so unsure about retirement that they will most likely only leave the job when their health fails and all because they won’t ask the right questions.  Don’t approach retirement this way boomers.  Don’t.  You worked for it, now take retirement by the horns and start enjoying the fruit of your labor. 


Anonymous said...

I guess I'm a numbers freak. I started going to retirement/financial seminars when I was 10 years away from retirement. I've used Quicken for my finances for 25 years and could tell you my net worth to the penny during that entire time. As a matter of fact, we met with a financial planner today. He looked at our numbers and wanted to know why I'm still working! LH

Anonymous said...

Wonderful. Great. Someone besides the investment companies and Suzie Orman needed to say it. When I was forced into semi-retirement at the age of 58 by a massive heart attack, I had no idea what kind of life I would be living. By working with a disability program, I am still able to work part time and draw Social Security with out depleting what's left of my IRA. Better to go looking for your future than to have it slip up on you unaware. SW

It can only happen while shopping!

As the big man is my witness, every word of this is unquestionable and void of hyperbolic incredibility. With that taken into consid...