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'The Great Retirement Rethink': Putting the pieces together

Jan. 10, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

If you are reading this article you probably are a Baby Boomer (born 1946-1964). If so, that means you are in or nearing the "Retirement Red Zone", those who are within 5 years of retiring or have retired within the past 5 years.

I am constantly reminding people: "This is not your parent's retirement." For most baby boomers, including myself (born 1952), it has only been a short time ago when our parents were retiring.

Most of our parent's retirement looked like this: They had a retirement plan from their employer, social security, a home that was paid for, a small life insurance policy and no debt. They knew they were likely to retire at age 65, get their gold watch from their employer and sail off into retirement sunset!

Fast forward to today and wow! How the retirement landscape has changed! Today's retirement is no longer an event, it is a process.

When I work with people today that are nearing retirement, there are so many pieces to put together that their retirement plan looks like a jigsaw puzzle with a couple of pieces gone. It is not unusual for a retiree to bring 15-20 pieces of their puzzle for someone to put together for them.

Today's retirees have old pension plans, 401k plans from past employers, private funds, stocks, life insurance policies, disability insurance, savings accounts, CDs, etc. Therefore, today's Red Zone people are completely overwhelmed.

When I meet with people, the first thing I remind them is we no longer have a "one size fits all" retirement plan. The biggest and hardest part of retirement planning for people is not putting all the pieces of the puzzle together; but trying to understand what their "vision" of retirement is. After I know what they want their retirement lifestyle to be, then I work with them to make a retirement income plan that will meet their retirement plans.

Why is this important? I have met with many post retirees that we call the "do if yourselfers". They are now looking back and saying "what went wrong?" Remember, people don't plan to fail, they simply fail to plan.

The great hockey player, Wayne Gretzky once said "I skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been". This is why you need to look into the future on your retirement planning and not look at the past, where you have been.

The key to a successful retirement is all in the planning. The average person today spends more time planning their vacation than they do on their retirement. Over the past few years I have had the opportunity of meeting and heard Dr. Bob Froehlich, chief income strategist with The Hartford. In his departing column he wrote "we have two important things in our life, our health and our wealth. If you are managing your health 'online' and treating yourself you probably cannot do as well for yourself as a physician can."

Remember, when thinking of your retirement future, the great Yogi Berra says "You got to be careful if you don't know where you are going, otherwise you might not get there."

Ron Bates, who works for ZBA Financial Group, LLC, is known as The Retirement Guy. He can be reached at 304-733-1500, rbates@zbafg.com or going to www.theretirementguy.com.