Worry is “an instance or occurrence of distress or agitation.”
When we face a problem or an uncertain future, we ponder every possible outcome in an attempt to prepare for the worst, often delaying action for fear of what’s to come. For many of us, worry is a short-lived sensation. For others, it can become a way of life.
We all worry
Want to know what I worry about the most? Time with my kids. My wife and I have 5 young children, and I’m often evaluating how I’m dividing my time within a day or week to meet their needs, individually and as a group.
Am I spending my time evenly with each of them? Am I being intentional enough on how we spend our time? Do they have fun? Do they feel loved? Do they feel fulfilled? I’m constantly trying to do right by them—a common feeling I’m sure most parents can relate to.
Interestingly enough, I’ve never worried about money. When I was growing up, my father once told me: “If you have $1 in your bank account on the day you die, you had more money than you needed in your lifetime to live.” This quip has forever brought me perspective, and it’s reinforced one of the things I do best: putting together a plan and sticking to it.
Life is unpredictable, so any plan you make has to be flexible. Comfort with ambiguity is key. Knowing I’ve done what I can and accepting that I can’t control everything affords freedom and peace of mind.
So what’s the difference between how I approach time with my children and managing my finances? I have a long-term plan with my finances, but with my children, I act more like a day trader. (I had this epiphany as I wrote this blog, and I’ve already begun changing my approach and creating a plan.)
Confront the scary statistics about retirement savings
If you’re like most people, you’re concerned about your finances and saving for retirement. It’s understandable. I often act as my clients’ coach and help them confront their worries in a productive way, which has given me insight into how headlines and statistics can paint a cloudy picture of the future.
Here are a few statistics that may cause you to worry—as well as a few thoughts on how to overcome the fear by taking action and developing a plan.
Only 1 out of 10 workers has prepared a formal financial plan*
Without a plan, you may be more prone to react to market events, and you might even make rash decisions. A plan provides perspective, brings clarity to your current situation, and shows you how to make changes to your spending and saving habits. It can give you knowledge and confidence to address all of the what ifs?
42% of Americans have saved $10,000 or less for retirement**
This statistic suggests a significant number of Americans aren’t on track to meet their retirement goals. That shouldn’t be surprising given the plethora of potential obstacles: Pensions are less common for younger generations, and health care costs continue to rise. You need to figure out how to put your kids through college, but you might be paying off your own student loans at the same time.
How do you juggle these goals? This Retirement Income Calculator can serve as a quick pulse check to see if you’re on course. If you’re off track, you can take a few simple steps to get right back on the road.
- Save as much as you can, as often as you can. If you’re years away from retirement, you’ll likely benefit from the compounding effect.
- Stay in the workforce longer (more on that in a moment) or decrease your living expenses. This may be an especially viable option if you’re close to retirement.
- Plan. Focus on what you can control and what’s important to you—planning provides perspective on what you can do to meet your goals.
Two-thirds of individuals are disengaged at work†
If the statistics above apply to you, you may need to keep working longer than you want to. And if you’re like me, you want to have fun and enjoy what you do.
But if your job feels like work, consider chasing the traditional American Dream and doing something you love. Continuing to work doesn’t necessarily mean postponing your retirement plans to travel the world, golf, and learn new hobbies. Working longer may actually help you do those things sooner (this is where a financial plan can help).
If changing careers isn’t for you, consider a flexible work schedule, go part-time, or stay on as a consultant. Research shows that people who work longer also benefit cognitively.††
And working lessens the strain on your retirement savings while allowing you to stay enrolled in your company medical plan.
From my perspective, the key is to love your work. When you enjoy what you’re doing, you engage, you feel accomplished, and you bolster your retirement savings.
Parting encouragement: If you plan, peace will come
My plan to rotate weekday evening time with each of my kids and schedule weekly “date nights” has brought structure, set realistic expectations, and replaced chaos with comfort in our home. The same organized, disciplined approach can benefit your financial life too.
Take action. Learn the reality of your situation. Stop worrying, start planning.
And find comfort knowing you’re doing everything you can.
- All investing is subject to risk, including the possible loss of the money you invest.