April 12

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From Prosperity to Poverty

So we fenced in our yard so the dogs could have a place to run and be free. Getting it approved by the HOA was a pain, but we finally got it installed. The dogs were so excited. Within minutes of them enjoying their new playpen, the larger, fatter one, Desmond, saw a rabbit and tried to squeeze through the bars. He made it halfway, but luckily, he had been eating too much people food and got stuck. His sister, Penny, looked up at him, looked at the fence, thought for a moment, and easily bolted through. She was so thrilled to be free. You have got to be kidding me! What do I do now? I never even considered that could happen.

My oldest son went for his driver's test on Wednesday, and as I was getting all the needed paperwork to the clerk, they gave Chris (who has glasses) his eye test. He squinted and strained and couldn't even read the first line. "That's strange," the clerk said. So we tried a different machine. Same thing. It turns out that for the past year, he has been driving around on his driver's permit without being able to see more than ten or twenty feet. He aced the eye test a year ago when he got the permit. We don't know what happened. Keep your eyes on the road, everyone.

Above, you can see Desmond taking the paper to ol' man Fred next door.


I read an article in the Herald-Tribune this week, and quite frankly, it got my blood boiling. The headline, "Great wealth transfer flagging" appeared smack dab on the front page.

For faithful readers, you know how angry I get when I see fear-mongering about the financial world. This article was a little different, but it was still similar to many I’ve read in the past. The format is usually about the same: a retired couple talks about how they believed they were ready for retirement but ended up destitute.

Judi and David Koncak, now in their 80s, are precisely the kind of people I’ve worked with for over twenty years. In general, I help people with stable jobs who have done a decent job saving money. I rarely work with someone who’s a multi-multi-millionaire. But I love helping hardworking teachers, police, and employees of big and small businesses. So, this article follows some people who have led similar lives.

Let’s pick apart this article a little.

They were both college graduates, and "no one would have realized that in retirement Judi and David Koncak would be nearly out of money…" Even though these two may have been confidently prepared for retirement, we have no idea what that means. Trust me, everyone’s idea of financial security is different. They might have started with $200,000 or a million. This article does not indicate where they began.

David Koncak ran into several health problems in his 80s, "which helped deplete their savings and more." I want to be sensitive to medical bills, and I know they can add up, but Medicare pays far more than people realize. The idea that David’s prostate cancer bankrupted them is very questionable. I’ve never seen that happen. I’m sure it’s happened out there, but not often.

Which brings me to the core of my frustration. Of course, people like this exist. There are always outliers who find themselves facing more struggles than others. But the media always finds the worst examples. Are Judi and David a one-in-ten type of example? One in a hundred? One in a thousand?

And some of the quotes are just over the top.

"She’s back at work…earning $15 an hour."
"Healthcare costs made it harder for them to afford food…"
Judy remarked, "I don’t want to sell my wedding ring and other jewelry…I never dreamed I would have to do that, but I might have to…we’ve used up our nest egg."

I don’t want to discount the fact that many struggling people are out there. Poverty in retirement is a real issue. However, this article conjures up the artificial fear that retired professionals with healthy savings accounts could end up living in a van in Walmart's parking lot.

These kinds of articles are destructive in so many ways. Besides the fact that many of you felt a surge of fear with your morning coffee, these fear tactics have wide-ranging ramifications. More than once, I’ve met with retirees who are living like they are broke with plenty of money in the bank. Why? "Because you just never know."

I am not going to let you live that way. Nothing is guaranteed. Anything could happen. You could die tomorrow. We need to balance caution with possibility. There is a distinct difference between probability and possibility. If something will probably happen, we plan accordingly. If some terrible one-in-a-hundred possibility exists in your life, sometimes you have to let go and say, "I’m going to live my life with positive expectations. I have planned for legitimate concerns. Other than that, it’s time to play more pickleball."

Below are some other articles I’ve run across over the years that follow a similar theme.

"A Generation at Risk: How Today's Retirees Are Plummetting into Poverty"
"From Prosperity to Poverty: The Harsh Reality for Many of America's Retirees"
"Retirement Dreams Shattered: The Growing Epidemic of Financial Despair Among the Middle-Class"
"Economic Insecurity: Why a Comfortable Retirement Is Becoming a Pipe Dream for Most"
"Bankrupt and Broken: The Dire Financial Straits of America’s Retiring Population"

Over the years, I’ve coached people on their finances. One theme runs throughout: somehow, in some way, everything works out.

Be Blessed,

Dave

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