I started planning my retirement in the ninth grade when I was in high school. My dad’s first cousin was a pharmacist and he owned several pharmacies and sold them and retired. He was 40 years old at the time. I planned to do the same as him and chose pharmacy as my career. Up until then I wanted to be a minister. So you might say I chose drugs over the gospel, but at least it was the legal kind.
A retirement article should include the journey or path that got you there. I will briefly walk down that path for future generations, so they can plan better than I did. I will then tell you what happens when you get there.
If you’re young and still in high school, start early by choosing an occupation. Then study and prepare yourself to pursue whatever it is that you choose. If it’s a skill you want, then work at that skill. There is a shortage of skilled workers in this country and it would be a wise choice. If it’s college or higher education, then start in the ninth grade with the proper classes. Whichever you chose and complete your next decision will be who to work for. If you are fortunate and choose your employer, then look for one with retirement plans. With proper planning you may reach my goal of 40. Maximize every year and don’t put it off because you think you are too young to think about such a faraway day. It comes sooner than you think.
I didn’t have the opportunities that we have today when I first started my career. 401k plans didn’t get into full swing until the 80’s. Originally I planned to retire in my 40’s as I said. If I had started saving in my twenties and had available what we have today I would have reached that goal. I have probably been saving for the last 30 years to get to where I am. Comfortable in my decision to retire. I had planned to retire several years ago but factors such as insurance weighed heavily into my equation. I decided to wait until I was 63 and 1/2 . I came to that magical number because it would allow me to either take Obamacare, private insurance or COBRA until I reached the magical age of 65 when Medicare kicks in.
Obamacare didn’t work out because there is a thing called a cliff and I fell off it slightly. My next option was private insurance and I never pursued it after looking at the coverage and the cost it didn’t seem feasible. I did choose COBRA which allows me to stay with what I currently have up until the day I “retired.” I say I am retired, but in my profession, you can always work if you want. I am retired in that I have no schedule; no company benefits and no time clock. The only thing I don’t have is the ability to say no. When I learn that I will be fully retired.
Many years ago, I used to get embarrassed when my parents would ask for a senior discount. I no longer find that so embarrassing. Since I retired I also find that I seem to be working harder and finding many things to do that I took for granted over the years. I haven’t slowed down since that fateful day last Sunday (the day I “retired”). It’s only Thursday and my body hurts like it never hurt before. My neighbor joked about someone using WD 40 on their joints. I feel like the Tin Man sometimes when I get up. I went to the dollar store and bought two cans and asked for my senior discount. Given my pharmacy background maybe it would work with a syringe, but my better judgment ruled, and I decided not to try it. I can just imagine my wife taking me to the emergency room and explaining what I did.
So in conclusion, if you’re planning to retire, plan ahead 50 or 60 years. Today’s youth are at tremendous advantage to do so. Live a healthy life so you can enjoy your years after working. Social Security may not be around when you do so take advantage of every saving plan you can. Today’s best plan, according to my financial advisor, is a Roth Plan. That’s a prepaid tax account that doesn’t have all the silly problems I have with my 401k plan. As far as Social Security, I advise to take as soon as you can, many others do not. The crossover point is 78 when you start losing money. I would rather enjoy the money now and have fun than hoping I live to 78, or worse yet, not be able to do anything if I do. As far as loosing Social Security, they have been saying that for years but given the state of affairs today, it may be wise to plan accordingly. Don’t forget to have fun when you retire and learn the word no.
Dave Morgan is from Point Pleasant, W.Va. and is a regular contributor to the Point Pleasant Register. His column coincides with the “Generations” special sections in tomorrow’s newspaper, which focuses on issues important to those of retirement age.