It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that things are changing: in all aspects of our day to day life. World-wide economics are in turmoil. Life just seems to have begun to be turned upside down.
For those of you in my age bracket (let's just say 50 plus) we could never have imagined that our lifestyle today could have even exist. While the computer generation is geared to make life easier, is it really?
Growing up in NYC, we played ring-o-levio and kick the can. Not very high tech, but it kept our attention. The exercise was a bit more than participating in the latest video game, and other than getting into trouble for hacking up Mom's mop for the pole, the stickball game posed very little risk. Video games were something we saw at the 1964 World's Fair.
While the stadium seating at the mega-plex is comfortable, who could forget the comfort of your Dad's Chevy at the drive in? Now we just order from Netflix. Again, a never leave the couch solution. Exercise rooms have given way to in-house theater rooms. Are we destined to never leave the house, to venture out into the world to see sunlight and discover new horizons? Change... is really for the better? Either way, we don't have a choice... or do we?
While the world is ever-changing, some things stay the same: the goal to meet someone you want to spend the rest of your life with, grow old together, have kids, and retire in at least the standard of living you have been accustomed to. The unfortunate thing is...do you have the opportunity, with the economic world in turmoil?
If you're frustrated, think about one of my favorite "Nealisms;" frustration brings opportunity. Yes my friends, if you are feeling frustrated, good for you- now is the time to make the best economic progress of your life...and no, I have not been drinking!
Let's first talk about your retirement planning. While I can't give you personal advice on how to invest (unless you see me personally) I can give you a refresher course on why you are putting money away every month, and reviewing your goals.
For the most part, the reason you are sacrificing today for tomorrow is to make tomorrow better. Your monthly contributions to your pension plan or IRA are a savings net for your golden years. While Social Security was originally designed to be a minor supplement to retirement income, statistics show that roughly 85% of retired folk depend on it for the bulk of their retirement income. Setting aside the conversation about the longevity of the Social Security System, it is nobody's responsibility but your own to plan for your future.
The market will go up and down: your plan should never waiver- to plan for the future. While the medium of saving or the investment vehicle will change for each of you, the goal is similar: to retire and live well into your latter years. Don't stop saving, and don't stop dreaming or the latter years will not be as pleasant as you hoped.
You've heard me talk about refinancing your mortgage in past articles. If you have not done the math on your mortgage, you are missing the best opportunity of a lifetime. Nothing beats frustration like seeing years evaporate from your mortgage, or seeing your payments lowered. My guess is that you'll never see rates down in this range again in our lifetime. See - frustration brings opportunity, and it's all around us. With interest rates so low, every payment you make on a credit card, above the finance charges, goes to principal, meaning that for the same payment you made a few years ago you have a great opportunity to pay down your principal debt.
If you can get them paid off, now is the time. Make sure you know the interest rate you are paying on all debts- it's a very competitive market out there for financing.
Life at home has changed. Empty nest syndrome has changed by our little fledglings returning: a bit bigger and battered for various reasons. Grandparents have been put into the role of parents in unfortunate circumstances. It may be time to revisit your legal documents: your wills, power of attorney and living wills.
In your wildest dreams you never figured you would have to consider alternate guardianship and trustees for little ones at this stage in your life, but as life changes, your estate plan must evolve with it. If you haven't checked and read up your legal documents in the past five years or so, it's time to bring them out, dust them off, and read them thoroughly. Remember that these documents are not for you, but for those you love and may leave behind.
Yes, frustration brings opportunity; if you have your eyes open and deploy a little imagination. Look around you for the opportunity that is right before you. Recently, instead of repairing my lawn tractor, I bought a slightly used one from a gentleman who was moving. The cost was almost half my anticipated repair bill, and it's newer, more powerful (and you men know how we feel about power) and will last me more years than I care to use it. Opportunity knocked, and I opened the door.
Yes my friends, opportunity is all around us: find it, grab it, and carpe diem.