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November 6, 2019 by intrinsic 0 Comments

Retirement Income Realities & Solutions

The goal of traditional retirement planning has been to build a “nest egg” of personal savings and investments that will supplement Social Security and pension benefits.  Together, these three sources of retirement income have long been referred to as the proverbial “three legged stool”—a solid and well-balanced foundation for building financial security in old age.

However, Social Security benefits are less generous than they once were, and the solvency of future benefits is in question.  In addition, employers are also reducing retirement benefits and switching to pension plans that transfer accountability for investment selection and performance to employees.  Because these two legs of the retirement income stool are shrinking, more responsibility for financial security has shifted to personal savings and investments.  Nevertheless, for most pre-retirees, this third leg of the retirement income stool is seriously under funded as well.

Generational Viewpoints

What Is “Retirement? In an extensive report based on a 2019 survey conducted by the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies.  It explores the meaning of retirement and examines the attitudes and behaviors of three generations currently represented in the workforce:

Baby Boomer:  Born 1946–1964

Generation X:  Born 1965–1978

Millennial:         Born 1979–2000

Due to the evolution of the retirement landscape, workers of all ages are increasingly expected to self-fund a greater portion of their retirement income.  In addition, they are expected to manage their own investments and associated risks.  However, across generations, only 20 percent “strongly agree” and 34 percent “somewhat agree” that they are building a large enough retirement nest egg.

In terms of “greatest financial priority right now,” the percentage of workers who cited “saving for retirement” increased significantly with age: Millennials (9 percent), Generation X (24 percent), and Baby Boomers (38 percent).  In addition, Millennials (the youngest cohort surveyed) also cited a cluster of competing financial priorities including “cover basic living expenses” (19 percent), “build savings” (17 percent), “pay off credit card debt” (16 percent), and “support children” (15 percent).

The authors of the study also cited “infrequency of conversations about retirement” as a major concern.  They described this major life transition as “a family matter that calls for important conversations.”  In fact, nearly one-third of Generation X (31 percent) and Baby Boomers (32 percent) reported “never” discussing the topic.  Surprisingly, it was Millennials (21 percent) who were most likely to report “frequently” discussing savings, investing, and planning for retirement with family and friends.

A New Solution for a New Age

Workers of all ages need a new framework to guide their preparation for this stage of life.  To add stability to the retirement income stool, this new model proposes adding a fourth leg comprised of income and benefits derived from post-retirement work.  In this scenario, “retirees” will likely follow one or more of the following paths:

  • Work longer and delay full retirement
  • Work part-time or part-year
  • Transition into new careers
  • Phase out of current position rather than make an abrupt departure.

In addition to extra income, post-retirement work also provides non-financial benefits that most adults find liberating and compelling.  That is because a growing majority don’t view retirement as a respite from work, but rather as an opportunity to explore new arenas, stretch their comfort zones, and engage in purposeful activities that contribute to their own life satisfaction and the well-being of others.

It Takes More than Money

In the past, the transition to retirement has been viewed solely as an economic event.  As a result, the focus of retirement planning has always been on building a nest egg.  In The Late-Start Investor, author John Wasik recommends discarding this obsolete view in favor of a “flexible life plan that provides for financial, vocational, physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.”  He explains, “Unless you look at your future holistically, merely saving up a pile of money will be a meaningless act.”

Of course, financial security is extremely important, but wise retirement preparation emphasizes that financial planning alone will not guarantee a rich and rewarding life.  In The Millionaire Mind, Thomas J. Stanley points out that the most satisfied wealthy people don’t just have financial goals, they also have life goals.  In other words, they have clarity around what they want in life and use their wealth as a tool to support those values and priorities.

Therefore, the most important message to remember as you prepare for retirement is this: “It takes more than money.”  Make sure that you not only consider how the transition to retirement will affect your life financially, but how it will influence all other areas of your life as well.

Reprinted by permission of Money Quotient, NP

Many Boomers Choose a New Perspective on Life and Money

In terms of adult development theory, life after 50 is typically a pivotal stage when individuals reflect on the direction their lives are taking, confront their own mortality, and dare to ask themselves, “Am I really happy?

However, what distinguishes Baby Boomers from previous generations is that they wear this existential crisis on their sleeves.  Rather than indulging in a time of private contemplation and silent suffering, Baby Boomers are forcing us all to rethink what the “mid-life and beyond” experience can and should be like.

One thing is for sure, as they march en masse into their senior years, Boomers are also rejecting en masse any semblance of a stereotypical retirement lifestyle. And, herein lies the problem.  Although Baby Boomers are crystal clear about what they don’t want, many are still unsure about what they do want.

Rising to the challenge is a new breed of financial advisor who is communicating to Boomers, “I feel your pain, and I’m here to help.” These forward thinking professionals are pioneers in a new approach to integrating financial planning and life planning—a “Wow, that makes sense!” approach to helping clients first clarify their values, passions, and priorities before talking about assets and net worth.  Rather than the traditional financial conversation focused on “more is better,” these unconventional financial planners are asking their clients, “What will bring your life meaning and purpose?”

For the Baby Boomer disillusioned with the results of “using my life to make money,” the opposite mind set of “using my money to make a life” is both liberating and compelling. In fact, Lynne Twist, the author of The Soul of Money, believes this new perspective can be transformative: “When you let go of trying to get more of what you don’t really need, it frees up oceans of energy to make a difference with what you have.”

With renewed enthusiasm, Boomers come to see their lives as a second chance to grab the brass ring on the merry-go-round of life. For them, retirement looms on the horizon, not as a respite from work, but as an opportunity to explore new arenas, stretch their comfort zones, and to find unique ways to give of themselves to their families and communities.

Baby Boomers have redefined every stage of their lives, and that won’t change as they grow older.  Trend watcher Daniel Pink wrote, “Baby Boomers around the world—because of the stage of their lives and the size of their numbers—are nudging purpose closer to the cultural center.” In fact, recent research has revealed that millions of Baby Boomers are choosing purpose driven work that addresses some of the world’s biggest challenges.

Reprinted by permission of Money Quotient, NP

Defining “True Wealth”

By “how much is enough?,” I mean the amount that will allow you to stop driving so hard professionally should you choose to do so.  I mean the amount that will allow you to feel safe, the amount that will compensate for risking hard-won relationships, the amount that will affirm your feeling good, smart, successful, accomplished, in control.

Pamela York Klainer

How Much is Enough?

 

How much is enough? What does this mean to you?  As author Pamela York Klainer explains, “The question is deceptively simple, but the answer is critical to integrating money with other aspects of your life and finding happiness.”

Similarly, Karen Ramsey commented in her book Think Again: New Money Choices, Old Money Myths about the importance of making sure your financial life supports what is most important to you:

Money will only improve the quality of your life when it is used with clarity.  Only when you learn to spend money in concert with your underlying values—the things that you most deeply care about—will it become a tool for creating a more fulfilling life.

In other words, money can help you to achieve your goals, but financial resources alone cannot produce the essential ingredients of a satisfying and rewarding life such as peace of mind, loving relationships, and meaningful activities.  Michael Stein, author of The Prosperous Retirement, also recommends a holistic approach to life and money:

“Just as a wagon wheel without spokes will not carry your wagon, money cannot, in itself bring joy, satisfaction, fulfillment, and a sense of balance into your life.  In fact, money sometimes can get in the way of achieving these non-financial goals.”

In addition, it is very helpful to view your life as being multifaceted, and to consider how each facet contributes to the quality of like you experience—now and in the future.  Think of each facet as an integral part of your total “life portfolio” and remember that it is your investments of time and energy that will make your portfolio grow.

In conclusion, always keep in mind that the word “rich” has two meanings.  It can be can be defined as “possessing great material wealth,” and it can also be defined as “that which is abundant, meaningful, and significant.”  Once you have a clear definition of what “true wealth” means to you, then you can invest in each area of life in a meaningful and purposeful way.

The Purpose Of “Work” In The Second Half Of Life

Individuals in mid-life and beyond are increasingly viewing retirement not as a time to relax, but as a time to explore their potential.  It was Abraham Maslow, a psychologist, who gave us the term, “self actualization.”  He called it man’s desire for fulfillment, “to become everything that one is capable of becoming.”

For many, the path to self-actualization is through their “work”—which should be defined as the productive activities, paid or unpaid, that gives their lives meaning and a sense of purpose.  Helen Harkness wrote that linking work to the need for meaning has been a natural evolution:

“For the generation following the Depression and World War II, a ‘job—stable lifetime work that pays the bills—was the goal.  Later, the achievers focused on a ‘career’ in a particular profession such as law, banking, medicine, teaching, or management as the means to success.  Today we are adding another dimension: discovering our ‘calling’ or ‘vocation’—work with a deeper purpose or meaning, assuring us that each has something unique to offer.”

This new view of the purpose of “work” is particularly important to the millions of Baby Boomers who are approaching or living in the second half of their lives.  A number of surveys have shown that the majority of Baby Boomers plan to work beyond the time they are eligible to retire.  In Encore: Finding Work that Matters in the Second Half of Life, contributing author Ed Speedling wrote:

“Many individuals feel compelled to work for financial or psychological or social reasons, or for all three, yet they want to choose how they work and what they work for.  Instead of liberation from labor entirely, they see an extra measure of freedom—in many cases to swap money for meaning, to do work that they couldnt afford to do earlier but can do now that children have grown and other ambitions have waned.”

Similarly, in her book I Could Do Anything if I Only Knew What it Was, Barbara Sher explained that the first step to finding work that “fits” is to understand the connection between doing what we love and doing something worth doing.

She wrote that it is at this intersection that we will find meaning.  In fact, because self- actualization is at the very pinnacle of the hierarchy of needs, Barb Sher reminds us all of how lucky we are to live in a free and prosperous society:  “It is a tribute to the success of our culture that so many of us have the freedom to search for our own life’s work.”

Reprinted by permission of Money Quotient, NP

February 6, 2019 by intrinsic 0 Comments

The Power Of Purpose

In Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, bestselling author Daniel Pink presents some of the most compelling and useful research in the field of in human motivation.  One section, “The Good Life,” is particularly enlightening in regard to how we as individuals establish and pursue our life goals.  Pink makes the point, and science confirms, “Satisfaction depends not merely on having goals, but on having the right goals.”

One of the studies that Pink cites asked a sample of soon-to-graduate college students about their life goals and then followed them early in their careers to assess their progress and well-being.  The students’ goals were categorized as either “extrinsic aspirations” or “intrinsic aspirations.”  Becoming wealthy or achieving fame are examples of extrinsic motivators and labeled “profit goals.”  In contrast, learning, growing, and helping others are examples of intrinsic motivators and labeled “purpose goals.”

Within two years of graduating, the researchers found that the individuals who had purpose goals, and were achieving those goals, experienced higher levels of satisfaction and well-being than when they were in college.  In addition, they reported having lower levels of anxiety and depression.

In contrast, those who had profit goals (wealth and acclaim), and were achieving those goals, reported having the same levels of satisfaction, self-esteem, and positive affect as when they were students.  In other words, they were achieving their goals, but that didn’t make them happier. And, even more striking, those achieving their profit goals reported higher levels of anxiety and depression. Pink summarized the conclusions of the researchers in this way: “Even when we do get what we want, it’s not always what we need.”

What this and many other studies have revealed is that what we really need is a sense of purpose. Furthermore, this need is not limited to the idealism of young adults.  Pink wrote, “Baby boomers around the world—because of the stage of their lives and the size of their numbers—are nudging purpose closer to the cultural center.”

For example, the non-profit organization Encore.org claims, “The tarnished dream of the Golden Years as endless leisure is giving way to a new form of practical idealism; real jobs tackling real problems and making real impact.”  Their research, conducted in collaboration with the MetLife Foundation, revealed that millions of people in the second half of life are choosing purpose driven “encore careers” that provide both income and meaning while addressing some of society’s biggest challenges.

Reprinted by permission of Money Quotient, NP

January 7, 2019 by intrinsic 0 Comments

Buying Ourselves the Gift of Time

Most adults are increasingly experiencing a time crunch.  The result is mounting stress and compromised health and vitality.  And yet, despite their best efforts, many individuals express frustration about not being able to bring tasks to completion or having enough time to focus on what or who is most important to them.

Scientists have even coined the term “time famine” to describe the pervasive feeling of being overwhelmed with the demands of work and life.  Studies have shown that people who frequently feel they “don’t have enough time” (time scarcity) are less happy and more prone to anxiety and depression than people who report feeling time affluent.  In addition, public health researchers have ranked time stress as one of the most important social trends underlying rising rates of obesity.

Although we are inclined to attribute this growing phenomenon to people having less free time than earlier generations, there is very little evidence to support this conclusion.  Instead, decreasing feelings of time affluence are more likely related to increasing wealth.  In fact, as incomes have risen around the world, so too have feelings of time pressure.

But, why does having more money make us feel more pressed for time?  As explained  by commodity theory, when any resource is perceived as scarce, it is also perceived as valuable.  Therefore, when our time becomes more financially valuable, we also view our time as increasingly scarce.  In other words, the unintended consequence of increasing wealth is a growing sense that time is precious and scarce.

What then is the solution to this dilemma?  Can individuals and families work to build their net worth without sacrificing their well-being?  The answer is YES!  Ashley Whillans was the lead investigator of a study that revealed “spending money on time-saving purchases promotes daily happiness and reduces negative mood because it protects us from the time stress that we feel in our daily lives.”  In addition, the research results clearly indicate that reducing time pressure on a daily basis will boost overall life satisfaction.

Nonetheless, despite the many benefits of buying time, many participants in the study reported spending little to no discretionary income on buying goods or services that would help to free up their time.  The reasons were not clear, but it is likely they did not make the connection between such expenditures and the degree of personal benefit they would receive.  For example, people often don’t give themselves permission to hire a housecleaner or a yard service as they feel that is a luxury or that they should be “able to do it all.”  In addition, when contemplating this type of expenditure, they are unlikely to take into consideration the value of reducing stress or having more time for the people and activities they cherish the most.

Whillans concluded:

Money is both a cause and a potential solution for the time famine of modern life.  Although having more money is linked to feeling pressed for time, our research shows that this hydraulic relationship is not inevitable. Instead, re-thinking our spending decisions—from the major to the mundane—may help transform wealth into well-being.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

December 18, 2018 by intrinsic 0 Comments

The Art & Science Of “Smarter” Spending

Although a number of studies have focused on the effect of income on happiness, Elizabeth Dunn, a social psychologist at the University of British Columbia, also wanted to understand the effect of spending choices on happiness.

For example, previous research clearly demonstrated that income has a predictably positive effect on level of happiness, but these levels remain flat over time even as income increases.  This finding puzzled Dunn and she wanted to find out why happiness did not increase along with income.

Could the reason be, Dunn wondered, that people poured their increasing wealth into purchasing consumer goods that did not provide lasting happiness?  As an alternative, could spending money on other people have a more positive impact on well-being than spending money on oneself?

As an initial test of the relationship between spending choices and happiness, Dunn worked with a graduate student and an assistant professor at Harvard Business School to survey a nationally representative sample of Americans.  The study participants were first asked to rate their happiness and to report their annual income.

Finally, they were asked to estimate 1) how much they spent on themselves (bills, expenses, and gifts for themselves) and 2) how much they spent on others (gifts for others and donations to charities).

Analysis of the data revealed that personal spending was not related to happiness, but higher levels of giving was significantly related to higher levels of happiness.

Next, Dunn studied a group of employees before and after receiving profit sharing bonuses.  The research team was interested to know if choices regarding how an economic windfall was spent would also affect happiness. One month before receiving their bonuses, the employees were asked to report annual income and general happiness.

Then, six to eight weeks after receiving their bonuses, the participants were asked to report their level of happiness again and how they spent their bonuses: 1) on themselves (bills, expenses, and gifts for themselves) or 2) on others (gifts for others and donations to charities).

Again, analyses demonstrated no relationship between personal spending and happiness while spending on others was shown to be a significant predictor of happiness.

In yet another study, participants were asked to choose a scenario they thought would make them the happiest.  Surprisingly, a significant majority replied that personal spending would make them happier than spending on others.

Therefore, with such a positive influence on emotional well-being, why aren’t more people giving or giving more?  Dunn believes the reason is that most people don’t know about the connection between giving and happiness.

 

 

 

Reprinted by permission of Money Quotient, NP

 

December 4, 2018 by intrinsic 0 Comments

Retirement Expectations

Retirement will trigger changes in every area of your life.  As you anticipate and prepare for this stage of life, you are likely to look forward to certain changes and to dread others.

In fact, it is not uncommon for individuals to experience many ambivalent feelings towards retirement because of the significant transitions they anticipate.

For example, many express that they are eager to leave the workforce, but nevertheless are concerned they will miss the structure of the workday and interaction with colleagues. In addition, most people closely identify who they are as individuals with their job titles or what they “do for a living.”  Therefore, they are likely to feel less significant when they step out of those roles.

Furthermore, spouses or partners can feel a tremendous strain as they adjust to more togetherness and to a new economic status.  As one woman related, “I define retirement as twice as much husband and half as much income!”

Both research and experience have shown that overcoming challenges and taking advantage of opportunities are key elements to making successful transitions in retirement. Therefore, it is important to learn ways to cope with change in healthier and more productive ways.

William Bridges, author and preeminent authority on managing change, defines transition as the psychological process people go through to come to terms with a new situation. Similarly, in the world of music, the “passing note” is a note that is not part of a particular chord, but placed between two chords to provide a smooth melodic transition from one to the other.

As you prepare for the many transitions you will experience in retirement, seek ways that you can orchestrate the important “passing notes” in your own life.

To accomplish this goal, it is important to view retirement not as a respite from work, but as an opportunity to explore new arenas, stretch your comfort zones, and find unique ways to fulfill your potential.

Reprinted by permission of Money Quotient, NP

November 26, 2018 by intrinsic 0 Comments

Fresh Perspectives & New Resources To Guide Your Giving Decisions

Regardless of how or where we choose to give, most of us would like to feel confident that our financial donations are being used wisely.  Thanks to technology and some out-of-the-box thinkers in the social sector, we now have a bevy of new tools at our fingertips and excellent educational resources that will guide our giving in a smart and purposeful ways.

Picking a Charity

Until recently, most guidelines for charitable giving recommended that we spend time researching charities and then select from those that limit overhead to less than 20 percent of their total budgets.  However, many experts now question these criteria because expense ratios alone provide a limited perspective of a charity’s value and effectiveness.

In contrast, organizations that analyze charities are increasingly evaluating non-profits based on how well they are delivering on their missions.  To accomplish this goal, rating systems need to go beyond number crunching and bottom line analyses to include subjective criteria as well.

GreatNonprofits.org, for example, uses a methodology similar to Yelp.com that created a means for sharing reviews of restaurants and services via the Internet.  In a recent interview, CEO Perla Ni described the role of GreatNonprofits as two-fold:

To collect feedback that helps both donors and nonprofits better understand the effect of the nonprofits’ activities on the ground in the local community and to bring the highly-reviewed nonprofits, as rated by their local community, to the forefront.

MyPhilanthropedia.com also offers a new way to evaluate charities based on survey responses of qualified experts. Each group of experts includes foundation professionals, researchers, and others who have an average of 8 to 20 years of experience in their sector.  The experts recommend nonprofits based on their impact and other organizational strengths, but are not allowed to recommend the organizations with which they are affiliated.

Creating a Giving Plan

There are no hard and fast rules about how much giving is the right amount.  This has to be a personal decision, but it often helps to know what others are doing and how they make their donation decisions.

While many may choose to give far more, MyPhilanthropedia.com offers an easy to implement strategy to those who have not yet committed to a specific charitable giving goal:

While everyone’s situation is unique, consider this simple formula for deciding your annual contribution. Your income may rise and (hopefully not) fall, so no need to stick to a fixed annual amount.  What about donating 1% of your annual income to the causes you care about and the organizations that are doing the best work in those areas? You can set up a monthly recurring payment to provide consistent support that is always within your budget.  Only 1% is not that much, but it can make a big difference.

Another tip comes from Jason Franklin who is the Executive Director of BolderGiving.org:

Once you have determined the amount you’d like to give and the causes you’d like to support, we recommend dividing your funds into 3 pools:

  • 50% to just one or a few organizations that are near and dear to your heart
  • 30% for your community/obligatory gifts – places like your church or synagogue, yours or your children’s schools, the nonprofit your best friend runs, your local art museum, and the causes your friends and neighbors support
  • 20% for impulse gifts – disaster relief, to support a friend in a fundraising drive, items at a fund raising event, or something you’ve never considered giving to before to see if the organization is a good fit for your major giving category. This fund allows you to just say yes!

Bolder Giving’s mission is to inspire and support people to give at their full lifetime potential. To this end, this organization does not suggest where to fund, but rather gives donors a hand with the complex, long-term journey of becoming effective, passionate, deeply-committed givers.

In addition, Bolder Giving has recently launched GivingCommunities.org, an online resource created to assist in matching individuals with like-minded peers who share the same philanthropic interests, values, circumstances, and passions.

Reprinted by permission of Money Quotient, NP

November 15, 2018 by intrinsic 0 Comments

Kids Need Money Mentors

With the level of consumer debt skyrocketing and the cost of housing, education, and health care increasing at double-digit rates, younger generations are facing unprecedented challenges to achieving economic security and financial independence.  Therefore, helping our youth to learn effective money management skills, and to adopt good financial habits and attitudes, is more important than ever.

So what can you do if you are worried about the financial future of your children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews?  The best place to start is by considering all of the ways you can be a positive influence in shaping their financial well-being.  Next, choose specific ways to be a proactive Money Mentor in their lives. Here are suggestions and resources to get you started:

Set a Good Example—First and foremost, examine your own money behaviors and take action to get your own financial life in order.  Always remember that nothing is more effective in guiding the younger generation than providing a powerful role model.  An excellent handbook for reaching this goal is You and Your Money by Lois A. Vitt and Karen L. Murrell.

Assess Your Attitudes—Your own attitudes and beliefs about money have their roots in value-laden messages you picked up along your life’s journey.  Often these messages reside in your subconscious and influence how you feel and talk about money.  Becoming more aware of these internal messages will help you to be more mindful about the money messages you are passing along to the young people in your life. A good resource to guide this more internal exploration is Caring for Your Soul in Matters of Money by Karen Ramsey.

Be Aware & Prepared—Stay alert for teachable moments to communicate positive money messages and to share your financial expertise and wisdom.  Very few topics affect us on a day-to-day basis like money, so there are endless opportunities to provide mini financial lessons via word and example.  A great handbook to prepare you for this journey is The Opposite of Spoiled by New York Times money columnist, Ron Lieber.  It covers everything about how, when, and why to talk to kids about money, whether they are three-years old or teenagers.  The Opposite of Spoiled is both a practical guidebook and a values-based philosophy.

Use Tools—There are a number of great resources available to help make financial education fun and interesting for children.  One example is the Moonjar, “a tool for children and families to incorporate strong financial values and practices into their daily lives.”  The creator, Eulalie M. Scandiuzzi, explains the meaning behind the name of her product in this way:

Moon:  “To shoot for the moon”; to go after dreams and goals.

Jar:  Following ancient custom where wishes or dreams are written down and placed in a special jar for future celebration!

The Moonjar kit (www.moonjar.com) consists of three colorful moneyboxes (one each for spending, saving, and sharing), a special Moonjar elastic band to hold the assembled boxes together, a passbook for deposits and withdrawals, and a family guidebook.

Reprinted by permission of Money Quotient, NP

 

 

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