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Plan For Retirement Now, Before It’s Too Late – Matt Trogdon – Medium

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Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

“When you get old, in life, things get taken from you. But, you only learn that when you start losing stuff.” — Al Pacino, Any Given Sunday

I was on a plane last week sitting next to a guy who incessantly checked his stock portfolio. The flight from DC to Chicago is roughly 1:45, and he had his portfolio open the whole time. I’ll admit it…I looked and saw how much he had in there. I’m nosy. Sue me.

I don’t know who the guy is — we only exchanged the cursory pleasantries when he sat down — but I know who I hope he isn’t.

Before I get to that, here are a few observations.

I noticed he had a mop of gray hair sticking out under his baseball cap. And he was wearing what looked to be the type of water-resistant pants that people wear on hikes. He didn’t look young…but he didn’t look old, either. I’m assuming he was close to retirement or in his very early retirement years. I also noticed he wasn’t wearing a wedding ring. So I’m assuming he was either divorced, widowed, or a lifelong bachelor.

I could be wrong about both of those. It wouldn’t be the first time.

Like I said at the top, he had his portfolio open the whole time. He was using a tablet, and he kept touching the screen to check different stocks and to see how they were moving that day. He’d also check his email, which was filled with stock newsletter teases and individual company research reports.

It’s possible that this guy just loves tracking stocks. It’s possible that it’s a passion or a hobby and that the portfolio he kept checking was his “fun money.” It’s possible that he retired early and that he was connecting through Chicago en route to some picturesque piece of land overlooking the Missouri River in Montana. And it’s possible that lives a life in which he never has to worry about money.

I sincerely hope that’s the case. But my fear is the opposite.

My fear is that, like so many Americans, this guy has reached retirement age only to realize he doesn’t have nearly enough saved to live the type of life he wants. My fear is that he was tracking his account like a hawk because he was trying to will it to rise before it’s too late. His portfolio had more than a lot of folks, but it certainly wasn’t enough to retire on.

And it certainly wasn’t going to rise to the level he needed it to in the time it takes to fly from DC to Chicago.

Honestly, he needs about 15 more years.

Watching this guy reminded me of a time I listened to some Motley Fool customer service phone calls. I remember a woman calling. Her voice was shaky and uncertain. She was looking for stocks that would provide her with rapid growth.

She was 80.

Again, I don’t know the details of her situation, but she sounded like someone who needed a Hail Mary.

So why am I telling you all of this? Because I don’t want you to end up being the guy staring at your stock portfolio trying to wish it higher so that you can retire. I don’t want you being the 80-year-old woman who needs a Hail Mary to save your financial situation. I want you to beat the odds, regardless of how scary they are. And make no mistake…the odds are scary.

According to Marketwatch, a recent survey of baby boomers revealed that only 11% of them have $500,000 or more saved for retirement. Almost half don’t have any money saved up for retirement at all. 23% of boomers surveyed never had any retirement savings. And a quarter of them had never run the numbers to see how much they’d need to retire at all.

That’s scary stuff. Scary enough that it might lead some people to stare at their investment portfolios all day. Scary enough that it might lead other people to try to hit stock home runs when they’re 80. Scary enough that it will hopefully spur you into action.

Unfortunately, there are too many people for whom retirement won’t ever be a realistic option. There are too many people who will spend their whole lives struggling to make ends meet. There are too many people for whom just funding a savings account will be a massive accomplishment.

But if you’re fortunate enough to be able to envision yourself retiring, then you owe it to yourself to be prepared. Don’t delay. Sit down with someone you trust. Figure out what your goals are and how much you’ll need to achieve them. Educate yourself on the costs of things like post-retirement medical expenses and long-term care. Take a hard look at your monthly spending and saving. Live within or below your means and sock away the rest.

Your retirement could and should be a time of joy, love, and satisfaction. A time for you to travel, spend time with family, explore your hobbies or your faith, or whatever else you want. Hopefully it isn’t a time when you worry about money, especially if you can avoid that worry by planning ahead.

Here’s hoping that if I ever see you on a flight to Chicago, you’re flying First Class.

Disclaimer: The views expressed are my own, an employee of Motley Fool Asset Management, LLC (“MFAM”), and do not reflect the views of MFAM or any of its affiliates. These comments may not be relied upon as recommendations, investment advice or an indication of trading intent. (Our compliance team loves my content. So much so they asked me to add the following.)

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