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Retirement Planning > Saving for Retirement

Do You Feel It?

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One of the scarier phrases in today’s vocabulary is “outliving income.”

The term is popping up with increasing frequency in surveys, marketing materials and advertising campaigns of financial services providers.

But whether it is actually being understood by most people is unclear. Or, perhaps, people understand it but just don’t feel it.

In this week’s Advising Boomers section, this lack of urgency surfaces in each story but is particularly apparent in the collection of ‘boomerisms’ financial advisors told Linda Koco they hear from their clients. And, these are boomers who are savvy enough to have financial advisors.

If you prefer numbers to anecdote, turn to Trevor Thomas’ story detailing the results of a survey completed by Guardian Life Insurance Company of America.

Among the survey details are findings that half of boomers aged 50 to 59 agree they don’t know how much they need to save for retirement, and 60% agree to some extent that they need to be saving more but are not.

Why boomers fail to bridge comprehension with a gut understanding of the risk they could face is anyone’s guess. Maybe it is too far away or just too far removed from the dream retirement that boomers see on commercials pitching retirement products. You know the ones I’m talking about. The boomer couple lounging on the deck of their beach house in the glow of a late afternoon sun.

Or, perhaps having grown up in a time of unprecedented plenty, boomers cannot picture themselves ever being in need or living on the edge.

Or, maybe the concept of self-sufficiency has somewhere, somehow been lost. I’m not suggesting a weakening of Social Security, but rather cutting back on one or two little luxuries a week, to tuck something away, is an idea that boomers may want to consider.

If boomers aren’t feeling urgency, it might be worth listening to an older relative or friend.

In my case, it was hearing my aunt interview two potential aides. Loretta is an 87-year-old who is experiencing a life change that warrants someone coming in and helping her with small chores: preparing a meal, making sure that medicine is taken on time and running errands.

Social workers had suggested eight hours of help daily. Everyone seemed amenable until the helpers arrived for the interview and Loretta began doing the calculations. There was a pause. And, then annoyance fueled by fear.

“Eight hours?” She’d be broke in no time. Four hours a day was as high as she would go, she decided. Case closed. Even though there was no chance of “going broke,” what had kicked in was a bookkeeper’s training of watching the dollars and, more importantly, long-term memory.

Loretta remembers the Depression, remembers neighbors who had to knock on others’ doors and ask for food. The image is a powerful one and it stuck.

Without being alarmist, life insurers providing retirement products need to find a way to make their message stick.

I think insurers are taking a good first step toward that goal. Information is a wake-up call. Awareness is the first step to action.

But what needs to accompany that awareness is something that will make people feel the need to save.

A recent anti-smoking television campaign features spots in which lung cancer sufferers tell their story. Not all are tragic, but all are attention getters. You stop what you’re doing to watch them. It might be worth having some spots where those who are just making ends meet tell their stories.

Something that will make boomers say, “Yes, I feel it!”


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