The concept of retirement itself is likely flawed. Post-retirement, the combination of additional learning pursuits, part-time volunteer work and travel (if desired) is perhaps one desirable model. There are others. While the Social Security safety net remains ultra-important, the lack of other financial preparation is probably due to extremely poor financial education for pre-retirees. Actually, poor financial education goes back to primary school, doesn’t it?
Som Basu, Ph.D., is the director of the California Institute of Finance and a financial planning visionary who travels the globe to preach the gospel of financial planning. CIF is a graduate school at California Lutheran University that awards an M.B.A. in financial planning and uses CFP education as a part of the curricula. When one has his or her M.B.A. in hand, preparation is already complete to sit for the CFP boards. I have the pleasure of working with Som.
Aside from his work at CIF, Som has developed www.agebander.com, a help for financial education. AgeBander can be a big part of the fix for this situation. In other words, Basu has created a Web site that will help any individual become more financially savvy about retirement. Consumers may subscribe to AgeBander for less than $35 yearly. There is a professional planner version as well.
Additionally, if AARP and other organizations, including schools and colleges, commit to educating pre-retirees beginning at, say, age 40 or 45, some of the problem of having no hat, no cattle and no retirement money at retirement age might be at least partially solved. AgeBander provides some proven methodology for this and is in strategic partnerships with top corporations, including Whirlpool, PIMCO and AT&T.
HOWEVER (it’s a big however), many financial planners will agree that it’s extremely hard to work with many lower-income and middle-income customers — such folks may tend to run through windfall money, including retirement sums, at a rapid clip. Education in that strata is and will continue to be, in my judgment, difficult. AgeBander may be a cure for those who did not take care of themselves — but it requires some reorganization of life’s accumulated financial bad habits.
As I age, I begin to appreciate that Social Security — for those who are beyond help by AgeBander or other methods — could be expanded by adding extra participant (beneficiary) money to improve benefits during work years. Social Security is bulletproof, since it’s a defined-benefit program with redistribution features and available only as monthly income. For many, adding additional sums to the program to improve retirement incomes might work.
Since Social Security is a defined benefit plan, in my view, government needs to adjust benefit ages and indices to reflect the makeup of the contribution base each year. This kind of automatic adjustment would remove the rate-setting and benefit processes from the politicians, who are loath to cut benefits. I have not turned socialist; however, after 42 years of planning experience, I am somewhat pessimistic regarding the ability of many to improve retirement incomes during working years.