A company I worked for, once upon a time, gave periodic presentations to people on the verge of retirement. The financial planner guy would go over financial planning issues, I would talk about managing the nest egg and creating a paycheck in retirement, and finally the President of the company would pop up and answer questions. This was the first half.
The second half would typically present a panel of retirees who had previously worked at the company. They would tell stories on what retirement was like and hit upon their successes and what they would do differently if they had it to do all over.
Not surprisingly, the audience sat up a little straighter and blinked a few times to get refocused as the panel spoke. This was them a few years down the road. They were meeting their future selves. By listening closely to the panel, the audience could very well get answers to questions they had been mulling over. Broad questions like "can I retire early," "how do I know if I have enough to retire," "what will I do in retirement," etc.
My question to myself at the end was why this kind of thing isn't done more often. I even thought about the "Scared Straight" program on TV where incorrigible teenagers on the path to becoming a menace to society are given a "tour" of Rahway State Penitentiary to get an insider view of prison life from the inmates. What could be a better deterrent?
To me, experience counts for a lot.
The Cheapskate Way
Jeff Yeager's latest book How To Retire The Cheapskate Way is filled with stories of people who are successfully going down a debt-free road, living within their means, and achieving a goal of what he calls "selfishly employed," i.e., employed doing what they want to do. In fact, he is one! This book is experience writ huge!
Most people who think about retirement concentrate on the income side. I'll admit I am guilty of this. I hammer away at investments and creating a large "nest egg." I emphasize relating money needed to achieve an income based on what was needed in the pre-retirement years. But retirement is different from pre-retirement - especially for people who pay attention to where their money goes. And the financial expert guy (or gal) with "the big binder" isn't going to be a lot of help to people who truly understand their finances. This is one of Yeager's main points!
In between the stories and Yeager's expressions that will get you to laugh out loud (not easy for authors to do, in my case), there is a serious challenge here for the financial planning profession. He presents evidence questioning the widely-made assumptions on retirement spending needs. In particular, if you are buying into the notion that you need millions to happily retire, Yeager will challenge your beliefs.
The focus in this book is on spending. The stories show that many people have learned how to get along on much less than is conventionally presented. It tells the story of people saving and creating income in unusual ways. It tells of people thinking outside the box - one couple got their kids a dump truck load of dirt for Christmas. The kids were thrilled! And, you guessed it - the dirt was dumped at the low spot in the yard!
It gives some direction in dealing with the thorny issue of medical care for the early retiree.
Part way through, I was reminded of a presentation I attended put on by the local chapter of the American Association of Individual Investors. A broker was going through a complicated explanation of what to do if a retiree's income wasn't sufficient when, all of a sudden, a hand shot up. The audience member said that he would figure out his Social Security, his investment income, and his small pension and then do what he did his whole life--he would "live within his means."
This threw the presenter for a loop. He clearly had not thought of the problem from this perspective. To him, if you had a shortfall, you automatically first considered taking on more investment risk.
Yeager loads his book with references to resources enabling the reader to follow the Cheapskate path. In case there is a question, Cheapskate doesn't imply that a person isn't generous. Cheapskate Verna Oller replaced broken shoelaces with a zipper from an old jacket but in her death revealed a generosity that will surprise you.
I highly recommend this book for anyone on your holiday list past their midlife crisis. For one thing, it is cheap. For another, it will be available in January after all the holiday hooplah has died down and your giftees are looking for a good read to settle down in front of the fire with. After they read it, they will thank you and hopefully lend it to you.