Anyone Got a Plan B?

And we all know how that went! (Source: Azquotes.com)

Bylaw 1.7(a)(4-3) of this blog’s charter states… “A topical post relevant to retirement must be published at least once a year”

So, campers, how’s everything going in your tent?

Just to be clear, I’m speaking of your billfolds and wallets here. Whichever is holding the wad of cash that Fed chairman Powell says is responsible for overheating our economy. All of these inflation and supply chain woes are your fault. Yes, you! You and your silly, so called “needs” for chicken thighs, boneless chuck roasts, semiconductors, and now baby formula. Dare I add new kitchen appliances too, ahem? All this rampant and plainly unnecessary consumerism is making an utter wreck of my retirement savings. Yours too, you say?

UPDATE: After writing the above only a day ago, conditions have now changed. Both Walmart and Target are complaining in their quarterly earnings report that although customers are still coming in regularly, they’re now not spending enough money. It seems consumers are looking for less expensive alternatives, which in turn affects the bottom line for these retailers. It’s still your fault, of course; that part hasn’t changed. Wall Street traders need a scapegoat.

So with all of that as background, I’m once again instructed by the home office that it’s time to again provide an annual update on my retirement situation. I also offer my regular apology to international readers, who must find America’s retirement system to be confusing, unnecessarily draconian, and tragically biased in favor of the affluent. But not to worry: the same people charged with writing laws to remove guns from our streets are working on a solution to fix this too.

I knew everything was starting to become a bit dire starting last week, when I rang Hank, our intrepid financial advisor. He answered his phone with a shrieking “WHAT?!” Always a charmer, our Hank.

Such are the circumstances in which I currently find myself. At the start of the year, my pension was reduced due to a fact of life over which I have zero control: the vicissitudes of the aging process. I turned age 62. Oh, the humanity. When I started retirement back in 2014, all was hunky dory with my monthly stipend because of a special supplement included in my pension. It was offered as an enticement by my employer to take an early exit. Management said,“Here’s a little extra bonus for you, now go away.” But there are always strings attached to any deal. In the case of this supplement, it ended on my 62nd birthday, which was last December.

Ever the planner with foresight and vision, I eagerly started preparing for this reduction early last year.

With the exception of one small IRS-allowed withdrawal for the down payment of our condo in 2017, my 401(k) was left untouched so as to continue to grow during the remaining reign of the-then bull market. Starting monthly distributions a little early would help replace the loss of that supplement. And, with aplomb along with the diplomacy and charm of a Madeleine Albright or a Dean Acheson, I attempted negotiations with my ex-wife for a graduated end to alimony payments.

Yeah, the six of you out there might recall that last part didn’t go so well. I suspect my ex saw me as less a Madeleine Albright and more of a Mike Pompeo.

An apt sign I saw in a shop recently.
Somehow I think having a billion dollars would make my life even more complicated
.

So here we all are facing a plummeting stock market. My retirement portfolio is taking a huge hit, and I continue to pay monthly alimony. At least I’m not alone though: even poor ‘ol Elon Musk is all atwitter in coming up with enough money to actually buy Twitter. Misery loves company.

The entity that manages my 401(k) recently announced a surprise mid-year recalculation for everyone in the Plan who receive distributions using the life expectancy method. This means that starting in June, I will experience a reduction in my monthly deposit. Yet, at the same time, this will also help to preserve the nest egg by not withdrawing at the earlier rate calculated on January 1st, when my balance was much higher than it is now. It’s like having to swallow Robitussin cough syrup after reading the “New and Better Taste!” label. Sure, okay, if you say so…

Although an early start to social security would greatly add to the coffers right now, that would also be a huge mistake. According to William Reichenstein, head of research at Social Security Solutions in Overland Park, Kansas:

“[A]ssuming a healthy retiree with an average life span, deferring benefits generates an 8 percent return each year that they hold off. For example, a 67-year-old would collect 108 percent of his or her expected benefit by waiting until age 68, and 116 percent by delaying until age 69. Conversely, those who collect earlier, at age 62, receive only 70 percent of their expected benefit with incremental increases each year they hold off” (see 4/22/2022 NYT article).

So for now, both Gorgeous and I will delay social security till at least our full retirement age (“FRA”) and most likely later. It’s hard to ignore that 8 percent.

We continue to be covered by the health insurance coverage I was fortunate enough to take into retirement (the cost of which is shared with my former employer). It takes a hefty chunk out of my monthly pension, but it’ll remain in place until we both start medicare at age 65. After that, while we will remain covered by it as secondary coverage to medicare, its cost will be reduced with co-pays and deductibles mostly eliminated (similar to a Medigap policy). According to a recent estimate by Fidelity Investments, A 65-year-old couple retiring this year can expect to spend an average of $315,000 in health-care and medical expenses in their retirement. If I’m going to be that out-of-pocket, I’d rather be over-insured to help sleep at night.

And speaking of sleeping at night… let’s hope we all can continue to do so in the days ahead. Try not to look too often at your own savings, stick to your plan if you can, and stop reading blog posts like this one.

Until next time…

A sneak peek at the new kitchen cabinets and countertops. Blame it on us, Chairman Powell!

38 thoughts on “Anyone Got a Plan B?

  1. We need more kitchen news and less dire financial stuff! I started SS at full retirement age but my husband started early. Thinking at that time was that the actuaries calculated that you got the same amount as long as you died at the required age. The thinking fluctuates and so does the required die date. One of the keys to it all is DON’T GET SICK! That will gut you financially.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ah, true enough, Kate. There’s no one-size-fits-all for social security, but poor health throws everything into a question mark. You’re right about that. It looks like we have about ten days on the kitchen — I hope so anyway.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I imagine that more than a few people nearing retirement age decided to leave work “permanently” due to Covid and their rock-solid and always increasing (sarcasm here) nest egg. Now that the stock market has done what it has done over and over, they are shocked at their dwindling balance. We are in the fortunate position of being able to put off taking our social security until after our full retirement age… of course, then we have the dreaded RMD to look forward to.

    Enough of that…

    Your kitchen cabinets and countertops look great!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We all experienced the downturn in ’08, but we were still adding to our savings then, so the effects of it were only theoretical. For some right now, I suspect this is coming as a complete shock. The pessimist in me was always prepared for this inevitability.

      Thanks for the kitchen compliment… it’s coming along, just a little slower than we’d like. Meals are a little weird at the moment!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I shouldn’t have read this on a rainy day when our gas is up to $4.65 a gallon. I always appreciate these posts, but I do wonder if any of us with less than that billion dollars every does it ‘all’ right because most of it is out of our control. A NH friend told me about a neighbor who put their house on the market at a very inflated price. They had one open house on a Saturday, had 54 offers on Sunday, and picked the one they liked who paid over the asking price with no mechanical or other issues to deal with. Hmm, real estate is off the charts, gas is out of this world, appliances can’t be found, and baby formula is not on the shelf. It’s a good system we’ve created for ourselves. I think I need some chocolate.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And some ice cream to go under that chocolate. If we can’t get rich, let’s get fat the old fashioned way. An extended family member of mine bought a second home this year in those same inflated costs. I sure hope that works out for them. I’m buying gas more often now just to keep from having an expensive fill-up. I wouldn’t do that if there was a shortage, but it’s all about cash management at the moment — and apparently we’ll all be staying in this moment for quite a while yet. Ugh.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Since we’re talking finance here, isn’t this inflated real estate cost similar to the 2008 debacle? Also, what kind of issues are people going to find with no mechanicals being done before closing? I’m no financial wizard, but it feels shaky. I buy $20 worth of gas at a time, the needle hardly moves, but it makes me feel better. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Marty, I get it…campers and tent…appropriate metaphors? Similes? a little personal, yet my daughter, 3 little boys (age 2 month, 2 years, 4 years) and her partner are living in a camper at the moment, between moves. It will eventually go in a good direction, count our blessings, blah, blah, blah…challenging times. There is definitely a trickle down effect and many layers. Gas prices are another big thing in our neck of the woods…and it is the people trying to work who require the gas…and the baby formula and the diapers….

    And, yes, your personal challenges, Marty and the alimony situation….darn.

    Kitchen beginning to look great! A total aside…I am LOVING Gorgeous artwork! Makes me smile, feel good, and get goosebumps…in a good way.❤️ Thanks for sharing your thoughts. 😀

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    1. Erica, you are so sweet. I read your message aloud to Gorgeous just now and she is beaming. She said to say thanks. 🙂

      Big positive thoughts being sent to your daughter right now. If she’s anything like her mother, I suspect she’s very resourceful.

      The kitchen is taking longer than we’d like! But contractually they’re well within the estimated timeframe, so I just have to be more patient. It’s been difficult navigating all of this because I’m cranky! I’m glad to see it starting to take shape, though. Thanks, Erica!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Marty, I find your posts really helpful, what with the “getting really close” experience of my mother’s upcoming hoped for relocation to the good ol’ USofA. Although my sister has lived there for some years now with her (born & bred) American husband, she’s never been good on the details we’ve needed in order to give my mother financial advice. My thanks, yet again for the education.

    The kitchen is looking lovely & I’m delighted to see you’ve gone for white cabinets. Classy, classic & timeless. I’m looking forward to seeing your tile choice for I’m a tiling & taps kinda gal 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oops, somehow I missed this nice comment of yours earlier, Debs! Thanks… it is coming along nicely. I will make sure to get some shots of the tile for you. 🙂

      Oh, I was wondering if that move for your mother is still on track. Good to know it hasn’t been upended because of covid or other reasons. I’m always wondering what people in other countries think when they read about the American retirement experience. We have so many needless hoops to jump through in order to satisfy taxing authorities, etc. I do hope everything will get sorted easily for your mum once she moves here. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks Marty, I hope so too. My mother does a fine line in refusing to make any decisions and then glories in blaming whoever gave the advice on those that go wrong. And then wonders why none of her children want to be her advisers! 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Our financial advisor called us last month to discuss how to move forward. He gave us his companies talking points, which I was unsure about. He never sent us the details of the plan because after the three days following our conversation, it was evident that the company line was garbage…😆

    Liked by 1 person

  8. The kitchen is looking pretty good! Now, things can’t be too bad if you are getting that fancy kitchen. However, I feel your pain. Our retirement/investment accounts have taken a huge hit. Fortunately, we don’t need that money to live on. We’re not locking in the losses by moving money out. We are thinking it will take years to recover, but we will wait it out. We still build savings for vacations and home improvement stuff. However, our vacations are in the camper! 🙂 At least for now. My go to for all things financial is Clark Howard. (Clark.com) I listen to his podcast and follow most of his advice. Clark does say to wait until 70 before taking social security. Dan took his at 66, kept working and invested/banked it until he retired at 70. Clark is unbought and unbossed – well, except for his wife I guess. He will say, “Happy wife, happy life.” I subscribed to that philosophy, too. And I’d bet Gorgeous is pretty happy right now with the beautiful kitchen appearing before her eyes! Eating at home is one of the best things to do – money wise and health wise. You’ll be doing that in style!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, it’s coming along pretty nicely. A little slower than we’d like it to be, but that’s all relative. We bought the place knowing that we’d have to get to the kitchen as soon as possible. I kept putting it off, though, because it was going to involve financing, and I wasn’t comfortable doing that so soon after buying the place. In 2019 I said to Gorgeous, “Okay, next year let’s get started on it.” But the pandemic had other ideas for our plans. So it’s good to get it started now, and we’re grateful to the have the financing squared away.

      Thanks for the podcast suggestion. One I can suggest is Jill Schlesinger’s “Jill on Money,” which I enjoy quite a bit.

      Thanks for sharing, Betty!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. We’re fortunate enough to be able to live (mostly) on my pension which isn’t affected by the stock market. We are also not taking social security yet. I will reach FRA in August but still no plan to start. I haven’t looked at our accounts since the end of March but I’ve seen what’s happening to my company stock. Ouch!! And trips to the grocery store are scary. I want to believe things will get better. We meet with our financial advisor in early June. 🤞

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Our advisor has both of us pegged in age 70 to start, and for now I’m okay with that as a placeholder. I sort of feel that there’s a “sweet spot” between the reaching the FRA and 70 years old — perhaps 68 or 69. But ultimately the market will return, and I may just keep going to age 70 anyway. I hope your upcoming review goes well. 🙂

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  10. Misery does love company, my friend. Thanks for the financial update. Us 62-year-olds need to stick together. Here’s hoping the stock market doesn’t get any worse and we can continue to defer our social security payments for another few years.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Very complicated Marty! Over here we’ve only got our Super! And that’s it! When you retire they do the sums and if you’ve got too much then no pension. If you don’t have much you’re allowed the pension! The pension is not much..but with it discount meds, utilities and public transport. So it’s the extras that you would save. I’m trying not to panic as cost of living has sky rocketed over here too! Worse comes to worse I’ll just rent out my place and go couch surf at the kids 😂 there are 3 of them to split my days 😂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Interesting, Vy. Your system is definitely more straightforward and seemingly transparent, where as ours is based on a complex set of factors. I love how the Aussie system considers utilities and transport. That kind of support is available here based an indexed need, but it varies from state to state, even county to county. I’m glad you have some options for yourself! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hopefully it won’t come to that. My two bedrooms also give me flexibility to take in a boarder. Hopefully won’t come to that either! That’s why I’ve gone back to pharmacy! Get paid more and more regular work.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Make a plan, stick with it. Kind of our mantra, too. No social security withdrawals until we both reach that age, even then might try to wait longer. Your kitchen is looking spiffy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So far so good, Ally. The floor is being installed this week, so it’ll finally start looking normal again. I keep saying there’s a “sweet spot” to starting social security, which is a not-very clever way of saying I don’t want to wait for 70. But I also don’t want to start precisely at the FRA either. I’ve got time to figure it out thankfully.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Hello,
    I enjoyed reading this post and I appreciate your advices: Try not to look too often at your own savings, stick to your plan if you can, and stop reading blog posts like this one. Well, except that last one lol
    I am not at retirement age yet, but already dreaming about it, so posts like this gives me some insight.
    The kitchen cabinets are looking great! Blessings!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you liked the post, and that I might have offered a few kernels of wisdom. Okay, let’s just go with common sense and leave it there. 😉 The one thing that I really didn’t mentally process during my working/saving years, is that retirement finances become even harder during retirement! There are so many decisions one has to make. But with a bit of sanity and a large dose of humor, one can get through it okay.

      Many thanks for reading. The kitchen is almost done!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. oh no, don’t tell me that managing my finances will be even harder 😦 You are shattering my dream of relaxation and simplicity in retirement. I may need to get a financial planner to help me navigate things, which is another scary proposition for me.
        I look forward to seeing the pictures!!

        Liked by 1 person

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