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Oct/Nov 2006







retirement: plan or an empty dream

by Norma Jackson Goldman


MY FRIEND IS TWO YEARS AWAY from her plan to retire early. She is extremely competent, holding a responsible position in a non-profit organization. Highly organized with strong administrative skills, she has no written plan for her retirement and wonders if she will be able to manage on her retirement income. It seems incomprehensible that she would not have formulated a plan, but she is not alone.

If you regularly scan the news for money facts, retirement planning, investing or saving, you see an alarming number of examples of otherwise intelligent people who are perilously close to retirement with no plans whatever for how they will manage in retirement. The single most common element in all these stories is the lack of a written plan. We could go so far as to say “a plan is not a plan until it’s written down.”

I am reminded of a magazine quiz, asking parents questions about their hopes and dreams for their children at age 18. They answered:

  • Successful in business

  • Well educated

  • Happy in marriage and family

  • Respectful, contributing member of society

  • Responsible and mature in relationships

A statement at the end of the survey asked, “What are you doing now to realize these hopes and dreams?” Most parents were forced to admit they were doing next to nothing, focusing instead on the daily pressures of making a living, feeding and clothing them, and making time for family outings.


Interestingly, there is a psychological impact in writing something down—it makes the task a reality, and spurs the writer to action! For people with a weight problem, writing down their current weight, their desired weight, and the number of calories they can consume daily to attain weight loss is often the hardest part! Once the problem and the goal are written down, accomplishing them seems much more attainable.

All of us (including you) have a very good chance of achieving our financial goals if we simply take the time to write them down, construct a plan to make them happen, and then follow the plan!

Visit to find a rich source of answers to common retirement questions. I discovered that, considering my family health history, my current age, my personality type, my eating (and non-smoking) habits I am likely to live to be 102! Wow! My next question was, will I outlive my financial resources? A handy calculator asked for my current income, savings and investments, social security benefits, and the rate at which I withdraw savings annually. The calculator announced that even at 102, I won’t run out of money if I follow my spending plan throughout retirement. As you formulate retirement plans, here are some things to watch out for.

Don’t bet the farm on working much beyond 70. People (me included) think they will continue to work well into retirement. But AARP reports that up to 80% of people surveyed said they encountered age-bias when job hunting. You may not be physically able to work as long as you’d like. The Social Security Administration reports that 63% of disability claims are filed by those aged 50 plus.

Don’t count on greatly reducing your expenses in retirement. Actually, many retirees spend more than during their working years. How? Increased leisure time means more travel, hobbies, eating out—all of which costs money.

Medical costs are hard to estimate. America has a health care system that is the envy of the world, but medical costs are soaring and these costs can take a big bite out of retirement incomes, and even more so if the retiree has no health insurance.

Today is the perfect day to begin planning, not just dreaming. What’s holding you back?

About the Writer: Former magazine editor Norma Goldman enjoys a free-lance writing career in her retirement. She lives in Nashville, TN.


©2007 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists