Archive for ◊ February, 2009 ◊

• Monday, February 09th, 2009

When I moved to Florida at age 55, I visualized a sort of semi-retirement.  Like most emigres to Florida, all I was sure of was that I wanted warm weather year-round.  But, because I had no pension or large 401K, I knew I would need to work, but was determined to make time for golf, tennis, and fun in the sun.  How I was going to do that, I wasn’t quite sure.  If I was going to create this lifestyle, I had to do it while I was young enough to work and make new friends.  And so I did, entering into a new career as a financial advisor, while still enjoying the pleasures that the retirement ads promised.  I also chose to live in a community of families of all ages and backgrounds.

What I observed, however, was that many who retired to Florida were buying the packaged “active adult” version of retirement, buying a lifestyle in a gated community with a big clubhouse and loads of recreational amenities.  Many times, they were purchasing homes where their old friends from “up North” had moved.  While this was not for me, many people are happy with this choice, and, of course, they have a right to live as they wish.

But, I wondered:  when you buy the retirement house, do you really get the life you envisioned?  Richard Bolles in his book “What Color is Your Parachute for Retirement” also questions the idea of “buying” the retirement lifestyle idea versus designing your own retirement “well-being scenario”.  In his chapter titled “Retirement Hogwash”, he notes that the huge numbers of boomers are also a huge target market for those wanting to sell something.  They have plans for your cash, “to keep you consuming to infinity and beyond (if possible!)”.  Lifestyle marketing and psychographics are based on the idea that when you buy the product, you get the lfestyle implied.  The marketers know all about “The New Retirement”.

Therefore, in retirement planning, a fundamental question to consider is:  “Do you want to be sold a lifestyle dreamed up by an advertising agency to sell a product, or do you want to choose a way to live based on your own core values and then make conscious purchases that support your choice?”  Of course, this means you will have done the self-analysis to know what your core values and preferences are.  This is where retirment coaching comes in.  You may be able to do this on your own with a book to guide you, but most people will need a coach to keep them focused and effective in their planning.

You, the Boomer about to retire, are being targeted by 6 major industries:  investment professionals, insurance salesmen,  real estate purveyors, travel merchants, retailers and anti-aging “experts”.  Advertising by these industries benefits you by making you aware of things you really do need, as well as influencing you to buy things you really don’t need.  To discern which is which, you really need to have developed self-knowledge.  This is doubly important because many Boomers and those already retired find themselves with diminished finances because of stock market losses.

Bolles encourages us to develop a “hogwash detector” to make major purchasing decisions, because marketing is so pervasive and subtle, it’s sometimes hard to see clearly.  Training for this “detector” needs to begin while you are still working:  learning to reduce expenses and consume less so that you have a sense of control over your life, so that you can be resistant to the siren messages of what constitutes “the good life” in retirement.