I was catching up on The Walking Dead recently and it got me thinking about retirement savings. Yes, really, it did. What does life in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse, battling zombie hordes, dealing with predatory human survivors, and trying to maintain one's humanity in a hostile world have in common with the struggle to prepare for and survive retirement? Actually, quite a bit.
With 10,000 boomers a day hitting 65, we are definitely in the midst of a retirement apocalypse. Hordes of retirees every day are pouring into retirement and transitioning from a life of paychecks to a life of creating their own checks, what I like to call "mychecks." Like the slow moving zombies in The Walking Dead, many retirees essentially "drift" into retirement. Doing very little to adjust their investment strategies to better reflect the new world they have just stepped into -- a life without a paycheck. For many Americans, this "drift" or inertia can be a dangerous approach as they enter a new world that could involve battling inflation, the ups and downs of the market, rising healthcare costs, and the unexpected -- a world that could in fact be very hostile to their retirement nest egg.
So how do retirees avoid the drift? Simple. Really simple: Don't drift. Look at the moment of retirement as a planning event.
Given the fact that your paycheck is gone, it is a time to take stock in the investments and resources that you have at your disposal to serve you during retirement. At a minimum, consider doing these three things:
1. Determine what expenses you'll have in retirement so you can adequately determine how much money you'll need.
2. Meet with a financial professional, even if you've done it all on your own up until now. A professional can create a retirement income strategy for you to follow, personalized for your unique needs.
3. Cover your essential expenses (housing, food, healthcare, etc.) with guaranteed income like Social Security, pension payments or lifetime income from an annuity and use your "other" money to fund discretionary expenses like hobbies and travel.
It is no longer about what you shoulda, coulda, or woulda done. It is about taking the retirement savings you have and making sure you have positioned it as best as you can for a comfortable retirement.
Whatever your situation, don't be a zombie. Don't drift into retirement. Be a survivor and have an awesome time living in the aftermath of the retirement apocalypse.
It's no surprise that Omaha is consistently ranked a top place to live in publications like Parenting magazine and CNN.com, because this Midwestern city is actually incredibly easy on your wallet. The cost of living is 12 percent below the national average, with housing expenses 21 percent lower. According to Rent.com, average studio apartments cost just $440 per month, while a one-bedroom goes for about $515. To top it off, the average wage for full-time civilians in the Omaha-Council Bluffs area is $24.75 an hour--$2 more than national rates.
Seems like the classic Judy Garland film, Meet Me in St. Louis, was onto something. This port city on the border of Missouri and Illinois sports a cost of living that's a full ten percentage points below the national average. Rent is the main steal here--the cost of housing is 22 percent below the nation's average (that means you can look out for a median rent of just $535 a month, according to Rent.com). The best part? This manufacturing hub brings the city high wages, with the average full-time worker earning $22.63/hour, and those in manufacturing and construction faring even better--earning an average of $24.23/hour.
They say that everything's bigger in Texas, and in this aviation hub, your wallet could be too. That's because these Texas cities combine wages that are on-par with the national average ($22.52/hour for full-time civilians), but cost of living rates that are much lower--about 8 percent below the national average in Dallas. The state is also lucrative for union members, who make about $25.17/hour.
This Ohio city was named the best place in the nation to raise a family by Businessweek in 2009 and it's not hard to see why. The state capitol has a cost of living that's 8 percent below the national average, and it's also about 14 percent below the average for housing (two-bedroom apartments go for about $650-850, according to Rent.com). Full-time civilian wages in the Columbus-Marion-Chillicothe area come out at $22.31/hour, just under the national mean.
Another Texas city with big hair and big wages. Full-time civilian workers can expect to make $25.14 in the Houston-Baytown-Huntsville area, and in manufacturing and construction jobs the rate is much higher, at $29.12/hour. It doesn't hurt that the cost of living is 7.8 percent below the national average, with groceries especially cheap at 15 percent below. That means you can snag a dozen eggs for just $1.52, according to BankRate.com (the average price of eggs in May 2012 was $1.69, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics).
While water may be scarce in this desert town, money isn't. Full-time civilian workers make an average of $23/hour, and the cost of living stays low at 3.5 percent below the national average, housing at 8 percent below and utility prices at 13.3 percent below the average.
The famed research triangle has a lot more going for it than just basketball rivalries. In the Raleigh-Durham-Cary area, full-time civilian workers make $24.56, nearly $2 above the national average. The total cost of living is 2 percent below the national average in Raleigh and more than 3 below in Durham, but housing costs are especially enticing. They're 11.2 percent lower than average in Raleigh and 13.4 percent lower in Durham, where the cost for a two-bedroom apartment is about $780, according to Rent.com.
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