You Really Can Retire Well

My article last week about picking pineapples in Hawaii generated quite a few positive responses from readers wanting more details. One response however, questioned my assertion that the "millionaire club" was open to everyone. They explained that there are some people who are just not capable of earning enough to make a financially sound retirement an achievable goal.

My thoughts turned to one of my most special Idaho clients. I will try and share his story, while making some slight alterations to protect his identity. I will call him Mark. Mark came to me about 12 years ago. Actually he was brought to me by a concerned member of his family who was hoping that I might be able to give Mark some good financial advice.

I should explain that Mark has a physical disability that greatly limits the type of work he can do. As such, he is left to make his living doing tasks that most of us would prefer not to do, and working at jobs that pay very close to a minimum wage. His income level forces him to spend his money very carefully.

After my initial meeting with Mark, I recommended a systemic schedule of setting aside a portion of his paycheck on a regular basis. There wasn't a lot of money to work with, so we did what we could. Mark accepted the assignment and faithfully sent in monthly payments to his account. As the years went by I helped Mark invest his small savings into various markets that were appropriate to his situation.

Recently, while doing an annual review with Mark I announced that I had good news for him. I told him that his account had reached a new milestone, surpassing $150,000. That was an amazing feat for someone at his young age, and especially for someone living on such a small income.

I went on to explain to Mark that since he has about 25 years before full retirement, if he continues his regular contributions I fully expect him to reach a million dollars by the time he retires. When he does he will become one more proof that being financially sound and retiring well, has very little to do with how much you make in your life, and everything to do with how well you manage what you have. Mark is not alone as I have the opportunity to work with several others in similar situations. They have one thing in common - discipline.

It is a tragedy that so many Americans depend almost entirely on Social Security for their retirement. I understand that events can occur that are beyond our control. But for the vast majority of Americans, I stand by my belief that a financially sound retirement is available to anyone willing to spend the time and discipline to obtain it. For the rising generation, they may have no other choice.