[COLUMN]Do Better, Be Better:<br />
Will You Be Able to Retire?

Are you in control?

I recently met with a client who arrived at a startling realization: she could not afford to retire—ever.

And she’s only 35.

Sound drastic? Not really. According to her bank’s calculation, she’d need to save $2000 per month— just for her golden years— if she wanted to stop working at 65 and maintain a decent standard of living. Despite a good salary and great career trajectory it is unlikely that she would ever be able to allocate such a large portion of her take home salary (especially with fixed, long-term costs, such as high rent rates and student loans) solely to retirement savings.

Worst of all, she was feeling very defeated. She’d done everything right. She got the degree, a loving partner, chose a profession with room to grow, but still faced what she dreaded most, looming poverty. Sadly, her situation is not unique. According to a Bureau of Labor Studies report, most people can expect to work for more than 10 companies in their career. So if you’re lucky enough to get a job with the golden egg (a pension) you probably won’t be there long enough to be fully vested. So what’s your plan b?

Sadly, for many the answer is to ignore the obvious: You may have to work your entire life to maintain a decent standard of living. For some, this is no biggie, but for my client it was a source of anxiety. In this case, like many, the distress isn’t simply about the facts; it’s also about the sense of powerlessness. So what do you when your best simply won’t be good enough? Re-strategize.

Creating a sizeable nest egg sans a winning lottery ticket, ingenious business idea or wealthy mate will be a challenge, but it is not impossible. It will require rethinking your spending habits, financial goals and, in some cases, working a financial planner. It’s no secret that African-Americans are largely behind the ball when it comes to saving. And we can’t blame it on slavery or lack of access to information— at this point it is a choice. Are we at disadvantage? Yes. But we are also more educated and salaried than ever…and major consumers. Eating catnip at 70 will be due to your poor decisions, not “the man”.

For those thinking about their future, much like my client, but feeling at a loss here are some tips on how to not simply manage your future, but thrive now.

1.The Game Has Changed— Accept It. Yes, if you went to college and got great gig you did everything right, but you were on Monopoly’s 1980’s board. It’s 2012. Don’t beat yourself up. Figure out the new rules and play to win.

2. Get Help. People are willing to pay for a lot of things they want, but not everything they need. Invest the money and time to consult with a certified financial professional. Set goals and stay committed.

3. Try Something New. If you don’t want to do things such as change your spending habits, thoughts on becoming a landlord or get a second stream of income guess what? Your situation won’t change either. You have to do something different to get something better.

4. Do Your Best, Then De-Stress. You cannot obsess over a possibility that evokes fear. Living in a space of lack and powerlessness will only create more. Use your resources to set up an empowering proactive plan and thrive. Your positive attitude will open you to other opportunities for growth.

5. You Are in Control. Not of life but of your choices, and that’s all you need to win.