Shedding debt so you can save for retirement is the most compelling reason to file bankruptcy in my book.
Get rid of the debt that’s dischargeable so you can fund your retirement, I exhort.
Between the crippling cost of housing in the Bay Area and parent loans for college, there is so little margin for discretionary spending that I begrudge every dollar my clients spend on credit card debt.
I cringe when I see families paying American Express instead of their IRA. I acknowledge the reality of the obligation to the credit card folks. But the consequences of not paying are vastly different for an individual than they are for credit card issuers.
American Express, and every other consumer lender, built into its pricing model the fact that not everyone who borrowed money on their plastic card would repay. They still make money whether you pay off your card or not.
American Express doesn’t have to retire, and you do.
With few exceptions, every client I meet without an employer funded or sponsored retirement program has only pennies set aside for retirement.
All that said, when I ask about what the client has saved for retirement, I’m met with one of two retorts:
My house is my retirement is one, superficially convincing in the land of runaway home values. (Houses don’t make good retirement plans, however.)
But the second is: I don’t plan to ever retire.
Sometimes the “I won’t retire” is an acknowledgment that they can’t support themselves without a job. Other times, they are indulging in magical thinking that they will always be capable and valuable to an employer.
The facts of aging, of course, are different. We’re living longer, markedly longer. Dementia is on the rise. The average Social Security check is around $1300.
No more pretty talk
My question to clients henceforth is “how are you going to pay for old age?’
We can dance around whether we’re ever going to “retire”; but presumably, we’d all like a long stretch before we die.
And that long stretch requires funds if old age is going to be comfortable.
So, my mantra going forward is discussion of funding old age.
The ugly truth is that savings for old age requires discipline and some degree of self denial. And many of my clients demonstrate enormous amounts of discipline in making minimum payments and keeping all the financial balls in the air.
Yet none of that discipline is exerted to provide for their old age.
The images of impoverished elders are not pretty. Don’t find yourself supplying another heartbreaking picture of failure to plan for old age.