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Retiring in America without a Pension. Is it Just a Dream?

September 16, 2021

Most Americans envision spending their golden years traveling, playing golf, fishing, enjoying their grandchildren, or volunteering. Some will use retirement to start that dream business while others will finally get the chance to write the book that's been bouncing around in their heads for decades. Everyone has a retirement dream and rarely does it ever include stocking shelves at the local department store or flipping burgers at the "fast food joint" to make ends meet.

There are cracks in America's retirement system. Those cracks are wide enough to swallow a lifetime of working and dreaming.

While many Americans have retirement dreams that are certainly clear, funding those dreams, in many cases, is based more on hope than on careful planning and disciplined investing. Their retirement dream relies more on the promise of overly optimistic investment gains than on determined and aggressive savings practices executed over a working lifetime.

According to recent studies, less than 50% of Americans today are covered by a traditional pension plan. That number is decreasing by the day. Now, with the development and widespread adoption of 401(k)s, (defined contribution plans) the burden of saving and investing for retirement is shifting from corporations and their teams of skilled investment professionals, to so called, rank and file employees.

What is the problem?
The overwhelming majority of employees have not been trained in the time tested principles of prudent portfolio management. Many have only a vague idea of what retirement will actually cost. These employees are being left on their own to gather the information they need to develop and execute a long-term savings and investment plan.

When it comes to long-term investing, early mistakes and miscalculations can compound for decades with sometimes devastating consequences at retirement. An over concentration in equities as retirement draws near can permanently impair an employee's ability to adequately fund their retirement in the event of a significant market decline.

Proper education and training is essential because at retirement there are no "do-overs", either you have enough money to retire or you keep on working. Unfortunately, for many workers, continuing on in their present occupations past retirement age is simply not an option.

So what can we do about it?
Employees need help with virtually every phase of the retirement planning process. They need help understanding the process for projecting future inflation-adjusted expenses and income requirements. They need a better understanding of asset allocation and the techniques for judging and selecting mutual funds for their portfolios. They need a working knowledge of the principles of risk management. Most important, they need help in understanding the actual amount of savings they will need in order to fund their retirement dream.

To be sure, there are ample tools and websites available today offering everything an employee needs to plan, build, and manage their retirement portfolios. But for many it's the same as delivering lumber, tools, blueprints, and a book on house building to an empty lot and expecting the average person to actually build a house. For many it's just not possible.

Employees need unbiased, "one-on-one" counseling to help them create their personal retirement strategy. They need ongoing coaching to help them following that strategy through both up and down markets. They need help and attention from unbiased, experienced, financial professionals. Those professionals must be committed to providing helpful advice and guidance not selling investment products. That attention must go beyond what is passively available online. It must reach out to plan participants on an ongoing basis.

Studies show that many of us will spend up to one third of our lives in retirement. Most experts agree we will need to reproduce between 60% and 90% of our annual pre-retirement income during each year of retirement. That income must increase by the rate of inflation each year in order to maintain a given lifestyle.
Retirement is indeed an expensive proposition.

How can we help?
The Retirement Builder Program.
We specialize in helping people save and invest for retirement. We help our clients develop and execute their "personal retirement strategy". Our clients are generally within 20 years of retirement. Although busy with careers, family, and civic commitments they are genuinely concerned about having enough money to fund their retirement at the lifestyle they are accustomed to.

They know retirement is an expensive proposition and are feeling a growing sense of urgency to act now to secure their retirement dream.
Our "Retirement Builder" practice is divided into three main functional areas.

1. We provide our clients the information they need to make informed decisions about their future. (planning phase)
2. We help our clients build and manage the savings they will need to create a source of retirement income. (accumulation phase)
3. We help our clients transform their retirement savings into a dependable stream of income as they transition into retirement. (distribution phase)

Although many of our clients are individuals, we also work with 401k plan participants by arrangement with their employers. We provide seminars, workshops, and "one-on-one" coaching sessions all carefully designed to help people make better decisions about saving, investing, and preserving their long-term financial security.

At retirement, there are no do-overs you either have the money you need or you keep on working. At the end of a lifetime of working you will receive the retirement lifestyle you can afford not necessarily the one you dream about.

How can I get the help I need?
If you would like to discuss your retirement dream and the process for developing your personal retirement strategy please contact me.
"Enjoy life and build can do both. "I'm Keith Donnell your Certified Financial Planner Professional."

Keith Donnell can be reached at

Keith Donnell is a Certified Financial Planner Professional with 25 years of experience helping people plan for major life events such as paying for college, providing for a child with special needs, retirement planning, retirement income planning, estate planning, risk management and more.

Keith Donnell is a "Registered Investment Adviser" in the state of Pennsylvania.