Slightly less than two weeks ago, former President Jimmy Carter turned 90. It’s been 33 years since he left the Oval Office. I am not saying that he’s the oldest former president, but no other president has survived that many years beyond his term in office.
In a similar fashion, former President George H. Bush has also been
living an active life since his term in office. I bring this up in a
financial column because both former presidents illustrate the point
that, for a variety of reasons, people today are living longer lives.
In fact, lifespans today are so much longer than in decades past,
retirement can easily represent a third of a person’s life. Unlike you
and me, neither of the former presidents has to worry about running out
of money in retirement. Of course, their pension checks are funded by
your tax dollars.
But longevity is one of the reasons that so many pension funds are
either struggling or have been discontinued. Who could ever have
imagined that so many people would live such long and fruitful lives?
By contrast, Civil War General and former President Ulysses S. Grant
didn’t have it quite so well as former presidents have it today. He was
elected to office at the young age of 46. When he left office, some poor
financial decisions were made and he became dependent on his military
Remember, there was no Social Security at the time. So, in order to
supplement his retirement income and provide money for his heirs, he
wrote his memoirs with the assistance of Mark Twain. Grant passed away
from cancer at the young age of 63.
In today’s world there are definitely a lot more financial perks for
former presidents and other politicians after they have left office.
Such financial security did not exist a hundred years ago, but nowadays,
I’m sure we would be shocked to hear that a former president was
struggling with pocketbook issues.
My point is that the general public just doesn’t have the kind of income
security that former presidents have. In fact, the majority of people
today are nowhere near being on the financial trajectory that would lead
them to a worry-free retirement income.
As someone who works with a lot of retirees, my observation has been
that most people who worry least about their retirement income are those
that began preparing early in their careers.
Yes, they contributed regularly into an IRA or whatever other retirement
program that their employer provided. Just as important, they continued
to participate in these programs whether the economic times were good
Like former Presidents Carter and Bush, I would prefer for everyone to
have a relatively healthy and active retirement for many years to come.
Unfortunately, you won’t have the financial benefits of being a former
president. And, unlike President Grant, it’s highly unlikely you’ll find
anyone willing to pay you a bundle for your memoirs.
That’s why it’s incumbent upon you to make certain you can reach age 90 with minimal financial concerns.
Having a reliable, steady income and a decent sized nest egg doesn’t
just happen. It takes a lifetime of effort in order to make the
retirement years the golden years we all dream about.