A Guide to Developing and Managing Your Retirement Plan

RWR Beach Cover - Second EditionOver a year ago, I published my first book, RENDEZVOUS WITH RETIREMENT. The subtitle of the book, A Guide to Getting Fiscally Fit, informs readers of the book’s intent. I lay out a practical, proven method for achieving fiscal fitness and preparing for a financially secure retirement.

Like a lot of people, a separation and subsequent divorce left me in a difficult position financially. At the time, the early 2000s, I was thirty-four years old, active duty in the United States Army for 17 years – half of my life – and living like many Americans, paycheck to paycheck. It was not promising as my monthly expenses slightly exceeded my monthly income. I was broke.

My situation motivated me to consume all the personal finance information I could through newspapers, magazines, blogs, financial websites, etc. As I gained knowledge and started seeing the results, I began sharing my insights with family, friends and coworkers.

That desire to share valuable information was the catalyst for the book. Writing the book served as a way to give family, friends and coworkers a means of verifying the things we may have discussed, capturing some of the finer points which I may have missed during the course of our conversations. Often I would have a detailed conversation with someone and later realize I missed something or could have articulated something better.

Additionally, the book allowed me to reflect on my own journey to become fiscally fit and achieve financial freedom; and it serves as a practical guide for those looking for a way to establish a financial foundation and prepare for retirement.

Soon after publishing the book, I started this blog as something of an augmentation to the book; a way to continue to communicate with readers and offer my take on personal finance with a focus on retirement planning.

Over the course of the last year, I have re-read the book a few times – found a few typos and grammatical errors – listened to feedback from friends and family, cleaned up the formatting and in general, considered the ways in which it could be better; hence, an updated and revised version, a Second Edition.

The updated version features a new cover, the addition of new content (e.g. adopting a more frugal lifestyle), updated information on how Americans are preparing for retirement, new images for the chapter titles, new graphics and most importantly, an updated RWR Simple Retirement Workbook – containing the Spending Planner and Retirement Planner worksheets – available for download, free of charge.

A special thanks to Brian, an original RetirementSavvy reader (and the first subscriber I believe) for writing the Foreword. I thank him for lending his considerable talents to this effort.

Like the First Edition, this book serves as a personal reflection on my journey as well as a guide for those that might find themselves in a situation similar to mine in 2001 and are looking to right their financial ship and prepare for retirement. If you are sick and tired of being sick and tired, this book is for you. It provides guidelines for how to determine how much money you will need – or desire – in retirement, actions associated with retirement planning, behaviors you should adopt to become fiscally fit, provides tools to assist you, and highlights various philosophies. Additionally, it provides some guidelines for funding your chosen retirement accounts.

This book is not an attempt to sell any product or service, nor does it suggest that there is an easy path to acquiring wealth and preparing for a comfortable retirement. There is no magic bullet. While you will find recommendations for fund types, you will not find any recommendations for specific stocks or mutual funds, as you will have to perform detailed research on your own to determine which underlying investments will make up your retirement accounts. Just like achieving and maintaining physical health requires a detailed plan, committed effort, and focus, so does achieving and maintaining fiscal health.

RENDEZVOUS WITH RETIREMENT: A Guide to Getting Fiscally Fit [Second Edition] is available now, in Kindle format, at Amazon.com

 

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RWR Simple Retirement Workbook

This workbook, comprised of the Retirement Planner and the Spending Planner, is the companion piece to RENDEZVOUS WITH RETIREMENT: A Guide to Getting Fiscally Fit

Download RWR Simple Retirement Workbook

Retirement Planner

Retirement Planner

Spending Planner

Spending Planner

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Utilizing ‘my’ Social Security Account

Social Security BenefitsUnderstanding your Social Security benefits is a Savvy use of your time. The Social Security Administration web site can be a useful tool as you prepare for retirement. Beyond that, it can also serve as a useful tool during the period you spend in retirement.

While it is reasonable to expect that the program will change over time, it is highly unlikely the program will be going away. Therefore, the likelihood that it will change is a good reason to use this tool as a means of staying on top of the changes and understanding the potential impacts to your retirement.

Can We Really Trust our Annual Social Security Benefit Estimate? [Nearly Retired]

If you have not already done so, I highly recommend you visit the site and create a my Social Security account.

How does a my Social Security account benefit you? It provides multiple capabilities if you are currently receiving Social Security benefits or have Medicare, including:

  • Receiving your Benefit Verification Letter
  • Checking your benefit and payment information
  • Checking your earnings record
  • Changing your address and phone number
  • Starting or changing the direct deposit of your benefit payment

And if you are not currently receiving benefits, you can:

  • Review estimates of  your retirement benefits
  • Review estimates of your disability benefits
  • Review estimates of your survivors benefits
  • Review estimates of your earnings record
  • Review the estimated Social Security and Medicare taxes you have paidMy SSA Account

The Social Security Administration makes it very easy to create your account online; I created mine in about 10 minutes. Easy, breezy, lemon-squeezy! As you might suspect, to create an account you must provide some personal information about yourself and give answers to some questions that only you are likely to know. Once  you have answered a few questions, you will create a username and password that you will allow you to access your online account.

How to Calculate Your Social Security Benefits [CBS News]

While your Social Security benefits should not be the centerpiece of your retirement portfolio; and it is more than likely that Social Security benefits will change over time – particularly for younger workers (e.g. Gen Y) – they should be taken into account when developing a retirement plan and being aware of potential benefits is simply the Savvy thing to do.

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#CreamCityHustle – Update #2

August 23rd – Update #2

Cream City Hustle CoverThe novel is going well. In fact, I suspect I will be able to release it earlier than originally planned. Perhaps around the end of September. Currently, the novel is at about 36,000 words. Based on where story is and how I plan to conclude it, I suspect it will end at around 55,000 – 60,000 words.

As I indicated in the Introduction to Cream City Hustle, I was looking for a name for the story’s antagonist. There were a lot of good suggestions. Family members had suggestions, some were made here on the blog and a few were made on Facebook. Ultimately I settled on Caine, short for Cocaine, the suggestion submitted by long-time reader Brian. Here is a short passage that addresses how he came to possess the nickname:

     Earned in Chicago – where he cut his teeth in the drug game – Caine was proud of the name bestowed upon him, and the fact that in a mere four years, he had become the largest dealer of Cocaine in the city.

And below is where Marcus, the story’s protagonist, and Caine meet for the first time:

     They made their way down the hall toward the door at the end. Just short of the door, Drake guided him to a stop and tapped lightly on the door. “Yeah,” a voice called out from the other side. “Watch him,” Drake instructed his partner who had taken up a position behind Marcus’ left shoulder, as he opened the room’s door and let himself in.

     An indecipherable, hushed conversation was all that Marcus could hear from the other side of the door. Moments later, the door opened and Drake waved Marcus in. Marcus stepped in a few steps with his shadow close behind. “That will be all. Thank you, Ricky,” said the man seated in the chair. “Yes, Sir,” replied Ricky as he retreated from the room, closing the door behind him.

     The room was dark. Darker than what was natural. The soft glow from the only source of light in the room, a small lamp in the corner, illuminated why. Behind Caine’s left shoulder, the only window in the room had been covered with a black drape. No sunlight or moonlight was going to pierce that heavy cloth.

     Drake and Marcus just stood there and Caine sat in his chair. Even seated, it was clear that this was a big man. Marcus figured he was two to three inches taller than himself and easily 40 pounds heavier. This was a big brotha. As he took in the whole scene, the two images that came to his mind as he looked at Caine in his oversized chair were Robert DeNiro playing Luis Cyphre in Angel Heart and the Joffrey Baratheon character in Game of Thrones. Caine certainly had a high opinion of himself, sittin’ in that big-ass chair.

I hope you enjoyed the preview and I look forward to your feedback.

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August 12th – Update #1 

Below is the first paragraph from my novel in progress, Cream City Hustle. The opening paragraph introduces the story’s protagonist, Marcus. At this point, I have about 13,000 words written and it is going well as I have a very good idea where I want the story to go. Also of note, some subtle changes have been made to the book’s cover. See Below. The leaf has been brought to the fore, weaved between the ‘L’ and ‘E’ in Hustle.

     “Damn!” Marcus swore under his breath as he blew into his cupped hands, trying to warm them and fend off the cold November air. One day, not soon unfortunately, he would leave this city behind. As much as he loved catching the occasional Brewer’s game in the spring, spending time at Lake Michigan in the summer and watching the Packers in the fall, he hated winters in Milwaukee, his hometown and the place he had called home all 19 years of his life. Absolutely hated it! “What did you say?”asked Train. “I hate the snow and it’s too damn cold out here,” Marcus told him, blowing more hot air into his cupped hands. “How much longer will we have to wait?” It was a rhetorical question of course. Like him, Train had no idea how much longer they would have to wait for Trevor, Marcus’ supplier.

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August 6th - Introduction to Cream City Hustle

I recently started my first novel, Cream City Hustle, a personal finance thriller set in Milwaukee. I’m looking for a good name (nickname) for the antagonist, a would be drug kingpin. Any suggestions? I’ll be sure to give a shout out in the Acknowledgements to the person that comes up with the chosen name when the book is published.

I plan to offer updates as I make progress. Look for a preview of the first paragraph or two next week. I look forward to getting reader feedback.

This is the working book cover…

Cream City Hustle Cover

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Living Frugally: The Frugal Mentality

How Much is EnoughOften, upon hearing the word frugal, inaccurate images float through the mind’s of many people.

Some imagine a penny-pinching Grinch that hoards every dollar as if clinging to life itself.

Others imagine a destitute fool who doesn’t recognize the so-called “finer things in life.”

My hope is that this blog post gives a better picture of the mind of the frugal individual. Set aside the inaccurate, and sometimes insulting images in your mind, and let’s discover the real reasons for developing the frugal mentality.

There is a scene in The Great Gatsby where Gatsby is on the second floor of his bedroom, throwing pieces of clothing down to the woman he loves. His intention is to entice her with his riches, impress her with expensive clothing, and therefore hold her affections.

This is a far cry from the frugalist’s mindset. A frugal person is free to see things as they really are. Free from the prison of materialism. The frugalist understands that the really important things are neither material nor monetary. Unlike the get-all-you-can attitude of most folks, the frugally minded actually see the ultra-lavish lifestyle as both sickening and greedy. I say this from personal experience.

The movie scene I described earlier actually turned my stomach. Why?  Because I think of all the desperate folks in the world who could benefit from the generosity of the ultra-rich.

Can you imagine the problems that would be solved if every mega-rich celebrity or sports personality decided to sell their mansions and some of their many luxury vehicles, then donated the proceeds to feed the hungry or help rescue victims of human trafficking? What if all those millions were funneled into creating jobs for those in desperate situations instead of being used to buy expensive purses, over-priced shoes and jewelry?

FrugallyThat would be an amazing thing!

It is the frugal mind that can do this world the most good because it is not trapped by the mentality of gathering more and more stuff. The frugalist is free to give to charities, churches, and the indigent on the street without feeling she has missed something.

She understands the importance of paying a homeless person to wash her car instead of going to the car wash. In fact, giving to those less fortunate gives the frugal person a great sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.

So the next time you’re tempted to think of a frugal person as stingy or cheap, you may want to consider that she is not hoarding her pennies, she is proactively funneling them to where they are needed most.

And you SavvyReader, what frugal practices have you adopted?

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