Interview with Myself: “Retirement Is Possible”

Retirement preparedness is almost never positively portrayed in the media. There is constant fear mongering. They conduct plenty of polls that show that the majority of people are not financially prepared and aren’t taking the correct steps to get themselves to a successful retirement.

Today I’d like to share a different side of the same story. While most people may not be prepared there are some people who are preparing and have a bright future. I am one of them and I hope you’ll join me.

Working Past 65?

There is a lot of talk in the media of people not being able to retire. I’ve heard that more than three in five U.S. workers in their 50s and 60s plan on working past 65. What do you think about this?

There are a lot of people out there that aren’t prepared for retirement. That is a sad fact of the state of retirement today. However, instead of fear mongering and telling everyone how unprepared the general population is I’d rather focus on helping people prepare themselves. It helps if you prepare early but even if you’re closer to retirement there is plenty you can do to make your retirement brighter. It isn’t all fun and games though.

I personally have no doubt I’ll be able to retire by 65, if not earlier. The key to being able to retire is to save aggressively as soon as possible. It doesn’t matter if you’re 20 or 40. If you haven’t started saving for retirement yet start today.

Another key for a successful retirement is the amount you save. Don’t go with the default contribution percentage about set up by your company. Chances are they either don’t auto enroll you or opt for small amount such as 3% which is not enough. You’ll never be able to retire at that rate. Instead try 15% or more.

American’s Average Retirement Account Balances

In one survey only 17% of people had more than $250,000 saved up for retirement in 2011 and 60% from the same survey reported having saved less than $50,000 for retirement. It seems people aren’t saving enough for retirement. How does that affect you?

Retirement has changed significantly over time. Originally people lived much shorter lives and had defined benefit pensions from working at a single employer for most of their lives. The responsibility of saving for retirement has transferred to individuals today and that is what makes these numbers scary.

The problem is these people aren’t you or me. We can take responsibility and save enough money even if others aren’t. How much other people have saved doesn’t affect me and how much I save. It shouldn’t affect you either.

I personally am not worried. I’ll have enough money when I’m ready to retire. I started saving in my 20’s and have saved an aggressive percentage of my income. In fact, I save over 20% of my income for retirement and I plan to save more as my income increases and our debt is paid off. The more you save the less money you spend and that will lower the amount of money needed for retirement.

Stock Market Returns

I read in an article that stocks have earned slightly more than 2% a year in the past decade, while the average annual return of the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index from 2002 to 2012 has been 1.8%. This isn’t the average 8% stock market return everyone quotes in their calculators. Should I be worried?

Once again, this does not worry me. Why? Because I won’t be retiring for decades. What happens in one decade can easily be an anomaly or depend on what happened in the first or last year of the selected time frame. I’m more concerned about the long term returns over multi-decade periods.

In fact, these decades with low returns likely mean that you can pick up more shares for a smaller price than you could during the boom times. Then, when the markets take off again you’ll have even more shares getting those larger returns.

Overall, I’m pretty happy with my current retirement saving set up. I think I’ll be more than ready to retire when I eventually get to my traditional retirement age. The more I increase my savings as a percentage of my income the earlier I’ll be able to retire. Retirement is possible. Don’t let the media get you down.

Does all of the doom and gloom in the media scare you? Remember, they’re talking about the average American and I hope you don’t aspire to be average. I don’t. 

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About Lance Cothern

Lance Cothern, a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) licensed in the Commonwealth of Virginia, is the founder of Money Manifesto. You can read more about him here or connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Pinterest.


  1. Intetresting interview! LOL! Retirement savings does not happen on its own, but you can set it and forget it. I started a payroll deduction mnay years ago for savings and it automaticaly goes into my 403B, IRA and Roth IRA.

  2. The “average American” stats don’t really scare me for myself because, like you, I know I’m doing well. But the thing is that someone is going to have to take care of all these people, especially as life expectancy increases outpace the increase in retirement age. Maybe that will be society as a whole through taxation, maybe it will just be social units like family and local churches. So I guess I get worried for my parents and in-laws and siblings because I either don’t know how they’re doing savings-wise or know they’re not doing well. I don’t want them to be destitue so their care probably will fall to us.

  3. blonde on budget says:

    My father is one of them who doesnt want to retire. He has a great job with a really good salary, and he generally just loves his work. Sadly, he works offshore, so he has to retire when he’s 67. Which I know that he finds really difficult.

  4. The stats scare me because I just feel for the people who aren’t prepared. They are going to have a rude awakening.

    We are prepared and have a savings plan in place so for us, it is not a concern.

  5. Japanese people save at a 15% + rate, so their economy has survived the lost decade. The key is to save as much now without allowing any thoughts of procrastination. The idea is to let money work for you rather than you working for money in your golden years.

  6. Great points! That’s exactly why I stay away from CNBC most of the time. Financial “porn” just gets me down. I’ve got goals laid out and milestones to reach. I don’t have time for “hot” and “gotta have” moments that always are the highlight of most of these types of networks.

  7. I do not want to retire till the end of my life. I love my work and work from home and hopefully i can work long and i can not sit free , i want to be engaged in any type of work it makes me fit and healthy so Enjoy your work !

  8. Nate Fancher says:

    Those are some pretty scary stats! It’s definitely clear that we, as a nation, have gone form being savers, to consumers. Hopefully us younger dudes can change that trend.

  9. Luis Narvaez says:

    The trick is not to get emotional about stocks and save as much as you can especially while you are young. That way a you let your investments compound for more time. Sadly, a lot of people do the opposite. They get into a lot of debt when they are young and start adding a lot of money to their retirement accounts later in life. Many say: “I am too young to be thinking about retirement”. Then after 20 years they are too old to be have enough money to retire at 65.

    I think the best approach is to contribute as much money as you can to your retirement accounts when you are young and then as times goes by you contribute less. If your money will not grow as much when you are 57 then why not enjoy it then? Great blog I found you after visiting

    • Thanks for stopping by. I totally agree with you and I hope I can inspire at least a few people to start saving for retirement earlier! It’ll make everyone’s lives better 🙂

  10. Lance, this is absolutely great. I’m like you and so tired of reading about how no one ever saves or prepares for retirement. It is so refreshing to finally hear about someone who believes it is possible, and all because he is taking his destiny in his own hands. Plus, the angle of interviewing yourself was a nice creative touch.

  11. Great post! I’ve decided to focus on early retirement, in my case before I’m 40. It’s going to take a heap of sacrifice, but I’m convinced it’s possible. The beauty is that if I don’t make it, I’ll be totally set for a traditional retirement (I hope).

  12. Absolutely.. these dolts in Washington keep scaring all of us with the fiscal cliff talk. Anyways, I always save agressively.. unfortunately the wife does not :(.

  13. Victoria Lindsay@Lend Not Borrow says:

    If I were to interview myself I would find there is definitely more I can do to save for retirement. I started off a tad late saving regularly (late 20’s) and now I’m playing catch up. Good news is, I’m certainly above the average person and the “Debbie Downer” stats about retirement the media puts out really doesn’t scare me, it motivates me!

    Great article!

  14. I used to think I could work for 20 consecutive years but then I started to tire at year 13.

    Expect the unexpected!

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