I might be a textbook example of the kind of people Kevin was referring to in Over 50 – No Pension – No 401k – What Now? No, that’s not where I intended to be in middle age, but that’s exactly where life dropped me.
After I commented on the article, Kevin asked me if I’d be interested in telling my story. So here I am, telling my story – in the hope that a few others might benefit from it. I’ve actually learned a lot about preparing for retirement – once the retirement rug was pulled out from under me. If you’re in a similar situation, I hope you’ll learn a thing or two from me, or at least develop some perspective that life doesn’t always work out the way we plan, and we have to be prepared to work with what we have.
You can do it. I’m doing it right now.
My mental obstacles
Talking about retirement when I was 20 years away from it did seem a bit irrelevant at the time, yet now it’s right around the corner. Not being able to find anything to read that fits my scenario caused me to not only become frustrated, but it also led to some pretty creative ideas. Better put, it forced me into coming up with some pretty creative ideas.
And some times, that’s all life gives you.
After the stock market crash in 2007, and job losses that followed, I knew that I needed to get serious about my retirement because deep down I felt like the good old days were O.V.E.R. I intended to stay focused and to not allow obstacles to sidetrack me.
More importantly, I told myself that there would be no such thing as failures or mistakes going forward. The one thing I knew for certain was that I had acquired a lot of skills over the years. I would put them together in order to help me create something that could generate the potential for a business.
I had to; there were no other choices.
Unexpected Turns – that “Life getting in the way” thing
In 1998, my husband and I were in business together with a family partnership involving some income producing properties. We were doing very well financially. He was 52 and planning for retirement. I was 37. He had his later years all figured out.
What he hadn’t planned for was what would happen seven years into the future.
In 2005, a semi driver fell asleep at the wheel of his rig and killed my husband instantly in his rental car coming home from a business trip, leaving me a widow.
Things for me changed forever that day, and so did my finances.
Creating a future when there doesn’t seem to be a future
Creighton Abrams, a US Army general once said, “When eating an elephant, take one bite at a time.” Quite simply translated, “When you’re doing something that’s difficult, do it slowly and be careful.” So, I decided to take the first bite and take his advice.
I had already gotten my feet wet in the stock market before my husband left this earth, so I decided to continue that over the next couple of years. It went well – for a time.
What little was invested took a massive hit in 2007 and as a result, I got out regardless of what everyone else was doing. It was after the crash that I was faced with the stark realization that I had better get serious about a solid plan that didn’t involve investing in stocks to make me rich.
The market was risky and unstable and I was no longer buying what the experts were selling. What’s the old saying, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” I didn’t wanted to be fooled twice at my age.
Making investment decisions
I took a look at some of the real estate that my late husband and I had tried to sell earlier. Some of it he managed and handled that I could not. With the experience he imparted to me working at his side as his apprentice (pay attention to that young people!), I sold some of the investments and purchased other income producing properties better suited for me in my retirement and not he in his.
I looked for properties that were attractive, that I would like, that I paid very little for and bought them in areas that I knew would be good, not only for me to enjoy for a time but to a future investor or renter later on.
Sidebar: planning for your retirement isn’t easy. It takes time, effort and work but what is a guarantee is that you’ll look back years down the road and be glad that you started when you did. And I don’t encourage debt – I decided against it. The properties I acquired are all fully paid for.
Investing in ME
I did this by turning my hobby and skills into a brick and mortar business. I started off with a prototype business by setting up a makeshift art gallery in my home on my enclosed deck. I did this for a few years, quite successfully I might add, and I finally took the plunge.
Soon enough, I purchased a tiny shop – my own art gallery – in a tourist town that I now call home, knowing full well, in light of the negative feedback from local galleries, that it would be successful. It’s a work-in-progress, but what freedom to know that I won’t have to punch a time clock for anyone else later on and that I have something solid to build on.
Punching a time clock isn’t all that bad, but in retirement you should be doing something that you love, that produces income, at your own pace and in your own timing. That’s ultimately what retiring is all about, isn’t it?
I decided to stake my future on a combination of multiple income sources: my real estate investments, and my art gallery business. When you’re late to the retirement planning party, you don’t have the luxury of relying on a single income source.
Having faith when the future looks dark
God gave me His wisdom, direction and strength in order to get to where I currently am. Whenever I began to question whether or not I was doing the right thing, I ignored that little negative voice inside and stayed focused on what was placed in my heart back in 2007 in order to get me on track.
I’ve never dwelt on where I needed to be and what I didn’t have because life’s lessons along the way have taught me that my days are numbered, just like my late husbands were. It might be a few years before this gallery of mine is running like a well oiled machine, but the fact of the matter is, it’s a reality and that’s enough for me.
I truly believe that if my husband were alive today, his business advice would be to plan for the moment, with retirement in mind of course, but not to where you lose sight of what’s most important. That’s your family, your health and your happiness. After all, it’s more than remotely possible that some of us just may not see retirement!
In Ecclesiastes 2:17-24, Solomon wrote,
“Therefore I hated life because the work that was done under the sun was distressing to me, for all is vanity and grasping for the wind. Then I hated all my labor in which I had toiled under the sun, because I must leave it to the man who will come after me and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will rule over all my labor in which I toiled and in which I have shown myself wise under the sun. This also is vanity.”
No regrets, no looking back
So, Kevin Mercadante, here’s to delaying that retirement, if need be, ditching all debt, starting on a post-retirement career, developing multiple income streams, saving as much as you can now and to stop worrying about it in the meantime. When I die, I don’t want my gravestone to read, “If only ….”
I worked with what I had at the time and will continue to. One might say, “You had all of this or that and that’s why you have what you have in your situation …” But in reality, I truly had nothing until I realized what I had to do in order to make something happen with it. It could have amounted to nothing – just like it would have had I just kept it simple, stayed in the stock market back in 2007 and remained “retirement complacent”, but always at the mercy of others with no real actual plan, over 50, no 401K, no pension, no goals.
A person doesn’t have to have much in order to dream, and when dreams are all you have, it‘s time to put them into action. Put your own personal stamp on your retirement and even on your life with what you currently have, and then that dream of yours will become reality. It did for me.
Is your story at all similar to mine?