Thursday morning’s seminar began and ended with in-depth dialogue. Annuity contracts, mutual funds, low- and high-risk investments, stocks and bonds; all the mechanisms hoped to be chugging along during the working years, paying for retirement. Mr. Wallace felt that knowledge was the best line of defense against uncertainty, and from the barrage of questions his staff fired off, he was validated. The attendant financial advisor—also the company’s retirement account rep—presented his case for investing early, managing portfolios, and taking advantage of the various 401(k) options available at retirement. He summed up: “Retirement may be a long way off for most of you, but it demands thought now.”
Smyth, McCandless and George—’The Triumvirate’ as they were known— caught each other’s glance. Having joined the partnership successively, during their early years in the industry, these three had the insight and innovation that saw fantastic growth. And their zeal hadn’t diminished, even after 30 years.
Mr. Wallace caught their shared glance. “The lucky few,” he said under his breath. “Gentlemen, please see my secretary on your way out; she’ll schedule a meeting tomorrow for each of you. A few things are up for discussion.” He could see the immediate wash of suspicion come over the faces he had worked alongside for decades. “No worries,” said Mr. Wallace, “Just need to tie up a few loose ends.” Wallace was a hardline company man, but as they passed, George and McCandless noted a deepening furrow to his brow.
My Forethought in Retrospect is a Daydream
“Loose ends” – that vague remark, and Wallace’s obvious concern, occupied Jack McCandless’ workday, dominated his commute home, distracted his evening. Something big was on the horizon; he just couldn’t pinpoint it. While casually paging through the obligatory printouts from that morning’s discussion, a phrase in bold type made his heart jump—“Early Retirement.”
Jack had put in hard work every day from the time he was 16. His employment defined him, made his comfortable life possible, paid the bills, sent his family on vacations, and gave him a deep sense of pride. Retirement was barely a peripheral thought for Jack. Scanning through the faces in the conference room that morning, it hit him: Only he, Smyth, and George had seen the firm through its decades-long journey toward success. Jack caught his breath, wondering, given proposed cuts and changes in company structure, why he hadn’t seen this coming.
Gazing ahead, life’s fixed, forward direction—Jack’s heretofore reality—was in flux. No more a steadily-paced walk in the park, instead, he saw drop-offs, sinkholes, setbacks. Doubts and questions stole his sleep: What if this is it—can I afford early retirement? What about my family—how will they be affected? Why haven’t I planned for this? Is there any recourse? Am I just overthinking this?
To the Letter—Later is Better than Never
These and myriads more questions surface when discussing or considering retirement. Especially true if early retirement is the offer on the table. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recognizes the complex nature of the financial mechanisms that are meant to facilitate retirement. Looking for solutions to under-planning, the DOL may propose regulations that would require employers to include retirement income forecasts in a yearly financial statement.
Granted, such a provision can begin to clear the way toward understanding. On the other hand, the potential effects of forsaking employment to fill the company’s need isn’t mitigated by knowledge. How can everyone—regardless of what the future brings—gain peace of mind? Given that fluctuation is a fundamental quality of the financial sector, reliance on expert advice and planning can act as a stabilizer. Whether Jack McCandless’ situation is reminiscent of a friend or relative, or perhaps echoes your story, contacting a financial advisor is the natural course of things.
Now is Better than Ever!
While those 2-5 years out are most at risk, the story has wider implications that should move us all to take action now. Forego Jack’s uncertainty and frustration, instead striding confidently forward, knowing you’ve done your part to ensure your and your family’s security.
Having a solid idea of what’s in store is one method to alleviating stress brought by “what-if” factors. Another way? Open communication with ZINC advisors. Talk it out. We enjoy any opportunity to put our knowledge to work in a practical way that benefits you.