Avoid This Retirement-Saving TrapSunday, September 26, 2021
Let's take a minute to do something that women, especially Jamaican women, are often not encouraged to do: acknowledge the emotional strain we've all been under, particularly over the past 18 months. Anxiety and stress levels, we can agree, have been exceedingly high for such a sustained period of time that they are probably feeling almost, well, normal. One anxiety-inducing area of concern naturally is our finances, particularly as it regards the future. Let's face it, if you were never a person who was worried about money before, you probably are now. Not to mention if you'd always experienced anxiety before. Now you probably have anxiety that's off the chain.
Breathe. It's been a tough almost-two years. Not just for you. And if you see other women around you who seem to be killing it when you can barely put one foot in front of the other every day without falling down in a quivering heap, don't compare yourself to them. Sometimes they're only putting on a show. Nobody really knows what goes on in a person's private life. All that you can do is to simply do the best you can.
The financial strain these days is real and it's taking a toll. The pandemic has especially impacted retirement planning. Retirement saving is very important, especially now that people are living longer and leading active lives in retirement. Gone are the days of receiving a gold watch from your company and shuffling off to a corner to await your demise. If you spent 35 years in the workforce, it's entirely possible that you will have just about the same number of years to live through after retirement. Which is why you can never start planning for your retirement too early and have a saving plan for it. You have to be mindful about how you will take care of yourself, money-wise, during your senior years when you no longer have a salary coming in each month.
Financial impact of the pandemic
Still, with everything so up in the air, how can you even think about the future? After all, it's not as if you're Jeff Bezos and somebody of his ilk who actually benefited from this time of economic and social devastation. The Washington Post refers to this time of pandemic as a “billionaire boom”, declaring that titans like Bezos, Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg and six others have collectively increased their wealth by over $360 billion in the past year.
So, yes, for the rest of us, retirement saving can seem like a non-priority right now. Especially if you're young and feel you have time. It's difficult to contemplate your golden years if you're facing more pressing concerns like job security in the here and now. Perhaps you've even stopped putting money towards your retirement accounts, not necessarily because you've developed a doomsday outlook but because things are really and truly tight, the tightest they've ever been. Maybe you have even tapped into these accounts to help cover bills. Let's say you're facing a re-roofing emergency with your house that's necessitated by this active hurricane season. Or you or your spouse have had some income setback and your child's college tuition is looming. Then there's the very legitimate worry that, with the prevailing climate of uncertainty in today's world, if you'd already begun to invest, you may not be able to withstand the wild swings and volatility the stock market can perhaps undergo in the future. And where would that leave you? There's a very real temptation to think that sticking to an investment plan in these times is a waste of time.
But don't fall into this trap. Avoid emotional decision-making and knee-jerk reactions. And don't let fear control you. Before you decide to cut back on your retirement savings, think through your other financial options. Have you exhausted all of them?
The bottom line
On the other hand, only you know for sure what your finances really look like. If you find that you genuinely need to stop financing your retirement accounts, and need to take loans and early withdrawals from them, make a plan — and stick to it — about how you are going to resume saving and get back on track as quickly as possible. Without a plan it's easy for your long-term money plans to go sideways.
You have the ability to weather these challenging financial times. Remember, this too shall pass. Again, breathe. In unprecedented times like these, anybody can become side-tracked. The people who come through these kinds of crises, however, are those who stick with a financial plan for their future.