Retirement Planning — The Stages

There are no shortage of articles discussing the need to get serious about planning for your retirement. Money is seemingly always tight, and taking a significant portion of assets and putting it away for another day is rarely an easy step. That is particularly true for middle class families who generally have much more pressure to ensure that income is sufficient to meet monthly bills. Of course, regardless of the difficulty, retirement planning is essentially for all of us–health and happiness in one’s golden years depend on it.

A recent New York Times article provides some helpful analysis of the “stages” that many go through in putting off retirement planning before eventually buckling down and getting it done. The author argues that the well-known five stages of grief are perfectly adept at describing the stages of long-term financial planning as well. Those five include: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

At first, many deny that the task is all that important. The article suggests, for example, that the amount of money needed to be saved is usually far higher than most suspect–so much so that many simply deny that the saving requirements are accurate. When that figure is shown accurate, many get angry about the difficulty of planning for retirement. With so many daily financial pressures it sometimes seems unfair that planning for one’s retirement is such a burden.

Eventually, many move into the “bargaining” phase. This may involves attempts at shortcuts–saving less than necessary or using do-it-yourself options to plan for contingencies. A few people stop at this phase, leaving in place inadequate plans that are essentially an accident waiting to happen. In the estate planning context, this often means that residents leave their intentions unclear, setting up likely family feuds. Others, after acknowledging that half-measures are insufficient, fall into “depression,” feeling dismayed about the task.

Fortunately, most people eventually make it to the final stage–admitting the reality and accepting the need to properly plan for retirement and put long-term affairs in order.

At the end of the day, long-term planning will not go away. Once you get beyond arguing about it, worrying about it, or assuming that the situation is hopeless, it is time to take deep breath and visit with professionals to get it done. That may include tax experts, financial analysts, and New York estate planning attorneys.

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