As we get older it is natural to begin thinking about the frightening little word called death. But what is more scary . . . the proposition of dying or the proposition of living but having run out money to support your lifestyle?
About five years ago, Allianz Life did a poll of people aged 44 to 75 and more than 60% said they were much more fearful of depleting their funds than they were of dying. It is interesting to hear this because the expectations people have about retirement are going up by the day. It used to be that $1,000,000 seemed like a lot money. Now, many Gen X’ers and Baby Boomers that I come across say they will need $2,000,000, $3,000,000, or even $5,000,000 just to live a comfortable retirement.
The study Allianz did discussed that people who had a pension felt much more confident about retirement than those who did not have a pension. Part of the reason people feel this way is that drawing from your retirement funds is a very unnatural process. If you spend 25, 35, or 45 years saving up your nest egg, it is counterintuitive to start spending that nest egg. This leads to some of the reason that the fear of running out of money is so much stronger than the fear of dying. We don’t often think about death every day, but we do interact with our money in one way or another every day.
The fears of dying and running out of money have some very close parallels. There are many unknowns about the how and when, and this is why these fears occupy our mental space so often in line. In the movie Forrest Gump, Forrest has a classic line about death when his good friend Bubba dies in Vietnam. “If I’d known this would be the last time we’d talk I’d thought of something better to say.” Within these two parallels, the key is to make sure you goal plan your bucket list as you would plan the list for your retirement.
Death is certain. Running out of money is uncertain. This is the ultimate reason why the fear is so much stronger for running out of money than is the fear of death. While we fear death, we often cannot plan for the date and time of its inevitability. However, while planning for how NOT to run out of money, we are trying to plan for the certainty of uncertainty. Changing interest rates, unknown health issues, stock market volatility, and much, much, more. One of the only ways to remove some of this uncertainly to is guarantee your income. Perhaps adding this to your financial planning strategy may make you worry a lot less about running out of money.
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Ted Jenkin is a frequent guest columnist for the Wall Street Journal and Headline News Weekend Express. He is the co-CEO of oXYGen Financial. You can follow him on LinkedIn @ www.linkedin.com/in/theceoadvisor or on Twitter @tedjenkin.