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March 05, 2014


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It looks to me like part of the problem was that he took care of others before securing his own future. According to the article, he:

-put his kids through college
-helped elderly parents
-when he sold his home, he divided the money between his children so they could have down payments on their own homes

He couldn't afford to do all that at the expense of his own retirement savings.

So, if Jess' theory is true, then
- his kids should help him out in his retirement
- his parents' estate will supplement his assets when they pass on
- he'll always have a place to live with his children

He could have been following his own priorities, and made the calculation that he wasn't likely to live very long in retirement due to family or personal medical history. It's difficult to say with the details provided.

The article, however, may have a political agenda, trying to convince us that we are all incapable of surviving on our own in retirement and that we should let the ever benevolent state take care of us. Look!, they say, even the rich are having to go back to work at WalMart.

I feel sorry for him too.

Planning for your retirement should be done years, even decades before the day that you plan to retire, right?

I'm just wondering why no one ever told him that, or why didn't he consult a financial advisor to help him with all the money that he was earning back then.

The missing details in this article is appalling!

The article doesn't discuss his actual situation. All it says is he took a beating on $90K in savings and works several jobs to maintain lifestyle. Does he receives social security or a pension or have $2 million stashed in a trust? Does 'live independently' mean alone in a gated community or sharing an efficiency apartment with three others? With a cursory mention of children and grandchildren, how does his wife and family really fit into this story?

This guy is obviously smart, outgoing, healthy and energetic. Here's my take. He works for the golf club to qualify for a discount membership and Sam's Club for the social interaction. He's also lonely in retirement although, quite obviously, has maintained his media connections.

Yes 90K does some low for a marketing executive. As the comments show many details were left out, but at the end of the day if he had adequate savings he would not be flipping burgers at that age. Im sure he would rather be playing a few rounds of golf.

I think Bloomberg did the original article on this guy. Here is the link:

I have to say I can't imagine only having 90K in retirement and I've never made anywhere close to 6 figures. This guy was making that much 20 or 30 years ago!

I don't think it's surprising that people who are naturally optimistic and confident in their ability to adapt would be relatively lacking in preparation. True it's not exactly the retirement I would want, but some parts of it have appeal-- one he's not stuck at home with nobody to talk to for days on end (sadly a situation that I know many wealthy widowed retirees find themselves in), two he's getting plenty of exercise walking the big box store and the golf course, and three he's living completely independently of his kids even at his advanced age. I think the worst part of his approach is that an injury or illness may cause serious pain that having some financial reserve could relieve. Other than that (and perhaps the occasional sneering disapproval from commentors who should mind their own business) his life seems pretty good to me.

Actually the article did give some details. He gets $1200/mo in SS and $600/mo from a pension. We are also told that while he can live on that amount he makes about $1400/mo which he uses to supplement his lifestyle and "bolster" his savings after his $90K was reduced to $40K during the recession.

So he's making about $38K a year, but we don't know how much he is saving or if he has a plan for the future. The article implies he'll work until he dies, but after all he's been through, to me the real problem is we aren't given anything about him planning ahead, even if it's just five years or so. I would like to think even after making bad decisions, we learn and make better ones. The article just leaves that option hanging.

We also find that his kids are willing to have him move in with them but he refuses. Kudos for independent living, but that is a choice he's made along with the choice to give his kids the proceeds from the sale of his home as well as foot the bill for their college over his savings (both of which could have netted him $100K+ savings).

He had a lot of opportunity, but didn't use it, and those have been by choice. I salute his attitude, but rasberry his choices.

Obviously he is a classic case of a person that isn't by nature a saver. I am 2 years older than this guy and have been happily retired for the last 21 years and married for 58 years. When I retired I was making $74,000/year which wasn't bad at that time for a senior staff engineer for the leading aerospace company in the USA.

I never remember not being a saver. My first job was delivering newspapers before school. By the time it was 1956, I was 21, and had finished my apprenticeship with Britain's largest aircraft company and was still living with my parents, paying them rent, and had a steady girlfriend. That same year we got married, I got a job in Canada as a junior aircraft engineer and we got off the boat in Montreal with our life savings of $450.

Fast forward to 2014, we have lived in what is now Silicon Valley since 1960, never stopped saving, and these days, thanks to the magic of compounding money our savings rate gets higher every year and there's nothing we could do about it even if we wanted to. The current annual income from our two pensions, two SS checks, corporate bonds, municipal bonds, CDs, and mutual funds is over $408,000 and growing at a rate of almost 5%/year.

Our two girls, whose money I manage are also multi-millionaires, and our son, the youngest, at 50, is getting close to a million. Unfortunately all three of them have had divorces. Divorce has unfortunately become a major problem during my lifetime that often has a very negative impact upon one's finances.

The Bloomberg link opened the entire article where as MSN Money single page view did not.

"He built a career in marketing, raised a family following a tragic loss and helped his kids get a start in life." His current employer wishes there were 10 more like him. He has taken excellent care of himself throughout his life. His children want him to live with them. This says more about the man than the state of his finances, which is not quite as bleak as the title suggests.

Sorry to hear that, but he should have saved more. He is making do, though so it's not all bleak. There are thousands more people in the same situation, but they didn't have a good job previously. Everyone will just have to do the best they can.

Like getagrip points out the article says he gets $1200 from social security and $600 from a pension. Thats not really too bad considering.

On the side he doesn't look a day over 60 to me.

I understand those comments that say his situation is not all that bad--- but for me--- it represents my biggest fear. I feel bad for the guy and I agree with those who have stated that he is a product of his own choices. He helped everyone but himself.

The truth is that choices have consequences. Choices we make today--like it or not --directly affect our future.

I am glad that this gentleman is healthy enough to execute "plan B"-- but I do not envy his situation. Not one bit. I do hope for the best for him.

I have always been a saver. Many of us who follow and comment on these sites are savers. In my case-- it stems from a healthy dose of fear... and the reality that I cannot ( and won't fathom the possibility) of being dependent on anyone else, burdening my family or kids, or god forbid-- looking to the government safety net.

I became a millionaire about the time I turned 40. And I didn't inherit a nickel of it-- and believe it or not, I did not grow up having many special privileges either.

I was, however, fortunate that my parents paid for my in-state college tuition and for my law degree. That was a huge feather in my cap. Starting off with no student loans gave me an edge without question. As immigrants to the USA-- I was the beneficiary of their burning desire to do that for me. I will do that for my kids too.

But I did pay off my wife's student loans--- so I did not get off totally free !

I always remember my years as a student-- when I worked part time to pay for my housing and spending needs-- how I was able to get by with no money to speak of. Lots of roommates, shared costs and Raman noodles. Those were great times. So "getting by" on 50% of whatever I made (once I started making $40-$50K) as a new law grad was a breeze. I have kept that up for the last 20 years. That is pretty much my secret. And although I drive a used car and live in a home that is below what I "could afford" per the bank.... I am not lacking for anything.

But for what it is worth, it has worked.

@Millionaire #19
I couldn't agree more with your comments.

I identify with immigrants being one myself. Fortunately coming from England I didn't have to learn the language. I also have used cars. I bought a used 1991 Mercedes 560SEL as soon as I received my first SS check in 1996 when I was 62. It's still in pristine condition even though it's 23 years old. Our other car is a 1998 Mercedes C230 that I purchased used in 2003. My wife gave up driving over a year ago due to peripheral vision problems but I still keep both as it's good to have a backup.

I also never needed student loans - they didn't have them in my era. My employer in the UK paid for my BS degree and my employer in CA paid for my MS in engineering mechanics.

One other thing that I'm proud of is that I have never had a single day of being unemployed in my whole life other than 3 occasions when I was moving from one job to another - UK - Canada - Denver - California.


This may sound harsh but I can't imagine how this guy even thought he could afford to retire. $90k isn't much of a retirement fund and as a business executive he should recognize that. He probably should have kept on working at his other job unless there was a mandatory retirement age.

I feel sorry for him that he lost his wife in such a horrible way with so much of his life left.

Everything else seems like a good life(i.e. it seems silly to feel sorry for someone who lived most of his life with a high middle class lifestyle and now is a pretty average 'retiree' with SS, pension, health, optimism, coach class plane tickets, and loving kids that offer to help out).

Not having enough for retirement is a scary thought. I agree with your analysis of the situation. He needed to be saving more earlier on. Unfortunately, many people don't realize this until its too late. Thanks for the post!

This is what I want my parents to avoid, I'll work my butt ff to make sure it doesn't happen to them

I wonder if he overestimated what his pension + SS was going to be. I know there is some very complicated interaction between the two, with the first partially offsetting what you would be due under the second.

Yes, this shows that the decisions you make early and then keep repeating have long-term consequences. Even the small ones add up over time to become large ones. Additionally, it is his choice to work to supplement his other income as well as live alone....he does not have to do that. So he is still actively making choices regarding his lifestyle. Moreover, one must take into account inflation - I'm betting that pension is not inflation adjusted, so that when he started getting it, it seemed like a lot of money, but today and in the future it loses buying power. I have one of those - I'll receive when I'm 65 and it will not be worth a lot when I receive it, hence my investments being the inflation hedging aspect of my portfolio.

Some people like to work and want to work as it gives them something to do. Yes, he may not be as intellectually challenged in his current jobs, however, that is what he wants and/or to do with his time based on the choices he's made.

Yikes! Poor guy. I guess the lesson here is you definitely need to save as much as possible.

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