The life of Pi

There’s a lot of inspiration in a slice of pie. Much like retirement planning, it all starts with a seed. If you plant the seed early enough and water it just right, it grows into a tree with apples plump enough to sustain you when you need to harvest them. You have to time the apple harvest carefully to maximize the flavor of the apples and their ability to sustain their nutritional value. And then there’s the dough, a perfect blend of two very common ingredients – butter and flour. But, you need to cut that butter into the sifted flour exactly right for the flakiest dough, and only the best bakers can manage that. Most people need a little help. Just like life, you’ll want to add sugar and spice to your pie, and everyone’s preference is different. You have to figure out what proportions best suit you before you seal the crust. Sometimes you need to tweak the recipe to suit your own needs. We can help with that. We’ve been helping people bake their perfect slice of retirement pie for more than 40 years. Happy Pi Day from all of us at Winch Financial. We hope your pie is extra delicious today.

October squirrels

We call the large maple outside our house the Squirrel Tree and enjoy sitting on our porch watching them play. As the leaves turn and begin to drop, our neighborhood scurry picks up its pace, cheeks puffed out with an impressive amount of seeds and busy members filling random holes with winter stores. I have often thought about sending an emissary, perhaps a friendly chipmunk or two, into that tree to advocate for a more organized winter plan that would keep those critters out of my flower boxes and still protect them from winter’s ravages. Squirrels habitually dig so many holes and store so many seeds that they forget some of them, which is okay for us humans, who get free shrubs and trees out of the deal. Still, it seems like a dangerous waste of effort for those squirrels. Humans can mimic that behavior when they look up from their busy days and notice winter’s inevitable encroachment. We raise our children, walk our dogs, buy our groceries, clean our houses, build our careers, repair our appliances, launder our clothes, rake our leaves until, one day, we look up and realize our retirement is looming and we may not have enough money to last us the rest of our lives. So, we scurry. We take a reluctant peek at our 401(k), cobble together a budget, consider a timeline and schedule a frantic meeting with a financial advisor. In the past, with pensions providing a reliable safety net and healthy interest rates offering a secure place to grow your savings account, this dash to the finish line approach worked. But, pensions have given way to employer sponsored retirement plans, and interest rates remain indefinitely stuck at historic lows. So, the burden for a successful retirement lands squarely on us and our time to start planning is now. It’s never too early to start retirement planning, but it is sometimes too late…. | Read More »

Five steps toward reducing stress in retirement

Most people think numbers determine how much stress they will face in retirement, figuring the more money they have saved the less they will have to worry about. But, while money is an important factor in retirement planning, it is not the determining factor, not even close. The real way to avoid stress in retirement is through preparation. Here are five steps you can take now to avoid fretting your way through those golden years: Have a plan for what you want to do. Will you travel? Develop a hobby? Schedule time with your grandchildren? Work part time? Volunteer? Think hard about how you would like to fill the extra time you will have and then set a schedule. You may think giving up a set schedule is something to look forward to in retirement, but most people find that they value a reason to get up in the morning. Retirement is not vacation. Having a purpose will make your life much more joyful and stress free. Retire when you are financially able, not when you think you should. There is no guarantee that you will be able to retire when you reach the government mandated full retirement age. That all depends on your timeline, your budget, your savings and your potential income stream. Align all of that and you’ll be well on your way to a relaxing retirement. Treat yourself to some discipline. Exercise, eat right, maintain a set sleeping schedule, get dressed and leave the house at least once a day. Retirement is not an excuse to abandon the healthy habits that allowed you to earn that A.A.R.P card. Define your retirement the way you want to, not the way you’ve been told it should be. You’ve put in the work, you’ve amassed the savings, you’ve stuck to your plan. Now, you get to spend your time the way you choose. No two retirements look the same. If… | Read More »

The changing world of rotary phones and retirement

Time was when a pension and Social Security would provide most people all they needed for a secure retirement.  But, back then, people were content with working the same job all their lives, watching just three TV stations, and using a rotary phone with no texting or video. People now have an infinite number of choices for career opportunities, entertainment and social engagement. Furthermore, today’s technology is powerful enough to meet our needs almost instantaneously. These innovations have made our lives better in ways that are almost too numerous to count, but there’s a trade-off.  We didn’t have as many choices in the age before cell phones and the internet, but most of us could rely on a pension that was provided for us, risk free, by a company that assumed all of the responsibility for our retirement.  So, the trade-off has been that we now have more individual freedom in the form of greater choices, but we have less security in that employers no longer take on the responsibility for providing us with a secure retirement.   Under the pension system, workers didn’t have a choice about how their retirement would be funded.  The company took care of everything. Those days are gone.  Providing for a secure retirement is now another of the many “choices” we are free to make on a daily basis. It’s up to us and, apparently, left to our own smart devices, we are not faring well. Only a third of working Americans are saving money in an employer-sponsored or tax-deferred retirement account, according to U.S. Census Bureau’s recent figures.  And, according to the Economic Policy Institute, the average retirement savings of all families in America is just $95,776. Even those frightening numbers don’t tell the whole story because many of the surveyed families reported zero savings, with ultra-wealthy families pulling up the average. A more accurate gauge may be the median savings rate, or those at… | Read More »