One Saturday morning a few months back I stumbled across an old friend at the Seaside Farmers Market. Tom and I graduated from high school together. We finished at Georgia, aka Harvard of the South, and he stuck around for law school. He practices where we grew up, and I asked about his partner. “He retired. No one can remember when a lawyer in Bainbridge retired,” he chuckled. “All the rest just worked until they died.”
In some ways that may not be a bad thing. The current environment of high stock valuations and low bond yields should concern wannabe retirees. The word seduce comes from the Latin word “sedecure,” which means to lead astray (and blows up Spellcheck). High retirement account balances could seduce a retiree especially if they don’t appreciate how critical sequence of returns is. Sharp market declines early in retirement are far more dangerous than sell-offs later.
The last bear market, a 20 percent decline, in U.S. stocks ended in March 2009. Given record company profits, a bear market before next March seems unlikely. If history is any guide, a correction over the five years is not out of the question. The worst time to retire is when stocks have had a long run without an intervening bear market. Remember the adage; you never know who’s swimming naked until the tide goes out.
Other non-financial considerations may be just as important, perhaps more. The Institute of Economic Affairs in the United Kingdom found retirement increases the probability of depression by 40 percent and the chances of having a physical condition diagnosed by 60 percent. Studies from Cornell University and the University of Melbourne show a correlation between claiming Social Security early and mortality. Men who file for Social Security benefits before full retirement age have a 20 percent higher mortality rate. The International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry found retiring later can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
Those country lawyers mentioned earlier were on to something. When you work with a group of people for 20 or 30 years, the relationship dynamic changes when you no longer work together. Getting off early on Friday is no big deal when you retire. For some, retirement creates a loss of purpose.
In the financial services industry, too often we measure retirement success solely by financial stability. Humans are social creatures by nature. While health and money are important, friendships are like gold. John Prine’s contributions to our culture match Shakespeare’s, Shelly’s or Hemingway’s. On his classic first album, the narrator in “Hello in There” has only one friend, Rudy, and laments his dwindling social network. Just as diversification works for your portfolio, diversify your friendships. Prine warns us about hollow, ancient eyes, waiting for someone to say, hello in there.
You can’t always get what you want, but Buz Livingston, CFP can help figure out what you need. For specific recommendations, visit livingstonfinancial.net or come by the office in Redfish Village, 2050 Scenic 30A, M-1 Suite 230.