Simply Money: Commencement speeches not just for grads

May 16, 2014

In the coming weeks, many of us will be invited to a graduation ceremony and accompanying commencement speech.  Notable politicians, academics, and distinguished alumni will detail the peaks and valleys of their own journeys, and provide the graduating seniors with sage advice based upon lessons learned and challenges overcome. 

While styles may differ, graduation speakers often rely upon a consistent theme.  They will advise the soon-to-be graduates to pick a goal – one that makes them happy and contributes to society - and commit every bit of effort and energy to making it happen.  

Aim high, the speakers will say.  Give it your all.  Leave none of your potential or aspirations unfulfilled.  Be tough and determined because life is not a series of straight-line successes - there will be failures, detours, and naysayers along the way.  But big dreams – the ones which make life worth living - don’t come easy and certainly are not achieved all at once. 

This, of course, is terrific advice for young people.  But it also applies to anyone wishing to someday retire.  As life expectancies expand, many can now expect retirement to last 30 years or more.  In fact, America’s fastest growing population segment is centenarians – those folks living beyond the 100-year mark.

For young graduates with 30 and 40-year careers hanging in the balance, commencement speakers aren’t advising them to play it by the seat of the pants.  But that’s exactly what many of the parents and grandparents sitting in the stands are doing for retirement.  They are neglecting to plan a course for a significant period of time in their very real futures.

Just as a young graduate’s stage in life can be exciting, so too can retirement.  For many, it’s a clean slate; an opportunity to chase dreams put on hold or crowded out because of unforeseen circumstances.  Done right, retirement is a second chance to re-write your life’s calendar.

What’s the first step?  In reality, it’s not so different than the advice you’d probably give a graduate:  What’s your passion?  What inspires you to rise early and stay up late?  If time and money weren’t an issue, what activities would you want to do?  Where would you want to do them and with whom?

Obviously, this isn’t the type of a conversation you should be having on the eve of retirement.  The sooner the better.  When it comes to retirement planning, it’s never too early to start.  But if you’re late to the game, don’t let that stop you either.  Delaying makes planning harder (but not impossible) and limits options. 

Once you have a vision of your ideal retirement and schedule, ask yourself what financial resources will be required to make it happen.  That’s an answer you may know, or one which may require the assistance of a trusted financial advisor, preferably a Certified Financial Planner (CFP®).  Identifying this makes it possible to begin the step-by-step process of saving and accumulating.  Just like the young graduate, you’re putting a plan in place for success. 

So this graduation season, as you listen to the commencement speeches, filter the wisdom through your own retirement planning lens.  You may be surprised how helpful this advice to young graduates can be for your own future.

Nathan Bachrach and Ed Finke and their team offer financial planning services through Simply Money Advisors, a SEC Registered Investment Advisor. Call (513) 469-7500 or email simplymoney@simplymoney.net

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