The speckled-with-grey-haired executive wearing the rumpled trench coat dropped into the seat beside me at gate B33 of the Pittsburgh airport with a loud “harrumph.”

“You must have had I tiring week,” I said. He replied with a grunt and a long-sigh. “Just think of all the money you made this week,” I offered cheerfully. “Yeah, I can hardly wait to spend it all,” he glumly replied. “But, only five more weeks and I’ll be retired,” he said with an uptick of enthusiasm.


Does Bliss Await on the other Side of a Social Security Check?

The panacea that many have worked toward turns out not to be all lazy morning coffee and 10:00 a.m. tee times followed by libation on the 19th hole for today’s retirees. They are concerned, and that concern erodes their confidence in the future of their retirement and their ability to enjoy what were supposed to be the golden years.

Extensive research with those on the cusp of retirement, and anecdotal conversations with our own retired clients tell us retirees are often plagued by one or many of the worries and concerns that fall into nine different categories.


Seven Concerns and Fears About Retirement

            #1. Running Out of Money. The number one fear and concern retirees report is running out of money. In fact, a study conducted by AARP says that two-thirds of retirees fear running out of money more than death! Tennessee Williams was right when he said “You can be young without money, but you can’t be old without it.”

Even the wealthy have this fear. In his work on “Cultivating the Middle Class Millionaire” Russ Alan Prince discovered that among people with a net worth of $1-$10 million, nine out of ten confessed running out of money was a major concern to them.

The fear of running out of money is driven first by the increase in lifespan. In 1970, a retiree could expect to live only 13 years beyond the gold watch. Today, the number is roughly double that. That’s a much longer retirement. In many cases as long as was spent working. Each year of extended longevity is another year of capital that retirees must accumulate in their 401k or IRA if they are going to have enough to last until their final sleep.

According to the Wall Street Journal only one in three retirees have enough in savings and investment to carry them to their 90’s. More retirees are finding themselves having to lean on their children for support during their “golden years.” That’s why there is so much grey hair behind the counter at the “Golden Archs” and at the checkout stand in Walmart.

#2. Increasing Tax Burden. This concern is not only for themselves, but for their families whose future in the middle class is jeopardized by the run-away tax appetite of government at all levels.

IRS data indicates that in 1980, that the top 10% of taxpayers paid 49% of the taxes collected by the federal government. That number has risen steadily so that today, those same top 10% taxpayers fund 71% of the federal government’s bills; a trend which a generation ago caused Ronald Reagan to opine “The taxpayer – that’s someone who works for the federal government but doesn’t have to take a civil service exam.”

#3. The Rising Cost of HealthCare. Fidelity Investments did a study in 2014 that caused them to estimate that the average 65-year-old will spend almost $250,000 on healthcare during retirement. That’s a half-million dollars for a husband and wife—money that most retirees don’t have and will result in an increased burden on the federal government which in turn drives the tax burden on tax-paying citizens even higher.

#4. Cost of Living Inflating Faster Than for the Average Citizen. The Wall Street Journal observes that “Retirees have a much higher inflation rate than the general population, largely due to medical costs.”

It’s widely accepted today that three percent is an appropriate inflation allowance for retirement planning. The problem with that is two-fold: first, retirees spend a disproportionate amount of their income and wealth on healthcare costs; second, healthcare costs are running way ahead of inflation—some say as high as 6-8% per year.

#5. Out-of-Control Federal Deficit and Mounting Debt. Currently, the United States government takes in about a half-trillion dollars more each year than it spends. That overspending is simply added to the federal government’s debt, which sits at about $19 trillion. Oops. That was a second ago. Every second that debt increases by $27,762! Per second!

However, the federal debt doesn’t account unfunded future obligations to pay for military pensions, prescription drugs, civil service pensions, Social Security, and other commitments that all totaled run the government’s duties to some $120 trillion by some estimates. That’s more money than actually exists in the world, today!

#6. Failure to Adequately Transmit Strongly-held Personal Values to the Next Generation. According to Forbes magazine, when asked “What’s most important to pass on to the next generation?” A whopping 71% said “Values and life lessons.”

With the decline of traditional nuclear families, the dispersal of families across ever larger geographic areas, and the diminished influence of a large cadre of grandparents, aunts and uncles, the “values glue” that held families together and transmitted important beliefs to the next generation simply no longer exists for many families.

#7. Keeping the Family Together. Piggy backing on number six above is the concern that families have lost their cohesion. Seventy percent of retirees acknowledged this concern according to Affluent Market Insights. Unfortunately, parents unwittingly contribute to this problem by making inadequate estate plans which leave the children to fight over the family’s wealth when Mom and Dad are gone.

A good estate plan will not only very clearly articulate the parent’s intent for wealth distribution when they die, it might even include incentive trusts that require heirs to accomplish certain benchmarks like graduating from college before they receive their inheritance. In cases where the family dynamic all but assures there will be conflict, a no-contest clause in the estate planning documents which says “anyone objecting to the share of the estate they received will forfeit their right to receive anything from the estate” might be a good idea.

That oughta shut ‘em up.


  1. Barry Watts is a Tax Strategist with American Tax Strategies and a Retirement Designer with WealthCare, both firms he founded to help people reduce their tax burden and increase their income in retirement.