Just as a few other things in life -- a receding hairline, an expanding waistline, a diminishing distance off the tee -- retirement can sneak up on a guy.
And the transition from wage slave to capitalist tycoon is not easy.
What surprised me most was that, at first, it seemed difficult to get good, understandable advice. Of course, not being versed in investment of money matters, I could have been the chief stumbling block. After all, an IRA rollover to me might have meant an Irish terrorist taking another 40 winks before getting up and going out to toss a bomb.
About two years ago, I did seek out an investment couselor and explained that I was counting on a sizable profit-sharing sum to finance my retirement. I felt the advice I finally received added up to about zero. Anyway, the sum shrank because it was tied to a single stock value and I thought it would take about three or four years before I could make my move.
Fortunately, I was wrong. The stock bounced back in a year and, after that earlier scare, I decided to bounce out.
I quickly learned then that the IRA Rollover was the provision that would enable me to invest my total sum in an Individual Retirement Trust and live off the interest. The principal will not be subject to taxation until I reach 70 1/2. That will give me almost a decade to roll the dice. Good old former Congressman Eugene Keogh, author of the bill.
Doubtless, if you talked to five investment experts, you could get five opinions on how to do the most with your money.
In close consultation with my wife helen, we quickly narrowed our options to two. And we feel we had two fine professionals explaining their wares. At first, I leaned toward an annuity. The figures were good and it was considered supersafe. We could receive a guaranteed 10 3/4 interest annually on our principal until I reached 70 1/2. Then the annuity would commence with many options to be chosen.
Monthly income would be based on whether you picked a joint-and-survivor 50 percent plan or 100 percent plan and whether you wanted to stipulate a 10-year certain or 20-year certain period. This means the monthly sum would be guaranteed for the time indicated to you or your beneficiaries.
Importantly, even if the "certain" or guaranteed period expired, you or your survivor would continue to receive the monthly check for life. The man said statistics show that annuity holders tend to live longer. I believe it.
So what did we do? We listened to a friendly broker and sank our fortune into six utility bond issues. The guaranteed return will approach 13 percent annually. Right now, the market is depressed. For instance, a $1,000 bond might be selling for only $750 or $800. For our purpose, the current value of the bond isn't all that important. We will be collecting interest on the $1,000 figure.
We are gambling that crazy interest rates can't keep soaring and that the value of our bonds eventually will increase. Meantime, our annual yield will be appreciably higher than the annuity's and cost us less.
Another factor is that we will be more in control of our own money. If a change seems beneficial, we won't be locked in.
Eventually, in the annuity, the giant insurance company swallows up all the principal. We think that we, or our two big-spending heirs Chris and Tony, might have more fun nicking away at it ourselves.
It's only money.