To say that I love my job is an understatement. Just like you, I too dreamed of an American retirement filled with relaxation on the ice caps while drinking peppermint hot cocoa and eating cookies. While Mrs. Clause and I have planned and saved since our marriage in 1983, after reviewing our finances we are unable to live out our ultimate dream.
As I traveled this amazing country and globe I have realized that we are not the only ones and there is more we can do together to help secure retirement. One of the biggest ways is through education. Let me explain, even though we own our family business, we only have $156,000 in our retirement savings. You may be asking yourself the same thing we did – how on earth did this happen?
Let me start from the beginning. Things in the 90s were plentiful, so I decided to take our extra savings and invest in the stock market, more specifically in a company called Elfron. As we watched our investment pay off, we invested the profits back in to double up. Then the unthinkable happened and the entire company collapsed amidst one of the biggest scandals in US history. Our family lost everything that we invested and we were forced to rebuild our savings. At that time, Mrs. Clause and I were comforted that we still had other investments as well as the gingerbread house we bought.
A few years later, my business (HoHoHo, Inc.) was steady and growing in pace with the new and stronger economy. Then Kris Jr., our eldest, graduated high school and was accepted to the University of Lights at the North Pole to study sled engineering. We did what every other parent does when they are proud of their child; we refinanced our gingerbread house to help offset her debt, so she could pursue her dream without the added financial pressures.
Then the unforeseen (again) happened (unless you were well versed in reindeer economics). The gingerbread housing market crumbled, the stocking market busted, and our country entered the Great Recession. Our refinancing payment ballooned and our gingerbread house (which once was valued double) was suddenly worth a pile of beans. Like every business, HoHoHo, Inc. was hit hard by the recession and we were forced to downsize and make dramatic budget cuts. Mrs. Cluase and I withdrew all of our snowy day savings as well as over half of our retirement savings – and just to ensure our minimum payments and basic needs were met.
Fast forward to today, and we are back to rebuilding our retirement savings so we can fulfill living the snow globe dream. We have to push back our goal by 10 years, but that’s okay because we ended up drawing the long candy cane. Had I never thought to start a 401(k), like so many of my fellow small business owners who think selling your company will be enough, we would be living at poverty level since my average Social Security benefit is only $1328/month.
Hindsight is 20/20. We should not have refinanced the gingerbread house for sled engineering, instead maybe we should have asked Kris Jr. to try for more scholarships or even do more research to educate ourselves on better saving habits!
My wish this season is, as a country, that we move the conversation forward on the potential solutions to achieve a secure retirement. Not one person has the perfect answer, nor can we as a society foresee the unforeseeable circumstances. But together we can become better prepared so that we can retire with dignity, and comfortably!
Happy Christmas to all, and to all a goodnight!