Great Expectations: In Romance and Retirement

I recently stumbled across some kind of dating advice radio show. No idea what it was or how I came across it. The first caller I heard opined that he couldn’t ever get dates with women that he was interested in. He always got a lot of interest from women, he said, but only from girls that he wasn’t attracted to.

The host asked him to describe the type of woman that he was attracted to.

“Well, you know, a really pretty face and a great body. But it’s not all about looks, I also place a lot of emphasis on intelligence and a good sense of humor too.”

“Terrific criteria,” the host commended.  “You’ve just described a ‘10.’ Now, how would you describe yourself?”

The caller tried hard to sell himself. But the host kept interrupting him to press for more information on several different topics until we had a pretty good profile of this guy: an unemployed former video game store cashier in his late 30s with a rapidly receding hairline and a rapidly expanding waistline. He was a dog lover, so that was one mark in his favor, I guess.

“You’ve just described yourself as a three,” the host said. “A four at best. And you’re trying to find a girl that’s a 10. This is a simple case of you needing to lower your standards.”

Brutal advice. But a good lesson in managing your expectations. Reminds me of a couple I visited with recently.

We got together to discuss what they wanted retirement to look like. They had about $800,000 saved and wanted to be sure they could spend about $6,000 every month in retirement, while still leaving something to the kids. By structuring their assets the right way, this was relatively easy to achieve.

We got together a week later to lay it all out. I showed them a plan where they actually ended up with a little more than their $6,000/mo goal, and would still be able to pass $200,000 apiece to their two sons. Another successful day of retirement planning wizardry!

Except she was less than enthralled.

“Wait a minute. We have $800,000 now. And you’re telling me that we’ll only be able to pass HALF of that amount down to the boys? How can we have less money when we die than we have now?”

I consider myself rather fortunate to be here today writing this blog post because I’m still surprised that this comment didn’t cause my head to explode and splatter brains all over the wall in my office.

“Of course you’ll have less money when you die! You will have been taking money out of your accounts for 25 to 30 years to meet your income needs!”

(I’m actually not sure if I said that out loud or just to myself. I was a little awestruck by her expectations that she clearly thought were reasonable, but weren’t).

But you see, when she’d said in the first meeting that they wanted to leave “something” to the boys, her definition of “something” varied considerably from mine. A failure on my part to not clarify expectations from the very beginning.

And while this is probably an extreme example of expectations run amok, unrealistic expectations actually aren’t that uncommon when it comes to people and their money. For some folks, it’s an unrealistic notion of how much risk they should be taking with their retirement dollars. For others, it’s an unreasonable percentage that they want to withdraw from their savings each year. And for some, it’s an unrealistic notion of when they can actually retire.

Get a coach and learn to be realistic with yourself in your retirement planning. If you’re a “four” looking for a “ten,” you probably won’t get a lot of dates.