I read an interesting article in The New York Times the other day. It detailed a new retirement center that our federal government has set up -- one that includes meals, snacks, free health care, furnished quarters, cable TV, a wide open green landscape, and indoor and outdoor recreational activities.
If this sounds good to you, forget it. It's only for chimpanzees.
Yes, you read that right. We're spending $30 million on a retirement home for chimps.
Don't let yourself get agitated, though. First of all, it's really not all that much money, when you consider that our Congress just allocated $223 million to build a bridge in Alaska -- one almost as large as the Golden Gate Bridge -- that will connect the town of Ketchikan with an island that's home to about 50 residents. (That's $4.4 million per person. Wouldn't 50 boats have cost less?)
Furthermore, the chimps, arguably, deserve it. They're typically the ones that have served in laboratories across the nation, helping scientists and society. Their work is done, they have survived this long, and they need a place to live out their last years.
How to retire like a chimp
If you still feel pangs of jealousy, though, imagining that your own retirement will be less comfortable than what these chimps are enjoying, know that there are some steps you can take.
Sex-change operations are available these days, but species-change operations aren't just yet. So cross off that option. Instead, consider some of these more realistic ideas -- some big, some small -- in your plans for a more comfy retirement:
- Take advantage of tax perks from IRAs and 401(k) plans. They can help you save for tomorrow while letting your gains pile up with taxes deferred (via traditional IRAs and 401(k) plans) or dispensed with beforehand (Roth IRAs). If your employer chips in some extra funds to your plan, don't leave that free money on the table.
- Crunch some numbers and see where you stand. Sure, you may be saving for retirement -- but are you saving enough? Numbers matter. If you're planning to retire with $500,000 in the bank and expect to withdraw 10%, or $50,000, per year, you should expect to retire around age 80, perhaps. (Consider consulting a financial pro to help you develop a retirement savings plan that you can stick to. You don't have to employ such a person forever, but spending a little money now establishing a good plan can more than pay for itself. Learn how to find a good advisor -- or consider trying our own inexpensive personal financial advising service.)
- Think about how you spend your time. If you don't enjoy your job, you might want to look into switching to a more satisfying career. It might even reward you financially, since if you're happier, you'll be more devoted to your work. Also look for activities that you can keep pursuing once you're retired. Too many people simply work all the time, and when they retire, they don't know what to do with themselves. It's smart to ease into retirement hobbies and pastimes before you actually retire.
- Plant a garden. I did so for the first time this year, and I am enjoying it. Not only is it a fun, educational, and rewarding pastime -- but it can also fill your belly while it saves you some money. In fact, in the middle of writing this article, when craving a snack, I bypassed my refrigerator and headed to my backyard, where I plucked a bowl full of cherry tomatoes. (Read here about how investing can be a lot like gardening.) I've probably eaten $20 worth of tomatoes this week, essentially free, from my garden.
- Start as soon as possible. The longer you leave your moolah to grow, the more it is likely to grow. Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation Dell
(NASDAQ:DELL), for example, has increased in value more than 30-fold over the past decade. Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG)stock has increased more than 23-fold in the past 20 years, and that's not even including the effect of dividends. A $10,000 investment in Dell in 1995 has grown to more than $300,000. A $5,000 stake in P&G in 1985 has become more than $115,000. Of course, not all stocks perform spectacularly. Some will sputter or sink. But the more you learn, and the more you therefore think through your decisions, the better you'll likely do.
Let us help you
We can help you reach your dreams, with our Rule Your Retirement newsletter. It's issued each month, is readable in a single sitting, and contains lots of valuable tips as well as inspiration and motivation. (You've got little to lose and a lot to gain by trying it for free.) Each issue offers tips on getting your financial house in order, addressing topics such as estate planning, asset allocation, sensible withdrawal strategies, and more. Each issue also features investment advice, such as a recent article recommending mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) including Vanguard EquityIncome (FUND: VEIPX), iShares S&P MidCap 400 Index
Check out these articles on retirement, too:
In sum, don't let yourself be discouraged, even if you're a homo sapiens. All is not lost. Even if you haven't planned adequately for retirement, you can still take action now that will considerably improve your comfort level at retirement. You don't even have to do it all at once. Do something today, and then something tomorrow or the next day. A step at a time, and you'll get there.
And it should be worth it. Many chimps in retirement have appeared much more relaxed. It can happen to you, too, Fool.
Selena Maranjian 's favorite discussion boards include Book Club , Eclectic Library, and Card & Board Games. She owns shares of no stocks mentioned in this article. For more about Selena, view her bio and her profile. You might also be interested in these books she has written or co-written: The Motley Fool Money Guide and The Motley Fool Investment Guide for Teens . The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools.