Paying for Retirement – Now vs. Later

“You can pay me now, or you can pay me later.”

That was the tagline from a famous Fram Oil Filter ad campaign back in the 1970’s. It featured a grizzled auto mechanic holding up an inexpensive oil filter, then pointing over his shoulder at a car engine in need of an expensive rebuild. 

You and I face a similar choice when it comes to retirement. 

Because the opportunities and problems of today seem so much more real than the needs of our futures selves, it’s easy to choose the “pay me later” option for retirement. 

If only we could realize how expensive that is. Consider the tale of two couples.  

Bob and Marilyn were thrilled when Bob got his big career promotion. So much so, they sold the house they’d raised their kids in and splurged on a luxury home in the hottest neighborhood.

Bob told himself, “Once we get settled in our new place, we’ll focus on retirement planning.” Somehow, that never happened. 

So, when retirement came, Bob and Marilyn faced a shock. Their income in their golden years turned out to be less than half of what it had been during Bob’s working years. Understandably, the couple panicked. “We’ve got to downsize!”

Unfortunately, by then, their neighborhood was no longer the “in-demand location” it once had been. What’s more, higher mortgage rates meant houses were fetching lower prices. As a result, their big downsize didn’t generate the money they’d hoped for. 

Today Bob and Marilyn live in a small house like the one they raised their kids in—minus all the memories. It pains them to think about the money they spent on the “big house.” 

With little discretionary income, Bob and Marilyn now live a simple life. They enjoy spending time with Bob’s brother Mike, but even that can get a little awkward at times. 

You see, even though Mike never earned as much as Bob, he and Eileen made sure they lived within their means and saved faithfully. As a result, when it came time for them to retire, Mike and Eileen didn’t miss a beat. Though their lifestyle was more modest during their working years, in retirement, their income is much greater than Bob and Marilyn’s.

Probably explains why Bob and Marilyn have often turned down Mike and Eileen’s invitations to eat out, or go on vacations or cruises together. 

Why such a reversal? The answer is simple. Mike and Eileen created a plan, then diligently saved for their retirement years. It certainly cost them during their working years to fund the retirement they now enjoy. But because they’d invested then, they’re reaping the benefits now.

Bob and Marilyn, on the other hand, didn’t take the time or make the effort to save for retirement. Because they didn’t pay then, they’re paying now…paying in lost opportunities and lost enjoyment. 

The lesson is obvious. Don’t be Bob and Marilyn. Pay now for your retirement, so you don’t have to pay later. Don’t put off retirement planning and retirement saving.  

To help you get started, I’ve created a comprehensive checklist of pre-retirement questions for people who are 60-something. It’s free if you’d like a copy. Email me at, and I’ll send it to you right away.

Argent Advisors, Inc. is an SEC-registered investment adviser. A copy of our current written disclosure statement discussing our advisory services and fees is available upon request. Please See Important Disclosure Information here.

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