Ad­vice? Fi­nan­cial ex­perts don’t of­fer much

The News-Times - - NEWS - JAMES WALKER

Are you sav­ing enough for re­tire­ment?

That was the ques­tion that con­fronted me Tues­day when I awoke un­ex­pect­edly early and turned on the overnight morn­ing news.

The show went to com­mer­cial as I headed to the kitchen. It is not the kind of ques­tion any­one wants to deal with when they are a lit­tle sleep de­prived and the cof­fee hasn’t started brewing.

As usual, I barely paid at­ten­tion to the fi­nan­cial ex­pert feed­ing tube-watch­ers ad­vice on what to pay and what to put away. Even after that first gulp of caf­feine started to warm the brain, it was not a seg­ment for me.

Lis­ten­ing to these morn­ing news heads can be pretty de­press­ing as they ad­vise how to divvy up pay­checks with a per­cent­age for stu­dent loans, mort­gages or rent, bills, en­ter­tain­ment and sav­ings.

They even smile cheer­fully and con­fi­dently as they ad­vise view­ers to dou­ble up on this pay­ment or that bill to get rid of it early.

And while you’re do­ing all this, they ad­vise sav­ing sev­eral months of income so there will be a net in tough times.

Duh. Some­times, I feel so stupid. Of course, why didn’t I think to do that? Why doesn’t ev­ery­body who punches a clock think of do­ing that?

I don’t know about any­one else, but I have never found the ad­vice any of these so-called ex­perts of­fer any good be­cause none of it per­tains to me — and any of the low- and mid­dle-income peo­ple I know liv­ing in Connecticu­t.

But maybe these fi­nan­cial ex­perts can show the av­er­age Nut­meg­ger how to achieve dou­bling up pay­ments and sock­ing away a few months of liv­ing ex­penses, be­cause many of us don’t see a way to do it.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­cent re­port by the U.S. Bureau of La­bor Sta­tis­tics, the me­dian weekly earn­ings in the United States is $897, or about $46,644 per year. To get an idea of how far that goes in this state, the av­er­age rent for a two-bed­room apart­ment is $1,251, ac­cord­ing to datar­ent.org. In New Haven and Dan­bury, it can eas­ily run near $1,400 — and that doesn’t get the high-end bells and whis­tles.

In the Stam­ford-Norwalk area, that jumps to $1,885. Of course “the rent is too damn high,” be­cause the “stats” tell us the me­dian income in Connecticu­t is $74,168.

Maybe these fi­nan­cial ex­perts should check the vi­tal signs of the pub­lic be­cause many are on life sup­port. There are tens of mil­lions of whose ar­ter­ies are clogged with debt and are re­sus­ci­tated weekly or bi­weekly with an al­lowance to pay the bills — with just enough left over to or­der pizza or Chi­nese de­liv­ery.

So, I don’t know where the money comes from to save.

It is the same thing when talk­ing about re­tire­ment.

Many of the com­mer­cials I see ad­ver­tis­ing the joys of re­tire­ment are never re­al­is­tic. The peo­ple I see in the com­mer­cials are happy and bub­bling as they go about bik­ing, en­joy­ing hikes, the nightlife and din­ing out.

But they are not the peo­ple I see ev­ery day — and many can’t re­tire.

In my col­umn, “Jobs? Se­niors have earned the right to stay in the game,” I pointed out how dif­fi­cult it was for Ver­non Wil­shere, who was then 70 years old and one of those se­nior ci­ti­zens who has to work past his re­tire­ment age to keep pace with the bills.

Many se­niors I talk to are in the same sit­u­a­tion, con­cerned with be­ing able to stay in their home and get re­lief from pricey pre­scrip­tions. The par­ents I talk with are over­whelmed with the cost of child care, the cost of beef on the din­ner ta­ble and the cost of try­ing to keep a roof over­head.

So for the av­er­age par­ents, sav­ing money — at least any sig­nif­i­cant amount — is out of the ques­tion. And for the av­er­age se­nior, it is too late.

So who are these fi­nan­cial ex­perts harp­ing at on morn­ing talk shows?

I do know it’s to those above my pay grade — and a whole lot of oth­ers.

I am a lit­tle guy in a big world — what the Bri­tish call a com­moner, some­one with no “crust.”

And, prob­a­bly like many Amer­i­cans, I de­pend on those months that have an ex­tra pay pe­riod to bring a lit­tle re­lief and al­low me a small splurge.

I think, like most Amer­i­cans, I dream big but have the smaller ver­sion.

And with that ver­sion, it’s a lot tougher to pay this and pay that, and man­age to save.

Where is the fi­nan­cial ad­vice for that?

Ad­vice? Fi­nan­cial ex­perts don’t of­fer much.

James Walker is the New Haven Regis­ter’s se­nior edi­tor and a statewide colum­nist for Hearst Connecticu­t news­pa­pers. He can be reached at 203-680-9389 or [email protected]­medi­act.com. @the­lieon­roars on Twit­ter

Non­warit / TNS

Fi­nan­cial ad­vis­ers urge work­ing Amer­i­cans to live within their means and save for re­tire­ment, but, colum­nist James Walker says, that isn’t easy for low- to mid­dle-class Connecticu­t res­i­dents.

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