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Review of Here’s What A $2 Million Retirement Looks Like In America as featured in the Wall Street Journal.

Retirement Advisor’s Review of Here’s What A $2 Million Retirement Looks Like In America as featured in the Wall Street Journal.

Retired couple enjoying retirement in America

By: Chris Merchant, CFP® BFA®

I recently came across an article in The Wall Street Journal titled, “Here’s What A $2 Million Retirement Looks Like In America.” 

The article profiles four Americans who saved roughly $2-$4 million dollars for retirement.

I want to share this article with you for two reasons…

First, I think it’s important to see different perspectives on retirement. This article shares nonfinancial challenges retirees are facing today and offers some advice from retirees on how to find meaning and purpose in retirement. To have a successful retirement, you need to plan for more than just the financial aspects.

Second, this article highlights the importance of mitigating potential risks before retiring. Many of the retirees list inflation and a diminishing stock market value as primary concerns.

Most of the individuals in this piece are most likely following a Sustainable Withdrawal Strategy (4% rule). If you have been following us for a while, you know that unless you consider yourself a risk taker, we strongly discourage that strategy because it requires a certain degree of luck to be successful–good luck retiring in a good market vs. bad luck retiring during a downturn. While the featured retiree’s outcomes thus far have not been disastrous, I believe their experiences certainly illustrate the warning signals we so often discuss and demonstrate the underlying tension people likely feel when following methods similar to these. 

Here’s some guidance in response to the article that may be useful when it comes to planning for a successful retirement… 

#1 While it’s important to have a solid financial plan in place, it’s also important to focus on nonfinancial aspects of retirement.

When it comes to retirement, finding purpose is crucial. Without a sense of purpose, retirees may quickly become bored and unhappy. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to find purpose in retirement. You can volunteer, take up a new hobby, or travel the world.

Another important non-financial aspect of retirement is spending time with family and friends. These relationships are crucial for retirees and will help keep them happy and healthy. Spending time with loved ones is one of the best things about retirement.

Devoting more time to physical fitness is another important non-financial aspect of retirement. With more time on their hands, retirees can finally focus on their health and fitness. Getting in shape can help retirees stay active and independent as they age.

Focusing on both the financial and non-financial aspects of retirement is crucial for a happy and fulfilling retirement.

#2 Your retirement plan needs a mitigation strategy for external factors such as inflation, the stock market, and the overall economy. 

Retirees are worried about inflation. 

Inflation has been a big concern for retirees in recent years. In fact, a survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute found that 78% of retirees are worried about inflation.

Retirees are especially vulnerable to the effects of inflation. For the people featured in this article, when prices rose, their incomes didn’t go up with them. This can quickly lead to a decline in purchasing power and a decrease in their standard of living.

Planning ahead for the possibility of inflation will help minimize the impact of inflation on your retirement.

Many retirees may be taking too much risk with their investments. 

The recent market correction has affected retirees in a number of ways. For one, many retirees have seen their retirement savings take a hit. In addition, retirees who were overly aggressive with their investment strategies are now likely considering making poorly calculated changes to their portfolios in response to their portfolios dropping.

A recent retiree may make knee-jerk reactions that end up hurting instead of helping. For example, they may panic and sell their stocks when the market is down, which will only result in them losing money. They may also be too cautious with their investments and not take a prudent level of risk, which could lead to them not growing their portfolio at a rate that will cover inflation.

It’s important for retirees to stay calm and level-headed during market corrections and make decisions based on long-term goals rather than short-term fluctuations. By doing so, they can avoid making costly mistakes that can hurt their retirement savings.

This is why it’s important to be mindful of your risk levels with your investments when you’re retired. You don’t want to lose your hard-earned savings because of a volatile market. There’s no need to take unnecessary risks when your retirement is at stake.

Although they were financially successful in their careers, they are feeling stressed from the uncertainty that comes from following their distribution strategy. (Sustainable Withdrawal Strategy, aka the 4% Rule). 

Retirees following certain withdrawal strategies are likely to be stressed out because of the uncertainty and lack of control they have over their finances. This can lead to an overall sense of unease.

That’s why it’s important to have a solid distribution plan that emphasizes stability in place when you retire. A distribution plan will help you manage your money and make sure your retirement savings last as long as you need it.

One potential strategy for managing your money in retirement that can add potentially more stability but also flexibility is Time Segmentation Distribution. This approach involves dividing your savings up into different time periods, which you then use to fund different aspects of your retirement. This approach gives you more control over your money and may help reduce stress in retirement.

Another advantage of Time Segmentation Distribution is that it allows you to be more aggressive with your investments in the later years of your retirement, since you still have time to make up any losses. This helps you stay ahead of inflation and ensures a comfortable retirement.

Using a Time Segmentation Distribution strategy helps retirees feel more in control of their finances and less stressed out. It allows them to spread their money out over different time periods, which gives them more flexibility in how they use it.


Final Thoughts

I would have loved to speak with these people before they retired in order to help them craft a distribution strategy that was potentially less stressful for them. By doing so, I could have ensured that they were aware of the risks associated with market volatility and inflation and would have helped them create a plan that minimized the impact of these risks.

My goal would have been to show them a path forward with a potentially increased certainty of their income and the finances they could expect regardless of external factors including the stock market and economy.


Overall, I think it’s important for retirees to focus on both the financial and non-financial aspects of retirement. By doing so, they can ensure a happy and fulfilling retirement.

We urge you to read the article for yourself.

You can find it here: https://www.wsj.com/articles/heres-what-a-2-million-retirement-looks-like-in-america-11661702455

Please feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions or would like assistance in planning your retirement. We’re here to help!

Thanks for reading!

Chris Merchant, CFP®


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Check out our FREE resource: The Retirement Guidebook™: Understanding The Retirement Shift



Veronica Dagher and Anne Tergesen. “Here’s What a $2 Million Retirement Looks Like in America.” The Wall Street Journal, https://www.wsj.com/articles/heres-what-a-2-million-retirement-looks-like-in-america-11661702455. Accessed 22 Sept. 2022. 

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By: Chris Merchant, CFP® 

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