Over 45? Heading For Retirement Or A Life Sentence? Time Ain’t Your Friend


If you’re in your mid-40s or older, this one’s for you. Several times a week I received calls/emails from regular folk who’re coming to the realization that their plan for retirement has either been A) Slowed down to a crawl, a speed at which their retirement simply won’t cut it. B) Derailed — not catastrophically, but definitely stalled. C) Derailed, in the ditch, and on its side, engine smoking.

They realize most, if not all of the following.

1. Relying on Social Security for anything other than spending money on a vacation is not only unwise, given it’s current iffy status, but somewhat akin to whistling past the graveyard.

2. Relying to any significant extent upon their 401k’s investment in various Wall Street vehicles is retirement roulette. Keep spinning the barrel of that gun, and sooner or later the inevitable will happen. It matters not whether it happens just before or sometime after you retire. When it does, and it will, your life will change for the worse. The only semblance of control is your ability to stay in or get out. Control greater than that is an illusion at best.

3. The real estate investments in their local market have either underperformed or failed almost completely. In most cases they could magically eliminate debt from their local stuff and still fall short of anything but a disappointing retirement income. Being able to ‘drive by’ their income property(s) = FAIL.

4. As they celebrate another birthday, they see how each one arrives much faster than the last. The next epiphany is the comparison of their own upward speeding ‘aging line’ to the ‘flat line’ that has become his apparent retirement income reality.

5. The realization that they may be forced to work well past their planned retirement date begins to set in with a chilling and fear inducing reality.

Sometimes this fear affects their capacity for decision making.

Even when they have the assets to turn things around, they’re often fearful of actually taking control of their own retirement plan. I’ve seen this my entire career, but haven’t really understood it ’till the last decade or so. The problem seems largely a result of the concept of transitioning from a more or less passive player in their retirement plan, to becoming the central action figure. This is human nature, and something most of us, including me, have experienced first hand. It’s one thing to fail at the hands of someone else’s decisions. It’s quite another to assume the controls yourself. I empathize — it’s scary to contemplate living out a retirement that’s more of a  life sentence, when you worked so hard to make your retirement a reward for all your hard work.

Please, allow me to shine some light on what’s possible for you, regardless of what you may think you’re seeing as ‘inevitable’. Here are some facts to consider.

Fact #1 — The bursting of the real estate bubble was an incredibly positive development — especially as it relates to those investing for retirement income.

Fact #2 — What used to require heavy reliance on both value appreciation and rent increases now calls for the application of OldSchool fundamentals and a pleasantly simple ‘vanilla’ approach/strategy.

Fact #3 — Though never easy, it is in fact entirely within your power to create retirement income 50-300% greater than you’re now currently facing. This isn’t an opinion. I prove it to regular folk every week — empirically.

Fact #4 — Cashing out of the loser investments you now own is, or should be, an easy decision. It’s those very investments that are causing your anxiety in the first place. Pay the piper, shed a tear, and move on. Think of it as amputating a couple gangrenous fingers in order to save your life. Who takes more than a couple seconds to make that decision?

Fact #5 — This one is paramount. You can indeed create a vastly superior retirement income through investing in real estate. You can do it with the ASSUMPTION there will be no appreciation in value or net operating income — ever. Furthermore, even if the value falls significantly, AND the NOI decreases, you still have income far greater and more reliably stable than if you’d been counting on anything from Wall Street.

Fact #6 — What do I mean by this strategy being the ‘Vanilla Approach’? Simply put, it’s boring, that’s how basic and easy it is to execute. An average eighth grader could be made to understand this strategy in 15 minutes. Think a bowl of vanilla ice cream compared to an elaborate flaming dessert served at a five star French restaurant.  Most of us could serve up the former when we were five years old.

Fact #6 — From the first day following your retirement party this strategy allows the immediate ability to extract large sums of money if needed — for whatever. No strings, no exceptions, no hassle. No taxes. No penalties. Compare that to the government plans that are one of the reasons you called me in the first place.

I could go on.

The Takeaway — Realize that if you’re 45 or older, and you can see the writing on the wall saying your retirement plan is already, or about to be derailed, inaction is not an option.

Understand with clarity that time is not your friend — literally. The longer you delay adapting to your currently negative retirement reality, the more you risk living the future you now fear. Your retirement train wreck is a virtual lock if you don’t switch tracks — and sooner rather than later.

BabyBoomers are falling into this ‘Derailed Retirement’ category by the 10’s of thousands. Yet most of ’em are seemingly frozen by fear induced indecision. It’s not only sad, but it also portends a huge economic drag on both the country as a whole, and their immediate families. More lucidly put, their train wrecks have  a chance of also derailing their kids’ potential for magnificently abundant retirements.

Take a step back — survey your status quo and your options — then act to switch tracks. You can get back on a more reliable track if you act decisively and with prudence. The retirement you’ve worked so hard and so long for is still within your grasp.

But you must listen to the message being sent by that loudly ticking clock: TimeIsNotYourFriend.

Tick tock.

About Author

Jeff Brown

Licensed since 1969, broker/owner since 1977. Extensively trained and experienced in tax deferred exchanges, and long term retirement planning.


  1. Great article! We have been helping boomers regain losses from poor investment strategies, or lack of strategy altogether. Love your “Fact #1 — The bursting of the real estate bubble was an incredibly positive development — especially as it relates to those investing for retirement income.” That has become the leading alternative investment vehicle in our industry.

    Boomers interested in wise investment strategies, need to educate themselves so they can protect and grow their nest egg for the future.

    edited by admin to remove solicitation

  2. If there is only one bit of knowledge you take to heart in this piece, I would have to say it is Fact #4. If your investments are under-performing, just cut your losses and reinvest them. Love the gangrenous simile by the way. But back to the investing… Winning investments are made at the negotiation table. Regardless of whether your property appreciates over time or not, whether you pick up a great deal or a lucky one all boils down to your ability to build in a profit before ever knowing if the property will appreciate.

  3. Great article. I’m 40 and constantly talking with my friends about adding real estate to their portfolios. Often they are so frozen in their decision making, that cannot move beyond that block to action. Since we are in California, most of them are focused on their local market and fail to realize that there are great real estate investments in other MSAs that will offer stable appreciation and immediate cash flow.

    I find that only my friends who “think out of the box” are able to take the leap and add real estate to their plans.

  4. Jeff,

    A sobering article, thank you.

    We are beginning our 40’s and reaffirm daily that we are taking the opportunity to create our future through our “basic” model. We work diligently to make smart, confident decisions in the face of (much) hysteria over ________ (real estate, stock market, politics, ad nauseum).

    Thank you for being a voice of reason in a sea of hysteria.

    ~ Todd & Susan

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