We were driving in the car when I turned to my husband with a loaded question. “Where do you see us in 30 years?” I asked him. “What?” he replied, shocked by my very open-ended query. “In 30 years, we’ll be 60 years old,” I continued. “We’ll be heading toward retirement – do you think we’ll be ready?”
It’s a question that every family is asking these days. After the average American household lost 39% of its net worth during the recession – representing nearly $50,000 – it’s something my parents and in-laws have been discussing. And watching them prepare for, or even delay, their retirement has given me and my husband a clearer idea of our retirement goals.
Housing Goals
We know that the home we own today won’t be the house in which we spend our retirement. It lacks some of the crucial spaces we currently need (like an in-home office for me), but the bigger issue is that we don’t like the neighborhood or school district. With our retirement 30 to 40 years away, we know we still have time to find that dream house and pay it off before retirement. Ideally, we’d like to have our mortgage paid off five to ten years before retirement, so we can use the money that once went toward our mortgage payments to build up our retirement account.
Professional Goals
As a law enforcement officer, my husband is blessed to still have a pension. He’ll be able to reap its full benefits after 30 years on the job – which, because he started working for the department at such a young age, will be when he turns 54. His agency even offers a supplement of $150,000 to bridge the gap between an employee’s retirement and age 62, the earliest age when you can start collecting Social Security.
My husband hopes to stay in the law enforcement field until he reaches retirement; then, he hopes to collect on his pension/supplement while taking on another law enforcement-related job, like private security or consulting. Although I do believe I may return to a traditional full-time job at some point in my working life, I hope to continue freelancing into my retirement years to supplement our income.
Drawing On Our Investments
Between my husband’s “second career” and my plan to freelance, I’m optimistic my husband and I will earn enough monthly income to pay for our bills well into our 60s. Our goal is to leave our investments – our Roth IRAs, his 401(k), and our liquid assets – untouched for as long as possible; ideally, we wouldn’t draw on our Social Security benefits until age 70, allowing us to receive the maximum monthly benefit for the remainder of our lives.
The Great Unknown: College Tuition
Of course, you can’t plan for everything… and even though my husband and I have been putting $50 a month into our kids’ 529 college savings plans since they were born, we know that we’ll have far from enough to pay their way. In 2011, average tuition at an in-state public college rose seven percent from the previous year, bringing the annual total price tag to just over $17,000. Looking at  college cost calculator, I should expect to pay more than $38,000 for my daughter’s freshman year of college in the fall of 2026. My son, three years behind his sister, could see his freshman tuition, room, and board climb to almost $46,000.
Our goal is to continue to fund these 529 plans, and help our children navigate the financial aid application process; we’ll even cosign on student loans if necessary. Parents always pray their children go to school, get a degree, and then get a job that allows them to support themselves financially; but, despite these dreams, they don’t always pan out. The best we can do is to give our children the tools to succeed and the motivation to get there.

Reader, have you started formulating your retirement goals? How do you plan to get there?

Libby Balke
Libby Balke