Jeff Miles 

Jeff Miles


In an ingenious approach to literary criticism, writer Scott Donaldson once analyzed Ernest Hemingway’s novel “The Sun Also Rises” and concluded the book — with its cast of feckless characters gallivanting around post-World War I Paris and Spain — was about money. That is, how people handle or mishandle it.

“Money and its uses form the metaphor by which the moral responsibility” of Hemingway’s characters are measured, Donaldson wrote.

How we handle money is more than a surface habit. 
And financial advisors, like priests in the confessional, are sometimes privy to their clients’ deepest fears and wishes about what they really value in life, especially as they approach retirement.

Jeff Miles, of Miles Financial Services, headquartered in Downtown Seattle, noted, “Most people, regular people, will continue to work in some way, shape or form. I don’t know many people who just want to play golf every day.”

Of course, some will have no choice.

A recent study from the Center for a Secure Retirement, indicates that more than 70 percent of baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) say they will delay retirement; half report they’ll never be able to stop working a regular work week.

“With interest rates as low as they are,” Miles said, “it’s difficult to derive income from assets without taking additional risks.”

That’s part of the boomer dilemma. But, like a stubborn gene, Miles echoes advice boomers heard from their Depression-era parents: Spend less — and save.

Miles cited one client who worked for a local university for three decades while earning about $30,000 a year.

“I told her she would be fine because of her expense profile,” he said. “She’s 70. She’s been retired eight years. She’s never had more money.”

Some on-line retirement sites preach panic: If you don’t have $500,000 in the bank at retirement age to derive a 4- or 5-percent return to go along with Social Security, one’s lifestyle will suffer dramatically.

For some, that’s OK, Miles noted: “As people get older, they want less.

Save, save, save
Studies show that many boomers are, indeed, anxious, with a new report from the American Association of Retired People showing 64 percent of women in the boomer range in this state report a higher level of anxiety than men, who check in at 49 percent.
Though 80 percent say they wish they’d saved more for retirement, many reported a lack of extra money to save. Only 40 percent participate in a workplace savings plan and less than half have IRA or stock-market investments.

What does Miles advise to people 50 and older?

“I tell people to spend less money, to be in touch with what they want,” he said, and cites a trio of basic values for people to pay attention to: “Someone to love. Something to do. Hope for the future.”

And what about someone in their late 20s making $35,000 a year?

“Put away 10 percent of what you make,” Miles said. “Save it somewhere. Get used to it — too many people don’t.”

George Andrade, of Edward Jones Co. on upper Queen Anne agrees.

“Start putting away money now,” he advises the children of boomers, though Andrade acknowledges that part of being 20-something is not being able to imagine what it’s like to be 60-something.

Andrade cites the well-known “latte factor”: If someone in their 20s started putting away $7 a day, they may end up with “a million dollars” by the time retirement age rolls around.

Look to the future
What keeps people up at night?

“People are still scared,” Andrade said of the post-2008 crash. “And they’re concerned about another deep correction.”

There’s an upside to that outlook, however, Andrade said: He’s seeing some fanatical savers these days, following the practice of the Depression-era generation.

But with all the economy’s ups and downturns, alarms and reassurances, Andrade advises that people take the long view.

“There’s an analogy,” he said. “A kid is climbing a set of steps. He’s got a yo-yo in his hand. You are seeing the yo-yo, but his movement is still upward.”

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