Forget Kansas; get to know Oz
Your company? The government? Your guide to a completely new retirement.
It's one of the greatest moments in one of the greatest movies of all time, "The Wizard of Oz."
Dorothy Gale, played by Judy Garland, has just been transported along with her little terrier, Toto, from the Kansas farm where she lived with her Auntie M and Uncle Henry to a mysterious place called Oz.
The flat monotone Kansas prairie has replaced by a bizarre landscape bursting with color and lush with exotic flowers and plants. Bedazzled, Dorothy looks around, trying to gain her bearings in this unfamiliar terrain. And then she utters those famous words to her little dog: "Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore."
When it comes to describing the situation most of us face today when planning for retirement, I can hardly think of a better line: We're not in Kansas anymore.
The familiar landscape we once took for granted, the cozy secure world where you could count on the combination of government largesse and an employer-funded pension to provide you with a comfy retirement has given way to a totally new environment, one as alien to the world we knew before as Kansas is to Oz.
We must learn how to get the most out of financial instruments that retirees a generation ago never had to concern themselves with, an alphanumeric soup of 401(k)s, 403(b)s, 457 plans, IRAs, Keoghs, SEPs and the like. (IRAs, Keoghs and SEPs, oh my!)
And then there are the myriad rules concerning IRA rollovers, early withdrawal penalties, borrowing regulations and RMDs (required minimum distributions).
On top of all this, we've got to invest our retirement savings, and thus learn to navigate the often treacherous waters of the financial markets, where sudden setbacks can sometimes undo years of diligent saving.
In short, just as Dorothy had to familiarize herself with the strange ways of Oz in order to find her way back home, so too must we develop retirement planning strategies that offer the best chance of success given the new realities we face.
In this chapter, I'll bring you up to speed on the new retirement landscape, including a number of distinctly positive changes stemming from recent changes in the tax laws that can increase our chances of achieving a comfortable retirement. For only by coming to grips with the various changes that have transformed the world of retirement planning and understanding how those changes affect you can you sensibly plan for your own retirement.