“In the day we sweat it out on the streets of a runaway American dream.”

 

After looking at it languish on my bookshelf for way too long, I recently finished reading “Born To Run”, Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography/memoirs. Bruce grew up about 30 minutes from where I did in central New Jersey. He musically came of age when I was in high school and college and many of his early songs relate to what I was experiencing during that time.

 

Bruce grew up in a blue-collar, middle class family. His mother was a legal secretary; his father held a number of low-paying jobs: prison guard, bus driver, factory worker. There was always a struggle for money and the family moved frequently, sometimes living on their own, other times moving in with other family members to help make ends meet.

 

But Bruce had dreams beyond his Freehold, NJ roots. He first became interested in music when he saw Elvis Presley perform on the Ed Sullivan Show when he was seven. He bought his first guitar at age thirteen after seeing The Beatles and Rolling Stones perform on television. He locked himself in his room for months and taught himself how to play the guitar, although he never learned how to read music.

 

He played in local bands that performed in school gymnasiums and church halls. After his parents moved to California in search of a better life, Bruce remained behind to continue to build his music career. It was difficult; at times he was borderline-homeless. He played in small clubs and other venues along the Jersey shore, sometimes for free. But he persevered. Eventually he received some local notoriety and signed a record contract. His first two record albums (those flat black disks with a small hole in the middle) had modest success and he was on the brink of losing his contract. Then in August, 1975 “Born to Run” was released.

 

The album and subsequent live performances turned him into a Rock ‘n Roll superstar, who forty-five years later is still performing. His dreams had come true.

 

What does this story have to do with financial planning? Like Bruce’s musical dreams, financial planning, particularly retirement planning is about dreams. Maybe being an iconic figure worth hundreds of millions of dollars is beyond most of our reaches. But modest hopes and dreams are attainable for everyone. Maybe that dream is a beach house or a house on a lake. Maybe its retiring at a younger age and starting a second career. Maybe is being able to help fund college educations for grandchildren.

 

Like Bruce’s early music career, retirement planning is small, simple steps that build over time. One must sacrifice and persevere during tough times and financial market declines. During the child-raising years, contributions to retirement plan may have to be curtailed or reduced. But the ultimate goal should always be kept in mind. And the key to it all is planning; your financial roadmap. As Yogi Berra says “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.”

 

One of the coolest stories in the book was about Bruce performing at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremonies. A kid from New Jersey who was inspired by watching The Beatles and Rolling Stones on television defied all the odds and played guitar that night standing on stage between Mick Jagger and George Harrison. Talk about dreams coming true.

 

“Baby, we were born to run.”

 

James J. Denora, CPA, CFP®