The Retirement ‘X’ Factor: When Things Go Seriously Wrong

People are laughing and smirking at Suze Orman’s new retirement warnings. Especially the younger generations. That’s because with age comes experience and the younger generations just don’t have the needed experience Orman is talking about. At 67, Orman is discussing what other retirees she’s been meeting lately, have been telling her: they just weren’t prepared for The Retirement ‘X’ Factor. That’s when things go seriously wrong that no one could have predicted. Not you. Not the financial experts nor the political pundits.

Not sure about what I am talking about? Look at this photo and you will know what I mean:

hurricane michael.jpg
complete and total destruction

This photo represents the aftermath of Hurricane Michael. Most every expert in this section of Florida, clearly stated, over the years, that a Category 4 or 5 hurricane could never reach the panhandle nor would anyone ever suffer such destruction and annihilation as witnessed when Michael passed through.


Florida’s building code, put into effect in 2002, is famously stringent when it comes to windstorm resistance for homes built along the hurricane-prone Atlantic shoreline. But it is less so for structures along the Panhandle, a region historically unaffected by storms as strong as the ones that have slammed into South Florida.

After Hurricane Andrew, a Category 5 beast, ravaged Miami-Dade County in 1992, new construction in the southern portion of the state was required to withstand 175-mile-an-hour winds. In the coastal Panhandle counties affected by Michael, the requirement is lower, for 120 to 150 miles an hour, and the rules for certain kinds of reinforcement have applied to houses built more than a mile from shore only since 2007. Many of the residences and businesses rubbed out by Michael in Mexico Beach were far older; rebuilding them to conform to the new code will be expensive, and could price out some of the working-class people who historically have flocked to Mexico Beach.

The world that we retirees saved and planned for back when we were younger, will not exist for us now in our retirement years. We all have to deal with ‘The Retirement X Factor’. Things that we never could have thought or planned for, do and will happen. That’s what Suze Orman is seeing in her current retirement rounds and that’s what both you and I fellow retirees should start thinking about.

Many of the residents who currently live in the Florida pan-handle are retirees in their 70’s. Many of them own homes built in the 1970’s and most of them rely solely on Social Security checks as their main source of income. Most of them do not have savings accounts nor were their properties insured. Many of them are in poor health. Almost all of them are facing dire difficulties and deep financial troubles.

Many in the Panama City region are facing these hardships: They have damaged homes, no power, and don’t have the resources to relocate, either to a new home or a temporary home. While others with more means have gobbled up hotel rooms in Destin 45 miles to the west, there are many who now no longer have a job and are forced to stay in damaged homes.

Despite fallen trees through their roofs, mud damaged interior rooms, debris almost everywhere, many homeowners have no choice but to live in their damaged homes because they lack the resources to do anything else. Many of these retired homeowners are also in bad health.

Clinton Moseley, 55, was cleaning limbs and debris from the house he shares with his 81-year-old mother, Rebecca. An enormous tree crashed through the roof above one of the bedrooms of the house. Water gushed in, but he said they’re staying.

Moseley, who lost his right leg below the knee, was sweaty and tired as he tried to clean up. He doesn’t have a job and his mother is staying in the house in a particularly hard-hit neighborhood.“Where the hell do you go?,” he said. “I survive. I got one leg. I survive … I don’t have nothing. I ain’t going nowhere.”

Gay Little, 72, returned home to gather her belongings.  Little lives alone in the house. She has insurance, but she doesn’t have cell phone service to get ahold of her insurance company. She’s disabled and her only income is Social Security. “I don’t have anybody but me, and I’ve lost everything I’ve had,” Little said. “I get enough just to pay my bills. I have $3 a month leftover.”

We’re lucky that we at least have a place to stay. There are people walking up and down the road with backpacks and no place to go.”

What’s the one thing most of these retirees are lacking: savings accounts. And that’s what Suze Orman was preaching. Retirement is expensive and unpredictable. That’s why Orman recommended having millions of dollars in the bank. While I agree with most Orman nay-sayers, millions in the bank is just not possible for most of us. But, always having at least a 6 to 1 year emergency fund is possible for almost all of us!

Being prepared for The Retirement ‘X’ Factor means having a secure, FDIC savings account somewhere, somehow, specifically to help cover the costs of recovery, rebuilding and/or relocation. You should keep this account intact and forever. Whatever sacrifices you have to make to squirrel this money away, do it. ASAP.

And we can smirk and pooh-pooh Suze all we want. In the end, however, she’s probably right. Things are happening to all of us that defy righteous thinking. Life is bizarre, for sure. Bad things happen to everybody.

Live well and prosper, my friend. Live well and prosper. Fingers crossed.



  1. Hi Cindi, I have very mixed emotions on the last two posts you have written. . I wanted to let go of my extreme frugal living when I turn 60 and got my widow’s pension. I let go of a written budget and started to hire help with the yard and snow. My Mom at sixty hired a maid so I thought I would being doing that soon too. But 65 still haven’t done it. Grandson just got up continue later


    • Lara, as long as I keep up with the cleaning here on a daily basis, I’m good. When the day comes and I can no longer physically do the cleaning I will hire someone to come in weekly and do it. Ditto goes for the lawn and snow. DH did hire someone to do it but after dishing out a few hundred dollar checks, he took the chore back and we are not paying anyone for now. If and when a time comes and DH can no longer mow and run the snow blower, we will again hire someone. But till then, our money is better off not spent!
      I’ve gone off the frugal reservation a few times now and when I wake up and realize how much money I’ve blown, it’s NOT a nice feeling. I feel more comfortable being frugal. We still live well. I just bought tickets for all of us to see the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall in NYC (5 tix, including granddaughter). On a discount sale of course, but nonetheless, I got ’em! And we’ll go out to lunch/dinner also in NYC (still on a budget) All without breaking the bank.
      TTYL (talk to you later)


      • Have fun in NYC. I saw the Rockets years ago. I loved the department store window moving display That’s close by. I know it’s time to get the maid service because I am not wanting to do any of the housework and always start other activities in the morning. And I try to do the self guilt trip but I say you are at the time in your life that if you don’t persue the artistic talent given to you when will you? If I make a list of what is now important to me a pristine home never would make it. So frugality takes a lot of time and planning of resources. Using what you have, making do, sacrifice, searching for sales on those things needed. So my recent compromise was once a year when all of the paper goods, can goods, vitamins, soaps, detergent were on sale I invested in a year supply . This occurred last week. So The perishable items will be what I shop for and my baking items for holidays for the rest of the year.Sincerely, Lara

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Cindi, I don’t necessarily agree, although I do see the point of the article which is to be prepared. I mean stuff happens, life happens and sometimes, millions in the bank can’t fix that.
    I am writing as an American citizen who came to this great country as a refugee in the 1960’s. In our home country, my family was fairly well off but then a revolution happened and my parents had to start all over. We did ok. I remember as a child how frugal my mother was, saving bread crumbs to make a milk and bread breakfast for us, and eating Spam for ever, but it was a wonderful life. My father had to retrain in his profession but here we are.
    More recently my next door neighbors are from Venezuela. They lost everything, the pensions they had, the money they had saved-gone. Living in Miami, we have a lot of people like this.
    I guess the point is that people are resilient, we may not LIKE what we have to do to survive but survive we do. So, given my background, I don’t give a lot of credence to Suze Orman. I think she is scaring people. Yes you can save as much as you can, but in the end, some unforeseen event like Hurricane Michael can come and wipe you out. Believe me we lived through Andrew here and it took years.
    Like the Jewish proverb says “Man plans and God laughs” we can’t predict the future, we don’t know what natural or man-made disaster will befall us, having money in the bank is a HELP, but definitely not a guarantee.
    I look at my Venezuelan neighbors, they took in boarders, their clothes are all donated, and they make do and just get through it day by day. My parents did not have to do this but they had 4 small children to raise and did what they had to to get us through adult hood.
    No matter how much money you have anything can happen. Money won’t save you if you have a terminal disease, if a natural disaster strikes, if a war breaks out. I think we have to have faith that things will, eventually work out.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Terri, what an inspirational story. Thank you for sharing. I’ve been broke twice in my lifetime. By broke, I mean I didn’t even have fifty cents in my pocket to go over a bridge toll, to meet my friend, who was going to loan me fifty bucks. I didn’t have the courage to tell him I couldn’t afford the toll. But I had a staple gun….and paper….and I put up signs in my neighborhood that I was having a garage sale, and I put up most of my possessions for sale. By 6AM the next morning, I had twenty bucks and by the end of the day I had six hundred dollars cash and my life could continue.
      Yes, we do what we must do in order to survive. Thankfully, we all are creative and constructive. I also think and agree with you that Suze is scaring people and maybe some people need that big scare. It would have helped me more at my time of need not to have been such a spendthrift and saved a bit more money in the bank. Hey! It couldn’t hurt?Even when we moved into this home we are living in today, 17 years ago, we put all our furniture and possessions in storage while the home was being built. Unbeknowst to us, the storage facility had a flood and ALL my furniture and most of my possessions were ruined. We sued the storage company but they filed bankruptcy the next day. yes, we lost everything. A new house with no furniture, dishes, sheets, towels, pots, pans, and no money to replace them……what did we do? We went to Goodwill and I’ve been going there ever since.
      Thank you again for your profound comment. Congrats to you and your family and your neighbors. “We’ll get there” is my fave motto. And we will!


      • I had a severe X factor twice in my retirement life so far. Three million dollar end disease and early death at 56 of my DH. And in May two devastating tornadoes hit my hometown with massive damage. I cleared my own yard debris hired contractors to clear the forty trees and root balls that measured ten to fifteen feet in diameter. You take on the task and do what is necessary. But this change how I looked at what my savings needs to earn to cover X Factor events. Sincerely, Lara

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Suze Ormond blanket statement you need five million was a shock marketing strategy to get her in the news and create contraversy. This work amazingly the girl still has great marketing skills. Probably get her show back and new book deal and a new set of DVDs to sell. As middle class, with several pensions and company retirement health care plan we shot for at least a half million and acknowledged the fact that we still had to invest and save at least ten percent of our yearly passive income as long as possible. We had a home equity loan from helping the kids through college and law school and this wasn’t paid off when DH got the golden handshake but we definitely had adequate income to make the payments. What you need to have is the ability to be resilient and no nothing stays the same and be ready when life throws the curve balls. Lara


    • I don’t know if Orman made the statement specifically for head turning. Why make such an obscure statement if it could ruin her comback? Orman is already back on the Oprah show, has a new book out regarding women and money, has a ton of articles printed in several current magazines….geeze, I hope she gets her Saturday night CNBC show back. I loved it!
      Suze said a person who only earned $50K a year will have a more successful retirement than someone who earned $250K a year. Why? Because of a lower cost of living. The $50K person will have worked longer, saved longer and can successfully live on $35K a year in retirement. That’s me! Glad I am good for something. LOL!


  4. Hi Cindi, I am listening right now to Suze Orman “Women and Money” audiobook Loan from Overdrive at my library . It was the fastest way to get it from Bibliomation. Lara


  5. I am loving it in audio version, Suze is the reader. It confirms many of our ways of doing things. Debt free, mortgage free, living below our means and the importance of savings. She adds a lot of women empowerment ideas and creating your new destiny. And letting go of the past. She has an exercise on writing down your first money memory to find out where your fear is coming from. Lara

    Liked by 1 person

    • I did that exercise. I was a senior in high school getting ready to graduate. I was having a party and I hired my friends band to play for $70. I was taking the money out of my passbook saving and my mother said no. It was my money from my own job. My mother took away my passbook. I don’t remember much after that except I did hire the band, I did pay them and ever since then, I do whatever I want with my own money. No one tells me what to do.
      Powerful memory.


  6. The new book is a revised version of the 2009 book. It addresses saving for retirement waiting for social security, prep if you plan on staying in your house (alert pay off your mortgage) but not much about after you are retired. FYI Today MarketWatch features a rebuttal on Suze opinions by Vikki Robbins one of the authors of Your Money or your life. My early money memories were my Mom and Dad late night kitchen table discussion of how they were going to pay for collect calls my brother place from Hawaii on the layover to Vietnam. $165 total and to put it in perspective their mortgage was $190, which the bank allowed them to pay the interest only on. His second tour of duty, he dropped his wife and four kids off to live with us and contributed nothing to the added cost. My parents solution that impacted me was ten year old out of style hand me down clothes and sharing my room with the four toddlers. sincerely, Lara

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lara, maybe you can rethink what your parents did for your brother and categorize it as a sacrifice they made for our country. Most every guy I know who fought in the VietNam war died or was very seriously injured. It was an awful time in our country. No body writes about what it is like in retirement except bloggers. I can’t find any book that states: here’s what I’m doing or did in retirement!
      I’m on the waiting list for Suze Oramn’s new book. Our library has 5 books on order and 142 people on line before me. each person can rent the book for 3 weeks. Figure it out. Yet our library has 52+ copies of Hillary Clinton’s new book and no one on the waiting list.
      Go figure.
      So darn apparent!


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