The New York Giants field goal in overtime to defeat the Green Bay Packers on Sunday may have left the Cheeseheads on Lambeau Field with heavy hearts, but Giants fans rejoiced at the 23-20 win, and the chance to vindicate their embarrassing loss to the Baltimore Ravens in their last Super Bowl appearance.
While quarterback Eli Manning’s post-season performance has generated the most ink, the Giants’ Super Bowl spot has spurred new speculation over the possible retirement of star defensive end Michael Strahan.
Strahan has been frank about his plans to leave the game, telling the The New York Times last month that he’d “have to call it a day” if the Giants do finally win that elusive Lombardi Trophy.
Strahan has certainly been in the press a lot lately. First came Strahan’s notoriously costly $15.3 million divorce settlement early last year; then came pre-season shenanigans during which Strahan refused to show up for training camp, incurring huge fines and fueling the retirement-rumor mill in the process. Some thought the stunt was a bargaining tactic to get more money after his divorce, while others suggest Strahan was wary of Coach Tom Coughlin’s notoriously brutal training camps.
But one thing is for sure: after a shaky start, Strahan came back in style, racking up 9 regular season sacks and another in the playoffs. His performance this season, at the age of 36, “further cements his legacy as one of the greatest Giants of all time and one of the best defensive players in NFL history ,” says Doug Levine, writer for Giants 101 (www.mvn.com/nfl-giants).
Regardless of the outcome for Strahan on Super Bowl Sunday, February 2nd, retirement is a tough decision both economically and emotionally for anybody. And even if you’re making $4 million a year, retiring at the age of 36 and maintaining a certain lifestyle can still be a tall order.
Many advisors suggest putting away ten times your current salary saved before you retire. Frank Armstrong, author of “The Informed Investor,” and founder and principal of Investor Solutions, an independent investment management firm which holds financial seminars for Miami Dolphins players, advises saving even more “I think you need 20-25 times your current salary.”
Obviously, the math is a little different for someone with Strahan’s income, even when lifestyle is factored in. As Armstrong puts it, “ at $4m a year, might as well play until he stops.”
Even for more average Joes, sticking it out a few more years can have tremendous long-term benefits. “Seventy is the new 65. If you extend your working career another 5 years, your social security benefits will almost double, your pension plan will have a huge increase, and you’ll have fewer years to live so you can spend more liberally.”
But let’s not forget Strahan massive divorce pay-out-- in which a judge upheld the couple’s prenuptial agreement and awarded her 50 percent of their joint marital assets and 20 percent of his yearly income from each year of their marriage—or the protracted legal battle that preceded it.
In particular, people divorcing “tend to focus their energy on the kids, and on dividing physical assets, and not on retirement,” explains Cindy Hounsell, President of non-profit organization Women's Institute for a Secure Retirement (http://www.wiser.heinz.org/). This is a big mistake, because “benefits can often be a couple's largest asset to be divided at divorce. And you have to assert your rights to your share of pension plans or 401(k) at the time of the divorce, not retroactively when you or your spouse retires.”
James J. Gross, a divorce attorney in Chevy Chase, MD, agrees, “People are focused on the $1 million house, not the $1 million dollar pension.”
“Start collecting pension statements and W2s, and see an accountant or actuary if you need help figuring out how much is really in these accounts,” Hounsell recommends.
A final word of caution from famed divorce lawyer Raoul Felder: Since divorce settlements are frequently based on future earnings potential, if your spouse all of a sudden claims early retirement, “it’s probably a ploy to avoid losing more money.”