A native Bulgarian always complains that "Americans are too optimistic!" I try to explain that some of that is part of the DNA here, while he likes to attribute the rosy outlook to a lack of struggle. To prove the point, he cites an old joke from his former country, which I like to call "The Bulgarian Optimist".
The Bulgarian Pessimist meets the Bulgarian Optimist on the street. The Pessimist says, "Things CAN'T get worse!", to which the Optimist says, "No, things CAN get worse!"
I thought about the Bulgarian Optimist when I read a recent Fidelity Investments. The study examined how an investor's outlook related to his or her retirement readiness. Were investors with a pessimistic outlook more conservative and better long-term planners? Or were investors with an optimistic outlook more aggressive and a bit more reckless when it comes to defining retirement goals?
The most surprising result of the study is that only 15% of pessimists have completed a detailed income plan to help guide their finances in retirement, compared to nearly twice as many optimists (27%). HUH? Does that mean that pessimists just don't want to know the bad news? I would have thought that the pessimist relished the bitter truth.
On a more predictable level, it still amazes me how few Americans, whether pessimistic, optimistic or somewhere in between, are unwilling to hop on line and figure out what they need to do to reach their goals. The optimist in me wants to believe that Americans can right their financial futures by putting in some work. The pessimist in me worries that they won't.