Why Your Social Inventory Is Just as Important as Your Financial Inventory

Last Updated Jun 11, 2010 5:41 PM EDT

Many retirement planners urge you to spend the time to take inventory of your financial resources for retirement. Another important part of your inventory is what I like to refer to as your "human capital." This is separate from the way that CBS MoneyWatch typically uses the term to describe your skills and earnings potential. The human capital I'm referring to comprises your social resources. While it's not financial in nature, it most certainly affects just how comfortable your rest-of-life will be, and it might be necessary for your financial well-being.

A Checklist of Your Human Capital Inventory

  • How many friends or relatives can you confide in and discuss important life decisions with?
  • How many friends or relatives live nearby and would come to your aid in an emergency?
  • Would any of these friends or relatives be able to take care of you if you needed long-term care?
  • Do you have friends or relatives with whom you can share resources, such as a car, appliances, tools, etc.?
  • Are there friends or relatives with whom you could share housing? Could you move in with your children?
  • With how many friends and relatives do you participate in regular activities that give you enjoyment and meaning in life? Are you "diversified," meaning that you have several good friends in addition to your spouse or partner?
  • What social institutions are nearby that can help you and provide social contacts? Include such associations as churches, social organizations, clubs and the like.
  • What state and local government organizations or nonprofits are available to provide potentially necessary services?
Please don't overlook these important non-financial resources. As I've written before in my post Can't Retire Yet? Don't Despair, the financial resources for millions of aging baby boomers are insufficient to provide the resources they need for a traditional retirement. For these folks, their "human capital" may need to be put to good use.

What else would you include in your human capital inventory?

Image from iStockphoto contributor digitalskillet

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    Steve Vernon helped large employers design and manage their retirement programs for more than 35 years as a consulting actuary. Now he's a research scholar for the Stanford Center on Longevity, where he helps collect, direct and disseminate research that will improve the financial security of seniors. He's also president of Rest-of-Life Communications, delivers retirement planning workshops and authored Money for Life: Turn Your IRA and 401(k) Into a Lifetime Retirement Paycheck and Recession-Proof Your Retirement Years.