8 Scary Retirement Facts

From my US News & World Blog

For the next 20 years, about 10,000 baby boomers will turn 65 each day. Some have been preparing diligently for their retirement by building savings, and are looking forward to having the freedom to do what they want to do when they want to do it. Other boomers may not have begun to contemplate how retired life will look because they are caught up in living for today. As this massive generation crosses into what has historically been retirement age, they will face many new realities, and they may not all be pretty.

The recent economy has not been cooperative for investors attempting to build a nest egg. Those nearing retirement age have the most to lose if the market declines and limited years to continue contributing to retirement accounts. At the same time, the average life expectancy continues to rise, which is even more years of retirement baby boomers need to save for. Here are eight startling retirement facts to ponder:

1. One in six older Americans lives below the poverty line, which is $22,350 for a family of four, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. That amount is not much for a single person, let alone a family of four.

2. The current ratio of working age citizens between 15 and 64 to those over age 65 is 5:1. By 2050 this ratio will drop to 3:1. This means we will have a smaller proportion of working people supporting increasing numbers of retirees.

3. The ranks of senior citizens are growing rapidly. There are now around 40 million senior citizens, but that number is expected to increase to 89 million by 2050. The aging population will impact everything from housing and health care to travel and employment.

4. The cost of assisted living facilities has risen to a national median rate of $3,300 per month, which works out to be $39,600 per year. The highest median rate is in Alaska at $6,813 per month.

5. Americans 55 and older now account for 20 percent of all bankruptcies, with the majority due to medical and funeral expenses. In addition, older Americans tend to have more credit card debt than younger Americans. Without delaying retirement, it will be hard for baby boomers to get ahead of their growing debt.

6. Due to the recent economic downturn, baby boomers born between 1948 and 1954 will need to save an additional 4.3 percent of their annual pay to counteract the impact of the financial and housing crisis in 2008 and 2009, according to Employee Benefit Research Institute calculations. For many people this will require working beyond traditional retirement age in a job market already tight and challenging for older workers.

7. Successful retirement planning requires consistent saving to provide for a time when income is no longer generated from your job. However, 35 percent of Americans say they don’t contribute to retirement accounts like a 401(k) or IRA, according to a 2009 CareerBuilder survey.

8. Age discrimination on the job is an increasingly common occurrence as more seniors remain in or re-enter the job force. In a recent study published in the journal Research on Aging, 63 percent of older adults say they have experienced discrimination.

Dave Bernard is the author of I Want To Retire! Essential Considerations for the Retiree to Be. Although not yet retired, he focuses on identifying and understanding the essential components of a fulfilling and meaningful retirement. He shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement-Only The Beginning.

Baby Boomer Job Search – A Year in Limbo

Post By Kay McMahon, professional leadership coach

The seam on the smart, tailored gray linen slacks, the pair I bought for the first job interview at the start of 2012, is pulling apart. It is the butt seam, strained by months of added pounds, inches.  Along with the daily horoscope I’ve read blogs on how to thrive when looking for work, tips on exercise, rest, healthy eating, sharpening of skills, developing new ones, spending quality time with family, friends, volunteering, and the mantra of them all, networking.  Some mornings I greet these recommendations with optimistic determination, born again faith, hope.  Other days I punctuate each tidbit of advice with a sharp tap of the delete button, cynicism turning the coffee in my cup cold.  The year ends in a downpour of Northern California rain and I have not found work, a source of income, a viable lifeline.

During a job search the word unemployed is for the most part taboo. It implies that the seeker, for an indeterminate period of time and space, is in limbo.  The process of looking for work risks reinforcing this zombie-like state, snaring the unemployed into believing her reality is lost between roles. It is a nasty mindset, one that interferes with living life as it is, to its fullest.

While there is much to do when living in the in-between, looking for work, it is a bit like stepping onto a moving walkway at an airport. There is constant motion but on a long stretch the end point gets hazy. The doing involves looking, researching, networking, contacting, preparing. Scoring a first interview is occasionally followed by the relief tension of moving to the next round. There is waiting for the outcome, days to weeks of feeling excited, anxious, and then irritated.  Throughout there is the A strategy of charting a selective course, one focused on career direction, aims, interests, values, locale, money. This approach derails when panic sets off a free for all of applying for anything, everything. Jobs with requirements under, over, or in no way resembling known skills sets suddenly hold some semblance of plausibility, fit.

And there’s the message on the answering machine, potentially a new start or end.  I can tell from the tone of voice of the he or she recruiter or search firm executive, the moment they speak, that the answer for this one is no. Perhaps it is a hint of empathy, sympathy in the voice, or the tenor one lends to an unpleasant talking chore. The message, seemingly kind, efficient, technically safe for a candidate and presumably holding some grain of truth, relays that it was a pleasure talking, meeting, however there was not enough corporate, specific industry, right blend of experience or simply, the chemistry with another candidate was a better fit for the group, good luck.

I’ve looked in the bathroom mirror for a reflection of my chemistry.  I see the face of a woman I’ve been told by others is independent, adventurous, smart, competent, engaging, a survivor.  I try to see the spunky spirit underlying so many years of experience.  On bad days what I see resembles failure, a woman close to giving up, losing the stamina to reinvent herself.

During the year when in the finalist stage for several positions, my mind jumped ahead into the world of the new job. Energized by its priorities, I gave thought to the first ninety days and the logistics of living arrangements, commute and routine. When the calls came, I let each message remain on the answering machine for weeks before erasing them.  Bittersweet, the validation of being a finalist was coupled with rejection. Later I looked up the bios of the victors.  As a professional I respected the choices, viewing them more as colleagues than competitors.  For the most part, all were younger.

On the cusp of turning sixty I was one of several on a management team dismissed by incoming leadership.  There was the safety net of a well deserved package, allowing time to breathe, regroup, but then the tap on savings started to run. When asked by neighbors if I had retired, I joked with them, or talked about ramping up a side business, or being between projects.  Losing a job, a primary role, must be akin to being knocked over by a Semi-trailer. Survival requires getting up, wiping off the muck and not wasting precious effort looking back. Retaining a sense of self-worth is essential.  You cannot disclose to everyone that you are involuntarily unemployed. Instead you practice what is called the “elevator pitch,” what it is the world needs to believe in order for you to make it.

Toward the end of the year dedicated to finding work, I tell friends that it may be time to get out the accordion.   They look relieved by my humor.  For friends who have rallied round for months on end are showing signs of job search fatigue, tired of my perennial looking without landing. In their once confident-of-my-success expressions I now detect doubt.

I relay my plan, they laugh. Dressed professionally I will head into the financial district of The City (SF),  not the tourist zone, prop an IPad to display my Linked In profile or resume, and then commence playing the one polka I know by ear over and over again.  My sign will read ‘Hire Me and I’ll Stop’.

When I was a child my dad bought me an accordion.  He told me that if I practiced I could be another Myron Floren.  Myron smiled nonstop while his fingers danced across the keyboard and buttons. I watched him play every week for years on the Lawrence Welk show.  Although he looked happy with his vocation, I stopped playing at age twelve, believing the instrument blocked the development of my breasts.  While playing the accordion is not viable now as a gig to support myself, it may be a way out of this life in limbo.

Instead of applying for one position after the next, I’ll play one polka over and over again. Doing, being, one missed note, the next one spot on.

Kay McMahon is a professional leadership coach, who loves to travel, write and take photos. She can be contacted directly at kay.mcmahon6@gmail.com.

Baby Boomers Make Old the New Young

From my US News & World blog

When I was a teenager, I viewed anyone over 30 as old. These days 30-year-olds are just kids in my book. And I venture to say that before long that ripe old age of 80 will not seem quite as ancient as I once thought. Perceptions of what constitutes old age tend to change in our individual lives as we approach those ages.

[See 10 Key Retirement Ages to Plan For.]

A male born in 1946 can expect to live to age 83.5, and once he hits 70 his life expectancy increases to 84.7. Realize that these numbers are just averages. A French woman, Jean Calment, was born in 1875 and lived to be 122 years old, attributing her long life to olive oil, port wine, and nearly a kilo of chocolate each week.

According to recent U.S. Census figures, the 90-plus age group is currently over 2 million strong and is expected to balloon to more than 8 million by mid-century.

Better nutrition, advances in medical care, and a focus on healthy living have all contributed to increasing longevity. And the focus is not just on staying alive, but rather living fulfilling and exciting lives. In the Marinscope Community Newspaper, Fred Mayer relates how seniors keep busy by visiting 142 countries, authoring six books, and attending Stanford-Cal games for 65 years and counting. Life in retirement is not a passive sport.

[See The 10 Best Places to Retire in 2012.]

With baby boomers increasingly having what it takes to live longer and more satisfying lives into their 80s and 90s, what is the new old? At a time when a 71-year-old man can swim from Alcatraz to San Francisco, can we even hope to associate a single number with old?

Some people say that age is a state of mind. If we stay positive and remain healthy we hope to feel younger than we actually are. If we associate with others who live younger than their years maybe some of that youthfulness will rub off. The trick is to stay active, engaged, and excited about living each day. For baby boomers who are unaccustomed to sitting still, this recipe for finding satisfaction in retirement fits perfectly.

I think it is impossible to assign a universal number to the individual experience of aging. If the calendar says I am 75, but I feel like 55, which is right? I am living like a 55-year-old, which is the measure I choose to use.

[See Giving Thanks for Growing Old.]

I have a feeling that 100 will always be considered old, at least by me. However, not that long ago I considered 30 old. Do I hear 120?

Dave Bernard is the author of Are You Just Existing and Calling it a Life?, which offers guidelines to discover your personal passion and live a life of purpose. Not yet retired, Dave has begun his due diligence to plan for a fulfilling retirement. With a focus on the non-financial aspects of retiring, he shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement–Only the Beginning.