A Compelling Case For Work in Retirement

Many baby boomers want to keep working in some capacity after retirement. Whether the choice is theirs to make or they are forced to extend the length of their career, more and more people are building work into their retirement plans.

Reasons for wanting to remain a member of the working world vary, but a major factor is money. Most Americans don’t have enough savings to maintain their current standard of living in retirement. The median retirement savings balance for near-retirement households is just $12,000, according to a recent National Institute on Retirement Security report. And an incredible 45 percent of working-age households have no retirement account savings at all.

Social Security alone isn’t likely to provide enough income to make up for a lack of saving. The average monthly benefit for retired workers in August 2013 was $1,270, while the maximum monthly benefit for someone retiring at full retirement age (age 66) in 2013 is $2,533.

Although some costs tend to trend downward as you enter retirement, such as the costs for education for your children and reduced mortgage balances, other expenses cannot be avoided, especially when it comes to health care. The typical 65-year-old married couple without chronic conditions will pay $220,000 to cover medical expenses throughout retirement, according to calculations by Fidelity Benefits Consulting. That figure includes Medicare insurance premiums, but it excludes nursing home care.

Money issues can definitely be a driving motivation to incorporate work into your retirement plans. But it is not always just about money. There are certain aspects of work that some people actually enjoy.

A job can provide an opportunity to be a part of something that is bigger than just yourself. You get to engage with co-workers, work toward and achieve goals and receive recognition for your efforts. Even if your boss does not commend you on your efforts, you receive recognition in the form of a regular paycheck.

Work can also help to channel your energy into worthwhile results. Rather than just keeping busy living your retired life, you have the opportunity to make a difference. A job often feels more meaningful than reading a book, completing a hobby or taking a trip.

New challenges might be a regular part of your work. Dealing with them effectively requires you to use your mental and physical capabilities, and helps you to stay sharper for your life outside of the job.

Of course, not all jobs are rewarding, and not all companies provide a positive environment in which to spend your hours. Monotony, stress, deadlines and conflict can be unfortunate parts of the daily grind.

And not everyone has the option of choosing whether they will work or not. Some people, for reasons beyond their control, are unable to continue with their career. Many people end up leaving their jobs earlier than planned due to health problems, layoffs or to care for family members.

Some people continue to work in retirement for both the paycheck and the social benefits. Whether the underlying motivation is adding to a retirement nest egg or continuing the benefits of working with others to achieve something of worth, work is an option that baby boomers are increasingly adding to their plans for retirement.

From my US News & World blog. 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.

Retirement: The Not-So-Golden Years?

Many who enter retirement may discover the reality is not quite what they had imagined. That picture-perfect scene with the happy retiree reclining in a sunny spot while sipping a cool drink is not automatically waiting at the end of a career.

There is no guarantee we will experience that fulfilling retired life promised in the many advertisements that bombard us. And yet we keep our heads down and endure all that work and life can throw our way, saving and scrimping, stubbornly holding onto that vision of a meaningful and exciting second act. This is our time to do what we want, when we want. We are finally free to explore our passions and live the life we have always wanted to live. Or are we?

People are living longer these days, which means retirement can extend for 20 or more years. In 2010, according to U.S. Census Bureau, there were 53,364 centenarians. Fast-forward to 2050, when this number is estimated to explode to 600,000, according to UnitedHealthcare.

Although a longer life is something we all want, that promise may include the unfortunate baggage of declining health, increasing medical expensesand the real possibility that we may outlive our savings.

And with the 70-million-strong baby boomer generation promoting 10,000 of its members to age-65 status each day, retirement and its realities will be experienced more broadly and sooner rather than later.

The not-so-golden years. For years now, my 80-year-old aunt has maintained a positive outlook on life, always with a smile on her face and good cheer to share. Although she lost her husband of more than 50 years some time ago, and despite the fact she has recently moved to a senior community where her occasional forgetfulness is not a safety concern, she keeps on keeping on.

She considers my generation youngsters. I guess it is all relative, but I like the sound of that! When I talk to her about enjoying her golden years, she scoffs at the idea. She makes it quite clear that being 80 is not that golden. Although she may not have financial worries, she has slowed down, has numerous infirmities to deal with each day and can no longer drive. “Don’t let anyone fool you, the golden years are what you are living right now,” she advises this baby boomer.

My aunt goes on to say that in her estimation, the real golden years are between ages 40 and 60, when you are generally physically fit and have your wits about you. The family is growing and you are an important piece in the lives of your children and grandchildren. Those around you still look to you respectfully and value your insights and advice. No one worries about you driving to the store and getting lost on the way. If you are unfortunate and take a fall, you are less likely to do any serious damage such as breaking a hip, a real fear that many in their supposed “golden years” face each day. When you wake up to begin your day, your first thought is not what pills you need to take but what new possibilities might this day hold.

So after years of hard work and preparation to live the retired life, will the reality be that we actually lived the best years of our lives on our way to this destination? If that is likely to be the case, we might all benefit from enjoying the journey a bit more rather than saving it all for retirement.

We can try to spend more time with family and less time at work. Maybe we should take that trip we have been waiting for while we are still physically fit and energetic and feeling adventurous at heart. If we dream of lending a helping hand and volunteering once we’re retired, perhaps we can get involved with something along those lines now rather than wait. Since the realities of aging await all of us, perhaps as we approach those advanced years, we can make the extra effort to stay as healthy as possible. We cannot eliminate the impact of time, but maybe we can delay it just a bit. Just maybe we can stretch out the quality of our time lived along the way.

If the life experienced by my aunt is typical for retirees, we do not want to waste the best years of our lives. And if our golden years are, in fact, happening right now, we may want to refocus our plans and do our best to live them to their fullest.

From my blog on US News & World. 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.

8 Ways Baby Boomers Changed the World

Growing up a baby boomer allowed for a life filled with exciting new discoveries and previously unimagined advancements. Here’s a look at the impact, good and bad, this generation has had on the world:

Career advancement. Often times this generation has been equated with people focused on themselves and their careers, valuing their own satisfaction first and foremost. Boomers have sometimes been categorized as obsessed with their individual importance in the world, and always in pursuit of new and better toys. Some people outside of the boomer ranks may experience a hint of jealousy seeing how incredibly fortunate many boomers have been, successfully riding the IPO crazes and capitalizing on various bubbles.

Screen time. Baby boomers were the first generation for which the television became a central part of their lives. They were able to witness news as it happened and enjoy diverse entertainment never before available in such a medium. However, baby boomers were also the first to be pervasively bombarded by advertising, which quickly capitalized upon the captive television audience. Everything from what you should wear to how you should smell to what should be on your dinner table was pounded into receptive and somewhat defenseless heads.

A captive audience. Advertising helped to fuel a competitive desire to better one’s situation in life, but also often depicted an unattainable ideal. According to author Laura Lee Carter in her book “Find Your Reason to Be Here,” unlike parents who compared themselves with friends and neighbors, boomers were exposed to constant advertisements depicting the lifestyles of the richest, most famous Americans with whom they compare themselves. Obsessively striving to be like those fortunate few in the top 10 percent of the population can be frustrating when you just don’t make the cut.

Unequal society. The baby boomers made advancements in many areas, but that does not mean it is now any easier to make a living. Some 85 percent of those who describe themselves as middle class say it is more difficult now than it was ten years ago to maintain their standard of living, according to a 2012 Pew Research Center survey. Since 2000 the middle class has shrunk in size, shed income and wealth and lost some of its faith in the future, according to the report.

More debt. Being a baby boomer does not automatically mean wealth or financial security. The credit card economy took root among a generation that preferred to have things now rather than save and wait until they could afford them. The parents of baby boomers tended to save up for purchases, while baby boomers used credit cards in droves. Although boomers enjoy the highest income of any age group, they believe it is harder to get ahead than it was ten years ago, Pew found. Despite their great strides in the workplace, boomers rate their overall quality of life as lower than other generations.

Working longer. Job competition is fierce among this group partly due to the sheer number of members, but also because of multiple economic upheavals, changes in the nature of work due to increased automation and movement of some jobs off shore. It is increasingly difficult for those over 50 to find employment. Once they lose or leave a job, it generally takes older workers much longer to secure new positions than their younger counterparts.

Living longer. Although average life expectancies continue to raise, those typically longer lives will be burdened with rising health care costs. More money going to health care expenses makes for hard decisions when it comes to basic things like food, rent and living the retirement lifestyle we want.

Entering retirement. Being born a baby boomer has not necessarily been an easy road. Along with the wild success stories are many sad stories of difficult times. The oldest baby boomers have already begun to turn 65. This generation that changed the world in many ways is now about to leave their stamp on retirement.

From my US News & World blog. 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.