Daring New (Non-“PC”) Topic for Cocktail Party Conversation: “Do YOU Think You Will Have Enough Money When It Comes Time to Retire?”
This very provocative question is of the type that my socially correct mother raised me not to ask: Everyone knows it’s socially unacceptable and completely impolite to discuss topics like how much money someone makes, or how well off they are. Questions like that are “Totally CR and SU,” as we used to say in college: “crude, rude and socially unacceptable.”
But the point is, we are starting to ask this question of each other, and I say this is a good thing.
If we don’t talk and plan, we’ll end up unpleasantly surprised, as many of my Boomer-aged coaching clients have discovered.
Consider one of my former clients, a dentist from Indiana who sold off his practice for slightly more than $1 million at the young age of 61, and then began looking at his options. Only to discover that a million dollars doesn’t go as far as it once did – especially since he still had school-aged children living at home.
- He quickly realized that unless he took massive action of some sort, he was in no condition to maintain his current lifestyle. Especially since he was in good health and had every reason to suspect he would live for another 30 years!
- Thankfully, he was quite entrepreneurial, and we quickly came up with several business concepts based on his professional expertise, which would generate a steady passive income stream, and would not require him to get back into the daily grind of seeing patients in a clinic setting.
- I’m happy to say he is living the good life, these days!
Will YOU have enough money when it comes time to retire?
Too often these days the answer is “no,” even if you diligently started planning for retirement in your 20s. A recent but unscientific poll I saw showed that only 28% of us felt secure enough to answer yes when asked this question.
Another survey I found noted that 63% of Americans 50-59 worry about having enough money to retire.
And 80% of us Boomers plan to work in retirement — and I don’t mean doing meaningful volunteer work, which is also popular — I’m talking about people who want to get paid for their labors.
Why? Well, two-thirds of us told Scudder Kemper that we are “worried about having enough money in the future,” and no wonder: we realize that the money we planned on for retirement just isn’t going to be there! Often the problem is not that we Boomers failed to plan – though that does happen – but that the backdrop against which we did our planning shifted. For example:
- Even the diligent savers among us were affected by the stock market decline of 2001-2003, which eradicated roughly $7-8 trillion in shareholder wealth, much of it held by us Boomers. And of course, if you’ve started investing in the market again, you’re aware that the last few months haven’t done that well for us, either! Clearly the timing for major withdrawals is a huge concern
- Then there was the famous “dot-com” crash, which ate away roughly $279 billion on 401[K] assets and huge chunks of other retirement savings
- Not to mention that many of us are financially savvy enough to know that 401[K] and IRA/retirement money statements can create a false sense of wealth, since – with the exception of Roth IRAs – these funds will be federally taxed on withdrawal
- For others of us, the challenge came because our employers lopped off 50% of the work force, dropped pension plans, were bought out by a foreign national – or went out of business. Downsizing, right-sizing, off-shoring, you get the picture.
Or, the financial challenges might be brought on by death, divorce, illness, or unexpectedly finding ourselves caring for our aging parents, our children and grandchildren – or all three! No wonder 50+ consumers outspend younger adults two to one! Currently:
- 22% of us financially support an aging parent
- 24% provide for an adult child, aged 18 or more – many of these being “college re-bounders” who come home to live in order to reduce their own living expenses
- 43% of all singles are 45 or older
- Collective Boomer debt is estimated at roughly $2.5 trillion
- The top monetary concern of Boomers considering retirement is “being unable to afford health insurance”
What is the solution?
- Arrange with your employer to work longer?
- Figure out how to effectively reduce your standard of living?
- Win the lottery?
- Start a business, perhaps based on life experience, which allows you to generate income without “working” in the traditional way?
What if you decide to Work Longer?
According to an article , “How Much Longer Will Boomers Need to Work?” which is posted in the August 11, 2008 issue of US News & World Report, “The typical American retires at age 63. Those fortunate few who have traditional pensions, retiree health insurance, and a fully loaded 401(k) will probably be fine.
But if you haven’t saved enough to fund 30 years of retirement-and as we’ve seen most baby boomers aren’t even close – the obvious solution is working longer.
Some experts correctly note that there are huge benefits for the health of the nation of we work longer. Specifically:
- The Economy (not to mention Social Security and Medicare) needs the money
- The Nation’s Employers need both our brains and our bodies – to stave off brain drain and a pending labor gap. Especially in the fields of health care, biosciences, energy and the federal government, where 44% of all workers will be eligible for retirement over the next five years
- We Boomers are healthy enough to work and will be so for several more decades
- Future Generations will benefit from a rosier future – because Boomers working longer will alleviate the need to draw down on federal benefits, or liquidate investments, home equity and savings to fund two of three more decades of living, and as a result more money will be left for Boomer children to inherit
- It will probably put an end to intergenerational warfare and the now-popular sport of “Boomer bashing“
- It’s a common sense solution that could inject $3 trillion into the economy each year and result in a 9% increase on Gross Domestic Product by 2045
But how much longer will we Boomers need to work to finance a secure retirement? It depends on who you ask:
- “For those workers who can work, the way to a secure retirement is to keep working until 66,” says Alicia Munnell, director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College and coauthor of Working Longer: The Solution to the Retirement Income Challenge. Social Security currently replaces 39 percent of preretirement income for the average earner retiring at age 65 after the Medicare Part B premium is automatically deducted. But those who retire at the same age in 2030 can expect Social Security to replace only 30 percent of earnings, according to Munnell’s calculations. “Retirees in 2030 will have to work two to four years longer to maintain today’s level of replacement income,” she says.
- Marc Freedman, founder and CEO of the think tank Civic Ventures and author of the book Encore: Finding Work that Matters in the Second Half of Life, says that Boomers should try to work until at least age 70. The share of households prepared for retirement would nearly double from 31 to 60 percent if early Boomers currently between the ages of 54 and 63 delayed retirement from age 65 to 70, according to a McKinsey & Co. analysis.
- While Tamara Erickson, author of Retire Retirement: Career Strategies for the Boomer Generation, says Baby Boomers should plan to work until a minimum of age 70 and up to 85 or 90 if they can.
Hmm, still “punching the clock” at age 70; I can see appreciate those advantages for both the workforce and the individual…
But I’d be looking for an option which would allow me to work on my terms. Ideally I’d like to incorporate:
- Limited hours
- Opportunities to work from home
- A paycheck whose size I have some ability to control and the opportunity to REALLY get paid what I’m worth
- The ability to take off for a week or two at least every quarter…
I wonder how well perks like these, as well as options like retention bonuses, bridge jobs, phased-in retirement plans or delayed retirement subsidies will go over with my younger co-workers?
How Possible is it to Reduce Living Costs?
A group they labeled “Financially unprepared, yet undaunted and uncompromising,” the Forbes authors note that this group shares all the optimism and expectations of their wealthier counterparts, yet this group — incorporating 24 million middle-class American households – is approaching retirement with lofty lifestyle aspirations, a thirst for new products and brands, and limited financial resources.
None of this group will be living a “Lexus Lifestyle” in retirement. Think more in terms of the recent commercial where the wedding guests are exclaiming over the lovely backyard garden reception featuring Martha Stewart-branded products purchased at Wal-Mart.
According to the article, the “U’s” will account for almost 25% of total U.S. consumption by 2015, which leads the authors to suggest there will shortly be a massive market for products and services that meet discriminating u-boomer tastes at affordable u-boomer prices. (Obviously the copywriters who wrote that Wal-Mart commercial were listening!)
Note also that the article points out that the “U’s” are the largest segment of the baby boomer generation, sandwiched between roughly 10 million well-to-do households with high hopes for a comfortable retirement and the financial resources to pay for it, and 11 million disadvantaged households that are deeply pessimistic about the future.
But the concept of reducing you standard of living is one you surely hope to avoid, so let’s not accept this option!
Realistically, What Are Your Chances of Winning the Lottery?
Well, it obviously works for some, we see those excited winners on the state-run lottery commercials all the time…but wining is nothing you can bank on.
And since there’s no guarantee — and history shows that the odds of lottery winners actually holding on to their winnings and effectively investing them is slim to none — you’re going to “take a pass” on this option.
So Maybe the Best Option is to Start Up a Business of Your Own?
This is the best option for generating income at this time in your life. And starting up your own business makes sense, considering that the stage is already set for lengthier Boomer careers, thanks to the increasing acceptance of older workers. What better time to dust off your dreams and start taking control of your life and future? After all, you’ve got experience, your children are grown, you’re healthy and you’ve still got decades of good life ahead!
And Boomers DO want to work. What else would you expect from the generation that mainstreamed working women, has such a strong work ethic, embraced 24/7 connectivity and coveted the MBA degree? And where better to call the shots than in a business of your own? Especially since Boomers have also been called the “me generation,” due to recognition of the fact that we’ve always made our own rules.
Actually, the Boomer penchant for defying convention, if expressed as an extended working life, could be the offsetting – and saving – factor in the economic doomsday scenarios that have been passed around lately. And it really works, since more Boomers working longer translates into additional contributions to the Social Security coffers, more income tax revenue, fewer Medicare payouts and a delay on draws from the Social Security system.
But if you’re providing those benefits to the economy while working in your own business, it finally gives you the chance you’re sought our entire working lives – to do it your way.
- A recent Towers Perrin/AARP Study, “The Business Case for Workers Age 50+” concluded that older workers are more engaged and motivated to exceed expectations than younger workers, and that declining physical skills such as manual dexterity are more than offset by skills that improve with age, such as verbal communication, tacit knowledge and experimental innovation. All skills that are much needed in business start-up situations. And moreover, starting a business of your own allows you to profitably leverage your life experiences.
- A 2005 survey by Merrill Lynch revealed that almost 80% of workers age 40-58 plan to work in retirement, and roughly 60% look forward to the challenge of trying something new
- Recent AARP research found that 69% of today’s workers age 45+ plan to continue working past age 65
- Globally, Boomers are starting up businesses at a rate higher than any other demographic.
Now, you might say I’m biased in my opinion about the values of business ownership, since I’m a coach who works with Baby Boomers who want to start a business based on leveraging their life experience.
But I’m not the only one promoting the benefits of working in one’s own business, as opposed to being an employee. “Millionaire Maker” Loral Langemeier has written books and developed a series of programs and workshops that are perfect for budding Baby Boomer entrepreneurs, because they teach ordinary working people how, in as little as a year, they can:
- Quit your job and start doing the things you love
- Control and then eliminate debt, no matter how much you owe
- Live your life on your own schedule rather than that of an employer
- Engage in business ventures that generate passive income
- Substantially decrease your tax burden
- Form trusts, corporations and partnerships to protect your assets, and create a non-stop revenue stream
So, here you go: WHETHER or not you are going to have enough money to afford to retire, consider helping out the economy and giving yourself the gift of having something meaningful to do with the next few decades of your life – dust off those dreams and start planning your own business start-up! Who knows, you might become the next Colonel Sanders, Oprah or Martha Stewart!