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It's sad to see someone get to retirement without enough money to make it through. It's even sadder to see someone save all their life and then lose it needlessly. Many Boomers realize that retirement may be the perfect time to start a new business, maybe that business you've always dreamed of owning. But Boomers have two things that make them attractive targets for schemes that may or may not be in their best interest: they may have a pool of cash that they saved up for retirement and some significant equity in their home.
No one really thinks they're going to be sick or incapacitated. There's a tendency to assume that we can keep bad things at bay by watching our diet and getting exercise. And those things are great and necessary, but they won't necessarily keep us well throughout retirement. It's sad to see people put off the things they want to do until retirement, never realizing that they may end up with health problems that may make those things difficult or impossible to do. And chronic diseases happen even to people who are scrupulously careful about what they eat and do.
As I think about options for things I could do in retirement, I realize I sometimes hedge my bets. I probably want some sort of a job, but not full time. I'd like to volunteer, but on my own schedule.
I see other people doing this too, avoiding a real commitment to anything. And I realize that it's going to be hard to find a meaningful job or task that doesn't requirement any commitment. Part time jobs with flexible schedules are not likely to accomplish anything significant.
If I want to make a difference, I'm going to have to make a commitment.
I'm not sure how much money I'll have, but one thing I'll have when I retire is time. Lots more time than I have now with a full-time job. I see my children and their generation stuggling to find time to do all the things that they need to do. They have a busy career and two or three active children and there is never enough time to get everything done. It occurs to me that my generation could make a huge difference by giving some of that time back after we retire.
One of the things that's frustrating about the idea that retirement should be a 30 year vacation is the idea that everyone is entitled to that kind of a retirement. But many of us have no pension that will provide us with a predictable stream of income for 30 years, we only have whatever money we have saved up in 401ks and IRAs and savings and investment accounts. But I don't know when I'll have 'enough' saved up that I can pull out a regular monthly check for the next 30 years.
I've been watching other Baby Boomers announce their retirement. And I wonder how they can possibly afford it.
I look ahead and see the need to live for 30 years or more on nothing but my savings, and I know I can't do that yet.
Do they have a lot more money saved up than I do? Do they have a cushy, guaranteed, pension that will cover all their retirement expense? Or are they fooling themselves about being financially ready for this?
Retirement sounds great. You quit work and do absolutely nothing each day. You play golf and travel. You have no responsibilties. Who wouldn't love it?
But isn't that exactly what a vacation is? With longer life expectancies we can easily spend 30 years in retirement, or even more than that, if we retire early and live long. And as the Baby Boomers hit the magic retirement age, society is facing down at a time when a significant percentage of the adult population might be on perpetual "vacation".