It's realistic to assume I might live to be 100 years old. Or even older. The demographics, and current life expectancies confirm that. If I had retired at age 60, that would have been 40 years of retirement. If I wait to age 70, it's still 30 years of retirement. It's a little mind-boggling to think about living that long, but the possibility is a reality.
One of the confusing things about planning for retirement is trying to figure out how long it will last. It's as if I was crouched at the start of a race without any idea how long the race will be. If it's going to be short, maybe I should sprint for it and not worry too much about running out of energy. But if it's going to be a marathon I'll want to nurse my resources and watch them carefully so I don't run out too soon. But getting some idea how long the race will be means figuring out my life expectancy.
Planning for retirement is usually over-simplified and full of bad assumptions, like this one: "Assume you will need 70%-80% of what you earned pre-retirement." Well you won't be sending your children through college and maybe you will have your mortgage paid off. And you won't have commuting costs, or still be trying to save for retirement. But on the other hand you will have much higher medical expenses, you may be sending your grandchildren through college, you may be providing financial assistance to your children or your parents.
I recently asked a retired friend how he liked retirement, and he said "I'm not bored yet". I thought that was such an odd way to put it. But after talking to others that have been retired a while it seems to be a recurring theme. There is a lot of time to fill and many people seem to be having trouble keeping busy.
I can start collecting Social Security Benefits any time from age 62 to 70. The earlier I take them, the less my benefit will be, so there is some strategy to deciding when to pull the trigger. I want to figure out the ideal time to do it, and I'm also curious how much money I would have had to save up to provide the same stream of income that Social Security will provide. So I did a little calculating to see how much difference it makes.
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.