While many older Americans look forward to their retirement years with great anticipation, a substantial subset of the aging population is struggling to prepare for retirement and is deeply concerned about the financial realities of this later stage of life, according to a new study conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
When can I retire?
I've tried lots of retirement income planners and one that I really like is the Fidelity Investments Retirement Income Planner. This is not a planner for someone who just wants a rough idea of how much money they need to save. This planner is for someone who is serious about figuring out what they'll need and where they stand (although you can bypass the detailed worksheets and get the rough estimate if you prefer).
Many of Americans assume they’ll find a part-time job or start a consulting firm after they retire. Anthony Webb, the New York-based economist for the Center for Retirement Research notes that there’s a bit of self-delusion at work here.
“The truth is that when people leave their ‘lifestyle jobs’, they end up leaving the workforce pretty quickly,” Webb says. “It’s well documented that all the ‘bridge jobs’, the consulting gigs, the part-time work lasts perhaps a year or two, but not longer.”
UBS Wealth Management’s Louise Gunderson says people are underestimating their expenses and lifestyle costs, forcing them to work longer.
Even now, financial planners are urging people to work to 70, so they end up with more spending money than if they retire at the full retirement age of 66, or even earlier at 62. At 62, people can get small Social Security benefits, but each year they wait increases their monthly check about 8 percent. According to Munnell's research, retiring at 62, rather than 70, cuts the monthly benefit almost in half. A person who would receive a monthly Social Security check of $1,000 upon retiring at 70 would get $568 at 62. That's been a huge selling point for waiting to retire.
If you were one of the many federal employees who weren’t able to work during the 16-day government shutdown, you may have given some thought to the question, “Should I stay or should I go?” If you are eligible to retire, did you think that maybe now is the time to call it quits? How do you know when it’s your time to retire?
Doing the retirement-savings math can be a little scary. Or maybe a lot. At age 65, statistically speaking, you can expect to live another 18 to 20 years. Of course, you could be around a lot longer than that, so to be on the safe side financial advisers suggest you plan for retirement with the idea of living to 95 or 100. During those years, experts also say, you should expect your living expenses to remain at or near where they are now (some — wardrobe, mortgage — typically decline in retirement, while others — health care, travel — may increase).
But for other baby boomers, retirement is no longer a magical day on which they will stop working, get a gold watch and live a life of leisure, said Catherine Collinson, president of the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies. More than 60 percent plan to work past age 65 or not retire, she said. “It’s not their parents’ retirement,” Collinson said. “Baby boomers plan and expect to work longer, delay retirement and transition into retirement in a way that involves at least working part time.” The majority of baby boomers, Collinson said, are delaying retirement out of necessity.
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.
Economist James Poterba of MIT put it all together with colleagues at Dartmouth and Harvard's Kennedy School and estimated that about 46% of Americans die with less than $10,000 in assets, many of them lacking even home equity and relying almost entirely on Social Security. The results can be measured in more than merely dollars and cents. Poterba's paper found that this group is "disproportionately in poor health," in part because they have no resources to cover medical expenses outside Medicare.