Most people still have a 20th century vision of retirement in their heads: an idyllic 20-plus-year vacation spent traveling, pursuing hobbies, and hanging out with grandchildren. As compelling as that vision might seem, there are game-changing challenges to the retirement of the 21st¬†century.
Consider these trends:
As a result of these challenges, most older American workers haven‚Äôt saved enough money to retire full time at age 65 under their pre-retirement standard of living, as measured by the amount of retirement income that‚Äôs realistic to expect from their savings and Social Security. This is the sobering conclusion of a recent report by the Stanford Center on Longevity (SCL).
It‚Äôs a good time to be aging
In spite of the serious challenges that we face, it‚Äôs a good time to be aging.¬†There‚Äôs plenty of scientific and medical research that informs us how to live long, healthy lives. Social research shows what makes us happy and gives us meaning, particularly in our later years. There are many robust, efficient financial products and services, as well as nonprofit organizations like AARP, Area Agencies on Aging, and local nonprofit service groups that advocate for seniors and provide helpful resources. And these resources are at our fingertips because of the internet.
None of these resources were available to our parents‚Äô generation, so we‚Äôve got a tremendous head start. We have a robust toolkit of game-changing strategies and insights we can use to address our serious challenges.
There‚Äôs a big difference, however, between these recent 21st century advantages and the advances in the 20th century that contributed to the gift of 30 additional years of life. Our parents‚Äô generation broadly realized¬†the life expectancy gains in the 20th¬†century, due to abundant food, clean water, efficient sewage and waste disposal, electricity, and vaccinations against deadly diseases, to name a few. They didn‚Äôt have to expend much effort or make decisions to take advantage of the public health advances during their lifetimes. In today‚Äôs world, however, we need to make conscious choices between the elements of society that are supportive of long, healthy lives, and those that work against that goal. Examples of the latter include enticing ads to eat unhealthy food, drink unhealthy beverages, spend all our money, go into debt, and not save sufficient amounts to fund potentially long lives.
Because of these trends, our gift of extra years of life came with some strings attached ‚ÄĒ we‚Äôll need to spend the time and effort it will take to live well during most of these extra years, and not be a burden on society or our children. Since we‚Äôre the first generation to face these challenges, we‚Äôre navigating uncharted waters, and it‚Äôs up to us to make the best of what we‚Äôve got. My new book shares strategies to face our¬†significant challenges — Retirement Game-Changers: Strategies for a Healthy, Financially Secure, and Fulfilling Long Life.
Nobody promised it would be easy for the millions of us living today to add 30 years to our average lifespans. Your new ‚Äúretirement job‚ÄĚ is to face up to the accompanying challenges to decide how to make the most of this gift of these extra years of life.
Some people are enthusiastic about the possibility of living a long time. Others say they aren‚Äôt, having seen their parents suffer in their later years. Regardless of your views on the topic, there‚Äôs a good chance you will¬†live a long time, so it only makes sense to take steps to live long and live well.