By 2035, the number of Americans 65 and older will climb from about 48 million today to over 79 million. That’s the Baby Boomer impact. There are now 2.8 active workers for each Social Security beneficiary. This number will likely drop to fewer than 2 workers per beneficiary by 2035.
Given the data from the Social Security Administration I reviewed earlier, most Baby Boomers will be down to subsistence living by the time they are 80—living on Social Security and other government benefits with help from any capable children.
Whatever the circumstances, millions of Americans are growing older and headed straight toward an unforgiving brick wall. They will reach their mid-sixties and find there is no pot of gold under the retirement rainbow.
Social Security plus their own savings, if they have any, won’t be enough to finance the kind of leisurely golden years they saw their parents and grandparents enjoy.
But there’s a way out—if you choose action over angst.
Working in your 70s Will Be the Norm — Prepare for It
I know it may feel like you’re the only one worried about retiring, since you don’t get to look at your neighbor’s balance sheet, but you’re hardly alone.
Can you do anything about your situation? Maybe. Find ways to save a little money here and there, and it will add up. Having a small nest egg is better than having none at all. At some point, you will be glad you have it.
I’ve written before about the growing number of retirees who keep working right past 65 and even into their 70s. Twenty-five percent of Baby Boomers expect to work to at least 70 and beyond.
If you ask them why, the answer is often that they enjoy their work and don’t want to stop. I’m sure that’s true for many. But I’d also bet many keep working out of necessity, no matter what they tell pollsters and friends.
I don’t see anything wrong with this.
I will be 68 later this year, and I’m still working as hard as I ever did—maybe more so if you count the total hours. Then again, I’m fortunate to have work that I enjoy and that is not too physically strenuous. I tend to spend my “leisure time” reading and researching rather than watching TV.
Those factors, along with a pretty good diet and exercise program—augmented by some medical anti-aging breakthroughs that I think are coming quite soon—should hopefully enable me to stay productive for many more years. That’s a good thing (true confession here), because the lifestyle I currently enjoy would not be possible in a traditional retirement situation.
Consider a Career Change That Fits Your Profile
Let’s be more specific. Say you’re 60 now and woefully unprepared to retire in five years. You lost your savings or never had any. What do you do? “Give up” is not the answer.
It is entirely possible, even likely, that you’ll be physically able to work for another 20 years. That’s an entire career in and of itself. It doesn’t have to be decades of drudgery, if—here’s the key—you plan ahead.
Financial planning works best when you have a lot of lead time. Compound interest takes years to do its magic. Career planning is different. It works best when you can act immediately.
Take a deliberate approach and you won’t have to settle for a low-paid service job. So, if you’re behind the retirement curve, here’s what to do.
- Figure out what kind of work fits your aptitudes and circumstances. It may be different from your previous career. That’s okay.
- Acquire any necessary education or credentials.
- Build experience and contacts in your chosen field before you actually enter it.
- Push the start button.
The people I know who have taken this approach all describe the same experience.
Step 1 is a kind of attitude adjustment, at first painful but then exhilarating.
Something clicks, and they suddenly have more “life” ahead of them. They stop thinking about the leisurely rounds of golf and vacations they will miss and instead look forward to their new “encore” career.
John Mauldin is the chairman of Mauldin Economics, which publishes a growing number of investing resources, including both free and paid publications aimed at helping investors do better in today's challenging economy. Mauldin uncovers the truth behind, and beyond, the financial headlines.
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