Whoopee! We Can Work Longer

retire to sofaLet me say right from the top that I never saw myself as retiring early or even before age 70. For one thing, I don’t have the kind of savings you need to live off the income for 30+ years. More importantly, I would not know how to fill all those hours if I did not have some type of work that made me feel useful and helped keep my mind sharp.

Working Longer: The Solution to the Retirement Income Challenge [link] is a new book by Alicia H. Munnell and Steven A. Sass, and according to them, unless I want to live in a cardboard box, I have no choice but to work longer and retire later.

There’s some very scary numbers in this book. Start with this one. People that retire today at age 65 can expect Social Security to cover less than 40% of their income after you take out Medicare contributions. Or how about this one? People ages 55 to 64 should have at least $300,000 in savings but the average savings for this cohort is $60,000.

What’s an aging baby boomer to do? Work longer and retire later, but you already knew that. The authors suggest that you retire at 66 rather than the current average of 63. You get a greater Social Security benefit for one thing, but it also delays the day when you have to tap your savings (so all those boomers don’t yank on those assets all at once).

Will we be healthy enough to work longer? If you’ve made it to Vulcan sign60 in relatively good health, odds are good that you can go the distance. Will employers hire or retain older workers? That picture is not looking quite so rosey. It’s not so much that they don’t value our experience and wisdom, they just don’t like keeping us on when they can hire younger workers for less money who use fewer health benefits.

Congress would probably be doing us a favor if they upped the official retirement age at which you can begin collecting Social Security, but with all those voting baby boomers out there, I’m not sure that our elected officials are going to do what is really in our best interest. It’s another case where short-term pain would pay off in long-term gain, but when you’ve been raised to think instant gratification is a birthright, you may not be in the mood to want to make that sacrifice.

I don’t know about you, but my theory is to tap the Star Trek mythology and go with the Vulcan creed: Live long and prosper.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

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