In one of my braver moments I decided to look at the comments left on the CNNMoney.com web site about the retirement article that is also available in October's Money Magazine. As I expected, many of the comments were negative, some downright hostile. There is something about the Internet that can bring out less than the best in people. In this case, instead of seeing if there is anything to be learned from the experiences of others, many of those who left their thoughts decided to use rudeness and draw incorrect conclusions.
The good news is, I didn't take any of it personally. Human nature is such that we all like to tear down someone else who does something we can't or haven't. It also gave me some quotes that I can use to try and set the record straight. So, here are a few of the quotes and my responses:
"What are they doing for health care? Obviously none of these people has health insurance or ever goes to the doctor."
I can't speak for all the other couples, but our situation was pretty clearly spelled out in the article: We spend 33% of our total yearly income on health care. Betty and I have been on the individual market virtually our entire married life. Except for 4 years early on, we have never been covered by health insurance through work. We do skip or delay some treatments that aren't essential because of the cost. When safe to do so we usually split pills in half to keep prescriptions costs under control.
We both have regular physicals, see the dermatologist yearly, get new glasses every two years, and see a dentist twice a year. Betty gets new hearing aids as required. We have very high deductible health insurance that keeps premiums under control but that means we pay for most everything out of pocket. Betty has several health challenges that she manages the best she can by knowing as much about her problems and treatments as any doctor she deals with.
Are there people who pay a lot more? Sure there are. The article didn't say everyone in America can be exactly like us. It gave a snapshot of our situation so others could decide if they are better or worse off in certain areas. But to assume we never go to the doctor and still leave a satisfying retirement is kind of silly.
"You can't use the phrase 'low cost retirement' and Scarsdale, NY in the same sentence."
There was a woman profiled who actually did live in Scarsdale and is living well in retirement on not much money. Scottsdale isn't exactly low-rent but we are making it work. Of course, some places are more expensive than others but we choose to live here for all the reasons listed in the article. If someone is living in an expensive community then logic dictates that will be part of the financial calculation to develop a plan for retirement. Could we live on less money somewhere else? Probably. But family, church, and friends are too important. It is part of the cost of retirement we are willing to bear.
"How do you save money like that with the average American living paycheck to paycheck?"
The implication in the question is that you can't. I would respond that the median income for Americans is over $46,000 a year (more than we live on in high-rent Scottsdale). That average American family is carrying a $15,000 credit card debt, at least one car loan, a hefty first mortgage, and very likely a home equity loan. They are living paycheck to paycheck because they are overextended, over their heads in debt, and unwilling to delay gratification.
If your income situation is much more modest, then saving is a real problem. I am not minimizing the mess the economy has made of millions of lives. But, in that situation you are not likely to be anticipating retirement anytime soon which of course, was the focus of the article.
"Don't they (the magazine) do articles on folks with a nest egg of $50,000 or less?
If someone has less than $50,000 in a nest egg and is even thinking about retirement, they are in deep denial. The terrifying fact is the average American at age 50 does have just $50,000 set aside for retirement. That person has no legitimate hope of retiring, unless they want to attempt to survive on a typical monthly social security check of less than $1,200 (before deductions for Medicare).
What worries me the most about the tone of some of the "comments" left on the web site is the obvious lack of grasp of reality and what needs to be done to achieve one's goals. There is an undercurrent of looking to blame others for a lack of planning, of sacrifice, and of common sense.
The sad, horrible fact is that way too many of our fellow citizens will never be able to experience a truly satisfying retirement. For many, that reality is not due to any failure on their part. They are being passed over and trod underfoot by the way our world operates now. Their future is bleak. It should bother us tremendously.
But, the other side of that coin is that many millions could experience a tremendously gratifying retirement experience. But, they are not willing to take personal responsibility for the choices they make today that directly impact their future tomorrow.
Retirement is all about choices. Make the right ones and a satisfying retirement can be yours.