March 10, 2012

Predictions of Our Retirement Future: Agree or Disagree?

Making predictions can be dangerous. After all, with the Internet anything you say can and will be used against you well into the future. But, being fearless I will proceed anyway with a few glimpses into what I think may happen in our satisfying retirement future.


1) Many of us will go back to work. For some, re-entering the work force will be by necessity. Pensions, investments, real estate price collapses, unexpected health costs, helping a family member....the reasons can be as numerous as there are retirees. But, collecting a paycheck after someone "officially" retires will become too normal to even note.

Some of us will go back to working because we miss the camaraderie or stimulation of an office, retail establishment, or factory floor. While the extra money is nice, for these folks it won't be the primary motivator.

Still more will decide this is the perfect time to start a new business, or turn a hobby into a money-making venture. Opportunities will be as numerous as someone's creativity and drive allow.

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2) Health costs will get much worse before getting better. I've written about this enough that I won't belabor the point. Just suffice it to say, I predict the health care picture in the United States is going to get increasingly grim for an increasingly large percentage of our population. Only after several years of applying patches and stop-gap measure to a system-wide problem, will serious solutions begin to be implemented. I am not at all optimistic that anything short of a near collapse of the system will have to occur first. We are very good at kicking the damaged and leaking can down the road time and time again.

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3) Extended families will come back into fashion. As part of the problem created by the health care mess, I predict that multi-generational homes will become more typical. Less than one hundred years ago it was quite common for a young family, their parents, and even a great-grandmother to reside in the same home. In many cultures around the world having more than the nuclear family in one home is normal. Personally, I think everyone benefits when families are connected in this way, learning, sharing, and supporting each other. Valuable lessons of responsibility and consequences are taught to the young and old alike.

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4) Simple & frugal living will be the mainstream. Over-consumption will be considered abnormal. Sure, there will always be the "keeping up with the Joneses" mindset. I'm afraid that is human nature. But, a throw-away culture that actually accepts the concept of planned obsolescence in manufactured products cannot continue indefinitely. If for no other reason than the crushing financial burden of $100+ a barrel oil, how we have lived can't continue. I grew up with the American Dream. My goals were to accumulate lots of money, own a few homes, vacation in exotic locations, and give my kids everything. I pursued and lived that dream for several decades until a cold dose of reality shattered that game plan.

The end result was an awareness that such a lifestyle was ultimately a failure. None of those material possessions or choices resulted in happiness. Only when I was forced to re-look at how I was using my limited resources did I grasp that I am much happier with fewer "things" and more people in my life. 

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5) The biggest threat to our safety and security will not be from a foreign country, but from our reliance on technology. Virtually our entire financial system, national security, and provision for basic necessities are controlled by computers. Hacking, spamming, phishing, and deliberate attempts to defraud and destroy people and institutions are the full time "jobs" of tens of thousands of people around the world. They are dedicated to making your life unpleasant, or downright miserable. Computer systems are so prevalent and so easily disrupted, that our society is at much more at risk of a technological attack then a military one.

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6) A satisfying retirement will look virtually nothing like your parent's, and certainly not like your grandparents. The definition of the word is already undergoing a complete overhaul. In fact, the entire concept may cease to exist. Maybe life will simply be seen as a series of stages that we move through, some more work-intensive, and some more growth and reflection-based. But, there won't be a magic line in the sand that once you step over it, everything changes.

Are you ready to put on your thinking cap, gaze into that crystal ball, or break open a fortune cookie? You may disagree with one or more of the above predictions and want to help me see the light. Or, maybe there is another trend or reality looming in our future that needs to be discussed. The nice thing about predictions is everyone can have them and be just as likely to be correct. So, fire away.

17 comments:

  1. Bob, as gloomy as most of this sounds, I have to agree with you on all but one point. I think many older folks will want to keep working but it may not be that easy. Companies have been shedding older employees to cut costs all over the country. Then, when they try to find new employment, however humble, they often never even get an interview. And I fear it's worse for women. Professionals like doctors and lawyers and the self employed will be able to go on. But, I don't think working into our 70s will not be an option for many of us.
    Powerful post...lots of food for thought. Thanks.

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  2. I certainly agree, Jane, that trying to continue working in the same position or even with the same company will be tough. Smart companies realize the value of experience that older workers bring to the table, but the costs both in salary and health care are major obstacles.

    Working past retirement will very likely be in a part time position for a different company. It could be a Home Depot or Walmart-type situation. It may be as a cashier at a supermarket. Or, it could be starting a side business by turning a hobby into some income like woodworking or quilting or consulting. I know a man who teach classes at a local community college for both the money and satisfaction it brings in interacting with younger folks.

    I do believe the economy is recovering so more opportunities will open up. But, for now, it will take work to find work.

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  3. Hi Bob, yeah you are kind of gloomy here ;) I got a couple of new ones that are a little brighter but first on your list. The extended family one will probably be more frequent. When it happens we have to realize the stress involved and do things to relieve it. The stress is from the person coming into the home losing their independence and also the homeowner who loses some autonomy and freedom.
    The second item is the terrorist attack on our computer systems. I am a retired information tech guy and know that if the backup systems are maintained properly the disruption from a cyberattack will likely be temporary in nature. The major problem in this areas is EMP which is a pulse put out when a nuclear bomb is set off in the area. It fries almost all electronics around the bomb site. The web is not a thing but thousands, maybe millions of things si to take it down for everyone is almost impossible.

    now on to my additions to your list:
    7) We will become green whether we like it our not. We can't sustain our dependance on unrenewable foreign resources indefinitely. There will come a day where everyone will finally realize that fact. I believe that some future president will have an initiative similar to what got us to the moon in the 60s to make us energy independent. We gave the technology now it just take wil from here out.

    8) Sanity will come back to our political processes. Everyone will finally say enough is enough and start working together for common good again. Pie in the sky? Probably but I think it will eventually happen.

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    1. Gloomy? me? Yeah, maybe. OK...I feel better now.

      Both your additions are good ones. #7 will happen a lot sooner than #8 and that isn't gloomy, just realistic. I like the idea of an inspirational leader to push us into green and away from depending on a resource from our enemy. That is just so silly I'm surprised we still fight to stay tied to oil.

      I was hoping President Obama would ride his train of change and hope to the green energy station. But, I'm afraid putting all his eggs in the health care battle depleted way too much political capital.

      Sanity in the political process may take another generation. We have to get all the old (primarily) men out of office and start with younger men and women who don't have 20 or 30 years of anger and chits waiting to be cashed in.

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  4. I.m with Jane on the job picture. Many retirees will not be ABLE to find a job, even at Home Depot or as a Walmart greeter. (this is one of the problems I have with raising SS age-yes, we're healthy but the jobs are not there). and frankly, any time a senior takes a job like that, it means a college entry or high school student looses it-a no win situation.

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    1. You very well may be right. It will take a very large growth in the job market to accommodate everyone who wants to work. Predictions I read say that is at least 5-7 years away. That doesn't change the unfortunate fact that many seniors really NEED to work.

      Good point about Social Security. Luckily no one is talking about any age raise for those already over 55, but that doesn't mean more means testing of income or other ways to attempt to reign in the costs.

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    2. I just saw this story on the Internet this morning about jobs afer retirement and thought it would add to our discussion:
      http://bit.ly/yI7d76

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    3. Bob, I read this article but, I remain gloomy on job prospects for seniors. The survey was small (878 workers) and frankly "planning" to get a part time job, "needing" to get a job, and "wanting" to work in retirement are not the same thing as actually achieving it. I'm sure the job market varies too, according to the size of the city or town you live in.
      As a side note, my daughter is human resources professional and has worked for several companies including a Temp agency during her layoff...she said they coach and help applicants to tailor their resumes to disguise their age. Employers will screen applicants carefully discarding older people before interviewing. Of course they would never admit to doing this publicly or in a survey.
      As to small part time jobs, there are a few and they are highly sought after that's for sure. But, not nearly enough for everyone who wants them. Like Barb, I don't know if they are worth taking away from the young folks.
      I do think once the boomers move through that our kids will have lots more opportunities and maybe there will be shortages of workers and they will have the advantage of working longer. If that is really an advantage I don't know, but it will most likely be a necessity for them.
      Thanks for the follow up and the article...I hope I'm wrong!

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    4. If we think back over the last few years most predictions have missed by a mile. I may be looking at the jobs prospect through my "happy" glasses. I hope not, but you may be much more on target.

      I'll put a note in my tickler file for a year from now and see where we stand.

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  5. I agree with your assessment, Bob, and only hope the future is that rosy! I just finished watching a movie the weekend called The Agenda - a documentary about how the communists have been making it their stated agenda since 1958 to bring down capitolism and every one of the things they've worked to achieve in the past 50 years has come to pass in our country. Instead of declaring a war on us or bringing about open revolution, they've been working for the inside to bring about moral decay, which we can see evidence of every day.

    I usually take those things with a grain of salt but as a student of history myself, I can't fault their research as all the points in the movie can be documented and they tell you where to go for further reading.

    Sorry to bring up politics but ever since I watched this movie, it's really been on my mind. If you haven't seen it, I think you'd find it interesting, to say the least. I'd love to hear a more upbeat take on the subject than how I ended up feeling.

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    1. Not a good way to start the new week, Joan! I haven't heard of the film but I'll see if I can locate it. I'm not big on conspiracy theories in general, but that doesn't mean what we see is always the "rest of the story."

      After Jane and RJ's comments that my predictions were a bit on the gloomy side I was thinking last night if I could come up with few more cheery ones:

      *Our health care system is an expensive mess, but many of us will live to a ripe old age, relatively healthy and active well past the time our parents had pretty much shut down.

      *Google and Facebook will buy the world. No, just kidding. Google's power and reach will continue to increase until it is part of virtually every nook and crannie of the Internet. Then, a new something will come along to challenge and eventually de-throne the king. Every time anything becomes too ubiquitous( I love that word!) something new is invented or developed that makes us wonder how we lived without it.

      * Our new puppy will eventually realize that using the rug for a toilet is not correct.

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  6. Bob, the full title of the movie is The Agenda, Grinding America Down. There is a trailer on YouTube here

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SH8LkIqu1c8

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  7. I pray that #3 will come bck into fashion. I can do loads more for my kids and they for me thannot combining households. I am thinking of going into business building grandparent houses behind kid houses. I don't know what the childless people are going to do...and there are many more than ever before.

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    1. I think my in-laws are planning on living with their son and my daughter and family when they can no longer remain independent.

      I never had a big family, but now with various brothers and sisters in law, their kids, and my in-laws I enjoy getting us all together. It is fun to be part of a big clan.

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  8. My husband and I are thankful that we are able to live on our own and will continue to do so as long as we can. Of course we are still in our late 50's so we hope it will be at least 40 years before we have to face living with our children. Either of our boys and their wives would take us in but we want to be on our own as long as we can.

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    1. Late 50's...heavens you are still youngsters!

      It is fabulous that your sons and families will be there for you when you need it. Obviously, you raised them well.

      BTW, I added your blog back on my blogroll...I had lost track of you until today and your comments!

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