A week or so ago I posted the highlights of a national study completed for the Sunamerica financial people. Whether the percentages mirror the population as I whole I'll leave to statisticians. But, because it was an update of a similar study done 10 years ago I found the changes in attitude important to consider. If you missed the original post, click here to read it.
What I am doing hereis looking at a handful of the findings to see what conclusions I can draw. You may disagree or have additional thoughts. I trust you will use the "comment" space at the end to add your views.
•Today, 54% view retirement as a new chapter in life, rather than a winding down—a significant increase over the 38% that held a similar view a decade ago. This doesn't surprise me in the least. In the 13 months Satisfying Retirement has been around, I have not had one single indication from any source that retirement means a rocking chair, 18 holes of golf, and a life of complete leisure.
Exactly the opposite has been true. Now retirement is a word that describes a completely different phase of someone's life. It is a time of exploration, of discovery, or growth. It no longer means the end of work. Rather it means having the freedom to choose to work full time, part time, cycling in and out of employment, or even starting one's own business. In fact, I get the very real sense that retirement has the potential for being one of the fullest and most gratifying periods of life.
•Retirement is being postponed: Pre-retirees say they now intend to delay retirement by five years—from age 64 to age 69—triggered in part by increasing longevity, as well as the recession and financial need. Again, I would concur though I would add an additional reason: lots of folks enjoy what they do and see no reason to stop. If someone is good at what he or she does, do they suddenly stop being competent at a set age? Of course not. If retirement equals a time of increased choices and freedom, then one of those choices is to decide retirement begins when you say it begins.
•Retirement no longer means the end of work: Almost two-thirds say they would ideally like to remain productive and include work in retirement. As already noted, working during retirement is an increasingly common occurrence. Financial reasons may be an important motivator. But staying vital, relevant. and productive, or fostering a sense of contribution are legitimate reasons, too. Because what you do is fun may be your motivation. Maybe you've always wanted to open a book store, coffee shop, or fabric store. Do it now. The Sunamerica study found The top reason people want to work during retirement is “the stimulation and satisfaction” rather than the money.
•85% say they now appreciate the importance of quality relationships with their friends and family even more after the recession. Maybe it is a function of maturity. Maybe it is a growing sense of one's own mortality. Maybe it is understanding that you aren't taking anything tangible with you when you die. Whatever the reason, the understanding is that family, friends, and solid relationships support you during good times and bad. When your financial boat has sprung a bunch of leaks, it is relief to know there are people who have your back. There are folks who will love you and help you and even care for you regardless of the state of your 401(k).
•Three-quarters say the last several years have provided a much-needed financial wake-up call, and 81% report they have learned important lessons regarding saving, investing and preparing for retirement. I hope that is true. Too many times in the past we have seen a crisis, like a huge gas price increase, or an economic downturn, prompt similar pronouncements of a new awakening to financial reality. Then, when things start to get better sales of giant SUVs jump, folks "trade up" to bigger homes, and savings rates approach zero.
In this case the proof will be in our actions when things improve and stay that way. 78% say they can still have a fulfilling retirement by being more financially disciplined. That is an encouraging number, but will it hold?
I am well aware there are many retirees who have been severely hurt by the economic downturn. I know there are millions of folks who find themselves upside down in their mortgage situation through a combination of mistakes, both theirs and by banks or lenders. Like you I read about foreclosures, social welfare safety net cutbacks, and people desperate to hold it together. The optimistic numbers in this study are not meant to suggest everything is swell. That is clearly not the case. Some of our fellow citizens are really hurting and need our help and support.
I think the message from this study is that for the many retirees there is an attitude of hope, of adjustment, and of a sense of renewal that bodes well for all of us. Personally, I am very glad my retirement is not that of previous generations. I'm too young for the rocking chair on the porch just yet.