April 19, 2013

Enough Already!


These are just a few of the headlines I’ve seen in the last few weeks.

The Greatest Retirement Crisis In American History
Retirement confidence at record low
Retirement getting further away
Survey: More Americans Unprepared for Retirement
Retirement worry is highest in 23 years

I've written before about the apparent love affair the media has for this subject. The end of all retirement, not just a satisfying retirement, is inevitable.  Aren't we getting a little tired of this drumbeat of disaster? Hasn't this doomsday message been sent enough? Is there any benefit from making things appear so bleak?

I am not Pollyanna. The last several years have been rough – very rough – for a lot of folks. Too many have lost their savings, their livelihood, their homes, and their future. Their retirement will not be what they thought it would be. Their pain is real and their plight must not be ignored.

But, to continually read that none of us will escape the tough times is simply not true. To assume that we will all have to work until we are 80, choose between meals or medicine, and live out our “golden years” as a ward of the state or in a relative’s spare room does a disservice to us all.

For almost three years I have been writing about retirement in all its various forms. Personally, I have undergone several changes in what I thought my retirement would look like. I have downsized and cut expenses. I have discovered new interests and passions that I didn’t know existed until I retired. I have found satisfaction in simple pleasures and the joy of experiences and friends instead of things.

Over 8,000 comments from you has convinced me that I am not alone. We retirees (and soon-to-be retirees) are a rather resilient bunch. If the plans we made don’t work we make new plans. If a lifestyle we thought we would live for the rest of our days no longer satisfies us or is not doable due to circumstances, we adjust.

What we don’t do is grouse about the unfairness of things. We don’t play the victim. We don’t talk about all the things we can’t do or can’t afford. We don’t give up and accept defeat (whatever that means to each of us).

Attitude is a force that can move mountains. Attitude is a force that can reshape problems into opportunities. Attitude is completely under our control.

I can promise you that Satisfying Retirement blog will not have posts with any of the headlines above. I can promise you that retirement today is alive and well, waiting for you to define it your way, live it under your terms, and spend this part of your life fully engaged and full of passion.

To accept the alternative is simply not an option.

What do you think?

29 comments:

  1. I totally agree. The one I currently cannot stand is someone I used to watch- Suze Orman. She used to have good ideas. Now she is a drum beat of "never retire". Just because her mama is living in her 90's does not mean we all will.
    We can live a reasonable lifestyle within our means. We never had a million in income- so why do we need it now?
    I only know one couple who is delaying retirement because they HAVE to. They never saved money when they were younger, why should it be different now? Don't worry though- you will see them on TV in 20 years saying the 2007 recession crushed them. Blah, blah, blah.

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    1. My new book will reflect exactly what you are saying: very few folks either delayed their retirement or plan to because of economics. Frankly, I was pleasantly surprised that the vast majority has weathered the "storm" well and still plans on a fully satisfying retirement.

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  2. I couldn't agree more!

    It is amazing how little money you need to be happy in retirement. It isn't about stuff - it's about experiences.

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    1. Exactly, Rick.

      Betty and I are living on 50% of my pre-retirement income and are quite happy with a lifestyle that emphasizes experiences and friendship over things.

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  3. I agree that it's tiresome to wallow in this kind of news. However, it does serve the purpose of raising awareness about the ever changing landscape of "retirement". It can make us more conscious of our need for self-reliance and flexibility. Doom and gloom notwithstanding, the next generations need to keep a clear head on their shoulders and plan for well for their futures. Not everyone is as well off or as capable as you and your readers. So, for my part, I will continue to read some of the negative stuff along with the happy stuff and hopefully learn a little from both.

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    1. Good point, Jane. The negative stuff has lessons to be taught. What bothers me is the assumption or belief that retirement, in any form, is no longer possible.

      As I sit in my RV in northern New Mexico typing this comment, I am very aware I am blessed to lead the type of life I am leading. But, it wasn't without a lot of work, planning, and sacrifice. If I believed all the cri9es of disaster after the dot.com bust just two years before I retired, I'd probably still be working!

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  4. Amen Bob! I have a theory that these negative articles are sponsored by the government, to try to keep us all from collecting social security so they can keep using the money. And co-sponsored by investment firms telling us we never, ever will have enough money so we should keep giving more to them. And I'm only half kidding about that.

    So many of these articles tell us we have to maintain the same income we had working once we retire. They don't take into account our willingness to cut back. They don't consider the reduced expenses in clothing and transportation when you don't have to go to work every day. They don't consider the savings from something as simple as cooking at home more. They don't want to admit that the wants and needs of people that are 65, 75 and up are any different from those of people that are 35.
    For some reason the media pictures boomers as a spoiled/selfish generation. I think this is far from the truth. We are volunteering in massive numbers. We are realizing that our time is more valuable than money. We are willing to do what we need to do to spend more of that time on ourselves, our families and friends and our communities.

    Thank you for being a voice of reason in the sea of gloom and doom.

    To the nay sayers I say......PHHHT. Just watch us.

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    1. While i don't subscribe to the "government" theory, I am sure those who make money off of the doom and gloom business have a vested interest in keeping it high profile.

      The old saw that you "needed" 80% of your pre-retirement income is just flat out wrong. You "need" enough to pay your bills and enjoy your life. For most of the folks I know the income requirement isn't anywhere near 80%.

      Of course, you can choose to live at that level of income, or even higher, if your financial situation allows it, and that is fine. But, to claim it is a minimum requirement is wrong.

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  5. It is true that all the headlines are based on needing 1-2 million to retire. You can do it on soooo much less and you are proof of that and so am I. I live an exciting retirement. I work a little doing only things I love, when I wish to do them.

    I travel slow and easy to exotic places, which is far less expensive than a one week see-it-all kind of vacation.I feel an constant undercurrent of contentment for very little cost.It is a beautiful time of life and I did not need any millions to do it!

    Nice post and a good reminder that fear can make you stay in a job too long and you miss out on some amazing times.

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    1. "A constant undercurrent of contentment"......I love that. That is an excellent description of my retirement. Isn't that a great definition of success, at whatever income level?

      Thanks, Kelly.

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  6. I agree with rjack....it is amazing how little money you need to be happy in retirement. If you have a champagne taste and a beer income, and want to continue to live that way in retirment, plus take debt into retirement...you may have lots of problems. But, it also costs a good deal to go to "work" and maintain your career...clothes, vehichle, office participation gifts (ie:baby showers, weddings, purchasing from the party buys...like jewelry, housewares). You have time to do a lot of things you bought convenience for when you worked...ie:fast food, repairs,etc. Besides that, sometimes I wonder how I would have ever been able to get off work to keep all my medical appointments if I were still working..ha...I joke that sometimes it feels like my social life:) That aside, we can not expect our population to work until they are 80..they will not be physically able. The ones that feel they can't retire, are either guided by the fear that our society puts on them that they need astronomical amounts to retire or the fear that they just won't know what to do with themselves when they do. Just some of my random thoughts. Personally, I wonder how I ever found time to work and wish I had back some of the cash I frittered away while working.

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    1. I have nothing of real substance to add to your comment, Linda. You've said it well.

      Not knowing what to do with up to 1/3 of your life is a sad situation and all too common.

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  7. I think a lot of the rhetoric is about retiring like my father-in-law did. None of my generation could sit on their behind and do nothing for 30 years. We are active in so many ways, whether paid or not.
    b

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    1. Yes, the definition of what retirement looks like is at the heart of the problem. Live in a gated community in a 3,000 square foot home, play golf 5 days a week, eat all your meals out, and spend your summers in Aspen = a lifestyle that appeals to very few people I know. Most of us want to contribute, grow, and enjoy all aspects of life. The old model of retirement is a model for a slow death.

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  8. You're preaching to the choir, Brother Bob! As the Dalai Lama says, if a problem has a solution, no need to worry. If a problem doesn't have a solution, no need to worry.

    If we take responsibility for our lives, then we make the best choices we can based on the information we have and a good measure of self awareness and intuition.

    My first year of retirement was not at all what I had envisioned. Life is what happens as we are busy making other plans, as John Lennon said. (This is the quotation comment!) But it's all good. We can spend our time fretting, or we can spend our time living.

    I'm so glad that you are not only staying on your message, but you are also calling out the doomsayers and exposing them.

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    1. Well, sing along with me, sister!

      I have never read the Dalai Lama's quote before but he says it all.

      The RV trip I'm on reminds me every hour of every day what a retirement can look like.:it is one I redesign on a continual basis.

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  9. One thing the financial community does that drives me bonkers is their insistence that you need an income stream equal to 80% of your former income in retirement. That old standby fails to account for the very many of us that chose to live below, rather than at, our incomes.

    Fortunately, our financial planners do get that, though I know they had their doubts in the beginning. With three years of proof that, yes, we can indeed live happily and well in retirement on just a small percentage of our former dual incomes, they have become believers.

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  10. OK I'll take the counterpoint.

    The statistics are real. In general, people are NOT saving enough. People have been using their homes as a line of credit to buy stuff they don't need so they can show it off to people they don't care about.

    OK so it doesn't apply to you -- or your readers. But trust me: it's everywhere. The crisis IS real. Younger people need to hear the stories so they can learn to take responsibility for their own futures and save some money.

    Congratulations to all those on this blog who are satisfied with their retirements. Many, many people will not be.

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    1. Jim, thanks for your thoughts. It is always good to have a counterpoint.

      Trust me, I am well aware there are people who will not retire and who are hurting. What I object to is the scare tactic involved in the examples of headlines above. There have always been folks who didn't save enough or prepare properly and there always will be.

      Young people aren't the target of the stories with those screaming headline. Those headlines will not motivate a 25 or 35 year old to change their ways if they haven't already figured out how to prepare for their future.

      All that being said, I sincerely appreciate your thoughts. A lively discussion is so much more instructive than if everyone agrees.

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    2. Bob I understand what you're saying. But in news stories, people should extract those lessons from them that are instructive to them. So perhaps the stories not directed at the younger generations, at least in the minds of the authors. But younger people can see the headlines and witness the impact of poor financial discipline and take lessons from that. Resolve is borne from many unintended events. I hope my daughter is reading and listening to stories like these so she will have the resolve she needs to retire with satisfaction. So far, I think she gets it.

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  11. During the financial crisis, my 403(b) lost 25% of its value. (Fortunately for me, I had used a relatively conservative investment strategy.) I was already over 60 and really didn't want to delay my retirement past the age 66 that I had been planning on. So I sat down and took a realistic look at my budget, figured out where I could shave expenses, and committed myself to saving three years living expenses in the 5 years that were left before my retirement. This has allowed me to retire at the time I had planned, but to delay starting to draw on my retirement funds for three years, giving those funds a little more time to recover. I also realized that, if I had to, I could work part time to supplement my retirement income. -Jean

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    1. Your story is a good example of someone adjusting to the reality that faces him or her. We all make plans but rarely do they happen in the way we think. Either we throw up our hands and give up all our dreams, or we figure out a workable solution.

      If there is one excuse that drives me crazy it is the one that begins with " they did this to me. It wasn't my fault." Maybe so, but it becomes your responsibility to have the last laugh.

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  12. Believe it or not, my thought on this is a counterpoint as well. I say this as someone who has spent most of her savings and lives on social security, a pension and has reasonably priced medical care. My life is full in every sense. Most people retiring to day will not have what I have, have higher medical costs, and have no cushion whatsoever. I do agree that some people have unreasonable expectations and adjust their lifestyles to those that are very rewarding. That said, I'm not sure that this group of bloggers are typle retirees, and the real numbers on retirees in trouble is pretty staggering

    The truth is, poverty amonng retirees has risen substantially percentage wise in the last ten years. almost ten percent of retired americans live in true poverty. It constinues to rise. Much of this is out of retirees hands, but some could have been dealth with my better planiing. I work with hunger issues. Seniors experiencing true hunger hs increased eighty percent. Agencies that deal with these issues are overhwhelmed. There is also a huge gap (as in society) between wealthy and poor retirees. more are at either end rather than in the middle. agencies like meals on wheels are completely strapped and overwhelmed. People are planning based on the old model (and one that I am blessed to have) rather than the real model of retirement. this is a very good breakdown by reuters: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/08/07/us-column-miller-poverty-idUSBRE8760VW20120807

    I'll add that the currentl medical model has contributed greatly to this problem and I see no real solution. Also we have lost the model of multi family relationships. The reason many of our parents managed was because they shared homes, lived with children and the like........models that we rarely see any more.

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    1. Good points, Barb. I am happy that there are been some comments that give a different perspective on the issue. I always present my thoughts and opinions but encourage other viewpoints. How else will I learn?

      I will be the first to admit I am shielded from much of what you report. I continue to believe that the media likes sensationalism and eye-grabbing headlines. But, regardless of how it is reported there is a serious problem that is probably getting worse.

      BTW, how do you like snowy Denver? We just left central Texas after spending 9 days there. It was windy but at least we ddidn't have to worry about snow!

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    2. I would not mind the snow so much were it not in April. Last year in April the average temp was seventy degrees. I would not mind this in December and January, but I expect that next year I will be travelingto the gulf coast or elsewhere (I need my ocean) for Feb, March, and April (as opposed to folks in the pacific north west who come down earlier and often leave earlier.

      Yep, the wind on the high plains and elsewhere in texas is high-as I understnad it thats part of what makes the huge heat and humidity in the Houston area.

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  13. I feel fortunate to be comfortable in retirement - a combination of a decent education and career, a reluctance to become a bag lady, and an inheritance from my mother. Still, my husband and I are frugal in many ways. We know what we could cut out.

    I get restless when I don't have opportunities to be useful in my life. So I volunteer. I expect many of us will do that.

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    1. I don't think you ever have to worry about becoming a bag lady, Linda, or bored.

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  14. I missed this blog. As you can imagine, I have an opinion about it. First of all, it's just plain unrealistic to expect to work for 40-45 years and then 'play' for 30 years. There are some policy issues that have to be addressed and certainly the cost of healthcare is one of them. The majority of healthcare costs are end of life extraordinary measures that make money for doctors and hospitals, provide hope for families and prolong life, but not necessarily quality of... Retirees are coming up with all kinds of inventive ways to make and save money. I'm intrigued by the ingenious ways people are reinventing living in communities. Great conversation that will continue as those pesky BB reach 65 and beyond.

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    1. I don't remember the exact percentage, but something in the range of 80% of all money spent on health care is spent in the last year of a person's life. Our system is such that life will be prolonged at any cost for any additional period of time, with the quality of that extension never considered.

      My mom is a good example. Before her death in December 2010, she was in and out of the hospital twice a week for the last six months of her life. Even though she lived in a nursing care center, they were required to call an ambulance for the 1 mile ride to the hospital each time if they deemed her situation critical.

      She had to be the one that said "enough." She signed up for hospice and the insanity of the cycle she was in ended. Her last 2 months were peaceful and a much better way for her to end her journey.

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