August 27, 2017

Social Security: How Worried Are You About Its Future?

According to official figures, 53% of married couples and 74% of unmarried Americans count on Social Security for at least half of their retirement income. Almost half of those unmarried persons rely on Social Security for virtually all of their income. In real numbers that means probably living on less than $1,300 a month. 

Enough has been written about the problems facing Social Security and the dwindling funds meant to support it. Demographic factors, government's use of the money intended for Social Security for other purposes, and the politics of it all could spell a shaky future ahead for something that virtually all older Americans receive. Various dates have been published, but most predict there will not be enough money to pay full benefits beginning in the next 12-17 years.

Small Cost-of living adjustments were made this year, but disappeared for most because of an increase in Medicare Part B costs that matched the increase (strange how that happens). Full Retirement age also started moving upwards this year. For those born in 1955, 66 years and 2 months becomes the new age to reap 100% of expected monthly payments.

The effect will be small but produce an unexpected consequence: choosing to receive checks at 62 will actually mean taking benefits that are reduced even further than one might expect because of those pesky 2 months. And, that reduction will continue for the rest of one's life. The full retirement age will continue to increase by 2 months for those born in subsequent years until it reaches 67 for those born after 1959.

I don't want this post to become political finger-pointing. There are enough reasons and blame for Social Security's problems to go around. Since the problems became obvious to anyone paying attention, both parties, Congress and presidents have kicked the can down the road. In about a decade there is going to be no more road.

The questions I'd like you to consider are: how worried are you that your benefits are going to be cut? How will that affect you? Do you think your children or grandchildren will face a future without Social Security? 

What may be the solutions: Full retirement becomes 70, reduced payments are made to those who have substantial portfolios, the payroll tax increases, it becomes illegal to tap the Trust Fund for other uses?

For blog readers in other countries, what does your government do with the idea of retirement checks? Is your system in good shape, or are you just as concerned as many Americans?

This could become a fascinating sharing experience for us all. I doubt we will solve the problems, but we may learn something along the way that helps us plan our future.

August 24, 2017

What Time Do You Start Your Retirement Day?

I will admit, the posts that get the most readership and comments are never the ones I expect. This one is a good example. First posted over 4 years ago, it continues to be read to this day. The original post had many more comments than I thought it would generate. I guess the topic is universal and we are all curious about what other folks do.

In any case, here is the original post from early in 2013:

One of the questions I get asked on a fairly regular basis is what a typical day of my satisfying retirement looks like. The answer I usually give is there are no typical days. Except for beginning each morning with breakfast and answering blog comments and e-mails, there is no set routine. I have made a determined effort over the last few years to not have my calendar look like it did when I was working.

True, I have a to-do list of things I must or want to accomplish each day:things like reminding me to empty the trash and roll out the cans, refill a prescription, finish a post, water the pots...the basic stuff of a day. But, my calendar doesn't say when when I must do these things. That happens when it happens. 

I have tried a more structured approach: guitar playing from 10-10:30, take out trash at 1:00 and so forth. But, I'd never follow the times listed. Eventually, I realized there was no reason for the tasks to be completed at a certain time of the day so I just dropped that silliness completely.

There is one area, though, that I can't quite get a comfortable feel for: when to get up in the morning. I guess it is part of my personality but I have always believed that the "early bird gets the worm." Over the years, both before and after retirement, I have tried getting up at various times. My body quickly tells me it isn't happy with some of my choices. For a while the alarm went off at 5:00 am. By mid morning I was ready for a nap, which kind of defeated the purpose. I've experimented with 5:30 with similar results. 

I had always heard that older folks (I qualify by now) need less sleep. I have a friend who wake up at 2:00 in the morning and spend a few hours on the computer or reading. Another fellow can't sleep past 4:30. I, on the other hand, am finding I am sleeping later. Being awakened by the alarm just after 6 O'clock seems like the middle of the night. Recently, Betty and I have been getting up sometime between 7 and 7:30 if there is no morning appointment. 

Am I turning into a sludge? Am I missing a few valuable hours each day because I am lazy? Should I follow the old bromide that I can sleep when I'm dead?

Steve Pavlina is a superb blogger, writer, and self development teacher. Among his thousands of interesting articles are several on becoming an early riser. Clearly he is of the "get up before the sun" contingent. He makes it clear he links success in life with being an early riser. 

Two posts of his that I have re-read several times are How to Become an Early Riser Part 1 and How to Become an Early Riser Part 2He provides specific steps that anyone can take to gain control over the time one's day begins. I read these, feel guilty, and try again to get up early. Each time I cannot pull it off. As he suggests, I go to bed when I am tired but can't master the getting up early part. 

So, my question to you is simple: when do you wake up on a normal morning? Are you the the type that hits the ground running  even before the birds are awake, or do you enjoy a slow start that puts a premium on lingering in bed as long as you dare? Have you found a way to adjust your schedule that works for you? 

Even if every single comment is from someone who has checked the Internet, jogged 5 miles, and read three chapters of War and Peace before the sun comes up, I am not likely to try the early bird route again. All of us have a unique way to make the most of our days. I love to read how others use their time and make the most of their retirement journey.

So, tell us!

August 21, 2017

Loosening the Purse Strings

When I first retired I was worried about my finances. Would the money we had invested and saved be enough? Since I quit work a good ten years earlier than I planned, how would we pay for everything that was to come? Would we end up in a spare room in one of our kids' homes? 

Regular blog readers know the answer: Everything worked out just fine. My financial fears lasted a few years and then slowly faded away. As we became used to our new lifestyle we understood how flexible we could become to match income to expenses. We shifted our thinking from having to doing. We saw overall expenses drop to 50% of what they had once been even as our happiness increased.

Seventeen years into our satisfying retirement journey we are wrestling with another financial question: how do we accept that is OK to spend a bit more on experiences and things that would make us happier at home? How do we give ourselves permission to spend more? How do you loosen the purse strings?

Both Betty and I are financially conservative. We aren't big risk takers (except for retiring so early!) in how we manage our money. Beginning with our first steps into the financial world we have taken baby steps in the stock market. Its tendency to overreact to emotions, innuendos, or the fear of the day, rub us the wrong way. I tend to prefer the tortoise over the hare in the child's story. I have missed many growth opportunities by following this path. But, I have lost less sleep (and money) than others who were whipped wildly up and down by the market's gyrations. 

That all brings us to today. Our IRA and investment accounts have grown since leaving the world world in 2001. Granted, a healthy part of that is from my share of my parents' estate. That gave us all sorts of breathing room. The net result is what we have been withdrawing each year is less than the accounts generate. 

One of our personal goals is to leave a decent inheritance to our daughters. Each share won't be large enough to fund their retirements, but should be an important safety net for each. I know people have different views on leaving money for their kids. The last time I wrote about this there were some none-too-subtle suggestions that adult children shouldn't get anything; we worked for the money so It was ours to spend. I accept that point of view, I just disagree. 

Another goal is to enjoy the fruits of our sacrifices earlier in life. Delayed gratification was a linchpin to our financial planning. But, importantly, that shouldn't mean, delayed forever. Never doing some of the things we dreamed about would be wrong. That would make the earlier sacrifices futile. 

Interestingly, early in our retirement when our financial situation was less secure, we went to Europe twice and spent several glorious weeks in Hawaii on two different occasions. Last summer we took a long-delayed Alaskan Cruise and loved every moment of it. The memories were tremendous and the experiences very positive. Did i worry about how much we spent? Yes.

Two months ago we decided take the big plunge and book a river cruise from Amsterdam to Basal in Switzerland. The cost will be substantial. We splurged for upgraded airline economy seating, a full balcony room on the ship, added extra days before and after the trip, as well as pricey travel and medical insurance. When I was presented with the final bill, I swallowed very hard, and said, OK.

I told myself not to think of it as a large percentage of our yearly budget, but as an investment in our lives together, something we'd look back upon as a highlight forever. With this trip, I believe I have accepted that the money we worked so hard to accumulate is there to use. We won't be foolish with our blessings, but, neither will we say no to experiences that will enrich our lives and make us happy.

As I type these words, I continue to wonder how tightly I am holding onto those purse strings.

August 18, 2017

Exercise: What Do You Do To Stay Healthy?

Regular reader, Madeline, asked if I would take a look at an area that many of us struggle with: exercise. A recent study found that a higher percentage of those 65+ are more concerned about health issues than financial stability. That makes sense since a major health crisis can do major damage to one's financial situation, even with Medicare and supplemental insurance in place.

It is a given that moving our bodies is helpful. Suggestions for people our age center on both cardio or aerobic and well as weight bearing activities. Thirty minutes a day for at least five days a week of walking and a few days of muscle strengthening exercises seems to be the consensus. If you jog or run, the total time can be reduced by half.

I can only speak for me, but that exercise frequency is not always met. Since Betty rejoined our gym we are doing better; 4 days a week is pretty typical. We start on the treadmill and then move to free weights or machines. During the cooler months of the year I will ride my bike a few miles a few times a week. Because of bad knees and hips, Betty has tried biking but finds it is painful.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a good summary of the needs of older adults. One section deal with the amount and intensity of exercise we need. Another area details how to make physical activity a party of your life. Of course, there are thousands of other web sites that may give you important tips and ideas that help you. I have listed a handful at the end of this post.

For us, the primary concern is making exercise a part of our life without injury. I have the unfortunate habit of deciding to add more to my exercise life, only to pull or strain something that forces me to back off again. Learning our personal limitations becomes an important part of the process. 

So, I am turning things over to you for ideas, support, and suggestions. What have you found works best to stay as healthy as you can? How do you find the time to do what you should? Do you have to force yourself to meet your exercise needs, or do you look forward to physically pushing your body? 

Here are a few web sites that you might find helpful:

Senior workout needs

Physical activity for older adults

Activity Guidelines for Older Adults

Choosing the right activities

Easy home exercises

And, if you are limited to only chair-type exercises, here is a sample of what you can do to stay fit (if there is an ad at first, you can skip after 4 seconds!)

August 15, 2017

Retirement and Adventure: An Uncommon Couple?

Generally, I play it safe. You aren't going to to find me bungee-jumping, sky-diving, rock-climbing, even riding a big, fast roller coaster. Thunder Mountain at Disneyland is about my speed. Financially, my wife and I are conservative. Our possessions are quite mainstream. When we vacation we make standard choices like Hawaii or the Pacific Northwest.  Going to Tibet or the rain forest of the Amazon aren't really on our radar, though next year we will break out a bit with a river cruise in Europe.

So, why a post about adding adventure to your life? Primarily, I need to listen to the message. Also, adventure has a much broader definition than is usually assigned to the word. It doesn't have to just involve physical activities. Adventure is what being alive is about. This subject also seems like a sensible follow up to the post based on two quotes that ran last month.

Why Be Adventurous?

What are the possible gains if you decide to embrace a more adventurous life? Self-confidence and belief in yourself with be strengthened. You could discover abilities you think you lack. You might learn to overcome some fears that have been holding you back from a truly satisfying retirement.  Of course, fear is a good thing. It can keep you from physical harm. But, fear of things that aren't likely to hurt you can limit your life experiences.

Trying new things might help you understand more about your strengths and weaknesses. If your limits are not tested how can you know what those limits are? Henry David Thoreau said it best: "Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them. "  We can't know what music is still in us if we have no idea what we are capable of.

What Does Adding Adventure Look Like?

Adding adventure to your life can come in several forms. No matter what I write here, I'm still not jumping out of a plane or exploring deep, dark caves. It just isn't going to happen. But, that doesn't mean I can't discover what would work with my personality and temperament. One idea is to look at friends and acquaintances who are higher up the adventure-meter than I and see if there is something I can adapt to my life.

I know a man who loves to mountain bike. He thinks nothing of hurling down a hill, full bore, with just his skill and a dash of luck to keep him from a serious spill. OK, not my style. Not gong to happen. But, I've toyed with the idea of getting a trail bike and starting to pedal my way through desert trails in the Phoenix area. There is still some danger from rocks, loose sand, even an occasional rattlesnake. But, that level of danger I believe I am able to tolerate. It sounds like fun, it is something I can handle physically, and would expand my horizons. I wouldn't shatter my comfort zone, just push the edge back a bit. It doesn’t matter how wild or daring this adventure is. What matters is trying something new.

I read somewhere a definition of adventure that includes anything that makes your heart race or your pulse quicken. Thus almost any experience in life qualifies. For example, what if you went to a restaurant that serves food you normally don't eat? What if you order something from the menu you can't even pronounce? Would that qualify as an adventure? Absolutely. You are allowing yourself to fail in an adventurous attempt to succeed. The only real risks are wasted money, you go home hungry, or you missed the chance to discover a whole new cuisine you enjoy.

Are these adventurous -  talking to a stranger at a social or community event, painting your living room a bold shade of red, or going to the opera when you are sure you will hate it? Absolutely. Each of those is every bit as much an adventure as rafting down the Colorado. How about trying a new flavor of coffee? Buy three magazines in subjects you don't know or understand. Read them.

Here is an example that I just added to my adventure palette: restoring vintage radios. I have bought a few radios from the 1930s and 40s. I find them pretty to look at. The wooden cases are beautifully crafted. Even more fun is actually getting them to work. 

I have the tools I should need and an excellent source of "how-to" steps. What I don't have is all the technical knowledge to be sure I will be able to repair and restore them. But, I am going to give it a shot. The worst that happens? I have invested a few hundred dollars in something that won't work but is still nice to look at. Whether these 70 year old radios work is almost beside the point. The effort is the adventure. 

Life is An Adventure, isn't it?

Adding adventure really just means that you choose to become a lover of life. Decide to say, "Yes," when your comfortable self wants to say, "No."  There be will  mistakes, there might be some embarrassment. Heavens, you may fall flat on your face, both literally and figuratively. If this happens get up, learn from you mistakes and give it another shot.

Choose to say, “Yes.” Do what have you always wanted but never dared try. Don’t fear risks. Take measured risks. Know that you are grabbing onto what life has to offer.

Question: What one thing have you done that surprised even you? What would qualify as an adventure in your life?

August 12, 2017

My Smart Speaker Experiment

Blog reader, Rick from Oregon, read my post from a few weeks ago,  Do You Have a Smart Speaker?  and decided to issue a challenge. He suggested I buy an Amazon Dot and try living with it for a few weeks. If I didn't find it useful he offered to buy it from me. That sounded like a win-win deal, so I took him up on the offer; my $50 Dot arrived on July 26th and was installed in the living room.

The Dot is the little brother to the Echo, the device that is getting most of the press. The Dot does what the more expensive version does but with a smaller speaker. If using the Dot to play music it should be plugged into a sound system or a better quality speaker.  Otherwise, it is the same device: an always on voice-activated command center.

In the almost three weeks I have had the Dot, how have I used it? I started by asking it to answer some random, silly questions, like the distance to Mars, the current temperature and chance of rain, the start time of a baseball game, and to tell me some jokes. I asked it to read what was on my calendar for the rest of the day and to set a reminder for several hours in the future.

Then, I asked Alexa to play some music. I  tried light jazz, oldies, smooth jazz (there is a difference), piano solos, and big band vocals. She (because of Alexa's voice I think of the Dot as female) performed flawlessly. I can ask her to raise or lower the volume, skip a song, or simply "Stop." Unfortunately, I can't use Spotify unless I upgrade to their premium service, which at $10 a month isn't worth it to me. Pandora's free service and Amazon music are just fine.

I am not particularly motivated to get whatever is required to have the Dot turn my lights on and off, or perform other smart home functions. I can see the value if my mobility were restricted, but for now I will control my own lights and air conditioner, thank you very much.

Betty likes audio books, and the Dot can fulfill that need. Any book we have purchased and downloaded to our Kindle can be read to us. There are other services, like Audible, that can be added for an extensive library of choices. 

What else can the Dot handle? I haven't tested any of these, but the list of functions is pretty impressive:

Calling and messaging
Check your calendar
Connect Bluetooth devices
Control music
Discover music
Find local businesses and restaurants
Find traffic information
Fun and games
Get weather updates
Find out about movies
Hear the news
Keep up with your sports teams
Listen to Audible audiobooks
Listen to Amazon Music
Listen to Kindle books
Listen to podcasts and radio
Request Music
Shopping options
Set reminders
Set timers and alarms
To-dos and shopping lists

I have disabled the microphone once: when the grandkids were here and peppering Alexa with unanswerable questions! Otherwise, I have left it on and am not feeling spied upon. I would probably turn it off if I was in the habit of discussing financial matters in the living room or running a business. I don't believe Amazon is monitoring my every conversation, but hacking into a WiFi network is very possible. 

I do assume the company makes use of what I may order or ask about to target ads to me on other devices. Amazon already uses past purchases to recommend similar ones, while Google certainly uses my searches to suggest what my life may be lacking. 

Bottom line: Rick, I will not ask you to buy the Dot from me. I could certainly live without it. It doesn't do anything I couldn't accomplish some other way. I would not have bought one without your challenge. But, it is convenient and easy to use, and at times, even fun. So, it will stay and answer my commands, or at least most of them. 

August 9, 2017

5 Retirement Myths You Should Ignore

Being human, we tend to look for simple solutions to complex problems. We accept "common wisdom" rather than do the hard work necessary to find answers for ourselves. 

What follows are five myths about retirement: beliefs that are comforting and sound logical, except, they are not true. Ask yourself how many you have fallen for, how many affected your retirement planning and lifestyle.

1) It will all work itself out

This has to be the most dangerous of the untruths we tell ourselves. With the typical 50-something American having less than $100,000 set aside for retirement, the next 30 years of your life will not magically work itself out.  No matter how generous a pension might be, or how much Social Security is likely to pay you each month, you are not going to have a satisfying retirement on a savings account that produces less than $300 a month of additional income. 

Think of your retirement as a complex machine with lots of moving parts, and one of them is financial. It is absolutely true that you can't know exactly how much money you will need during your retirement. But, any reasonable projection will start with the assumption that you need to have quite a bit more than that to a shot at a comfortable retirement. 

2) My retirement plans are based on solid, proven advice. I'm good to go. 

We are lucky. There are tremendously helpful resources available to us. The Internet can provide advice, planning scenarios, financial calculators, and income projections. Thousands of retirement blogs have all sorts of opinions. Investment counselors are a phone call away.

Sounds great, but it isn't enough. Your plans have one serious flaw: they will turn out to be wrong some of the time. Nothing can prepare your financial ship for another massive recession. There are no firm guidelines for handling a major stock market retrenchment. You may be just one major healthcare crisis away from kicking your plans into the gutter. You are not set. Retirement is a crash course in on-the-job-training. Base your planning on flexibility as well as solid advice. Plans are important, but they aren't infallible.

3) My spouse will welcome all my ideas and help

Maybe, maybe not. If you have a primary relationship that involves sharing space with another, be prepared for a time of adjustments and negotiations. The temptation is to analyze and then fix all the things that aren't being done properly. Having all that free time means you can bring your organizational skills to bear on the parts of home life that aren't operating at peak efficiency.

If that last sentence sounds like something from your work environment, that is the problem: where you live is not where you once worked. The person who shares space with you has not read, or even accepted the same playbook. There must be a time of compromise. Walk gently and talk softly as each of you figures out the best mix of talents and desires.

4) Boredom is bad - Avoid at all costs

I will quickly qualify:  Boredom is really bad if that defines most of your retirement lifestyle. But, in small does boredom helps push you to whatever is next. Boredom is actually good as an occasional motivator.

Let's say you have just finished something that has been a real passion for you: maybe completing a 10k run, knitting a sweater for a Christmas gift, redecorating the kitchen, cleaning out the garage so you can add a woodworking shop...something that has occupied your mind and energies for awhile.

Then, just like that, you are without an important driver in your life, a project to work on, finish, improve something, or even something as simple as to read a book that has always been on your must-read list. You are bored. Binge-watching Netflix or Game of Thrones becomes the centerpiece of your day. Nothing is really wrong except that spark just dimmed. Boredom sets in.

That feeling you are experiencing can be a powerful motivator to start something new. The feeling of drifting is not pleasant to you so you find something to shatter the boredom and push yourself forward. If you never experience even a moment of boredom you may be moving too fast to know what you are missing.

5) I come from a family with good genes. My uncle smoked until he was 95.

Good news for your Uncle, not all that relevant to you. Of course, your family genes, the pieces of your DNA that help determine your overall health and longevity play an important role in what type of retirement health journey you will experience. But, you are making a serious mistake if you build your retirement around the idea that you are destined for a long life.

The reason a professional athlete spends hours every day practicing his or her particular skill set is to be operating at peak performance. Both muscle memory and physical endurance slip after just a short time away from that repetition. A concert pianist spends 6 or more hours a day at that instrument for the same reason.

Retirement doesn't require that level of commitment to physical and mental conditioning. But, the old adage of "use it or lose it" is quite true for us. Because our cells die or regenerate much more slowly as we age, the need for exercising our bodies and brains remains. To believe otherwise is intensifying a risk with your future that you should not take.

There are more myths than just these five about retirement. Which ones have caused you the most problems?

August 6, 2017

Retirement Travel: Summer's Not Over Yet!

A part of a satisfying retirement for many of us is an active travel scheduleDepending upon our budget and personal desires, that could mean cruises, trips to Europe, and a few weeks in Hawaii. It might mean a long weekend in Durango, The Olympic National Forest, The Shenandoah Valley, or a B&B in Bar Harbor, Maine. It might mean checking into a hotel in a small town like Patagonia, three hours away from responsibilities and routine.

Over the past few months a few e-mails have asked me to investigate some unusual or different travel options. Of course, being retired, we are not restricted to vacations only from September through August, but maybe you want to get one more trip under your belt before Labor Day. I've located a few lists of places to visit and explore, some more expense than others, and the majority are within the continental U.S. so potentially doable by the bulk of the readers of this blog.

I know there are a lot of readers of this blog live in other countries: England, India, Canada, and Australia lead the list. For you folks, I'd ask a favor: leave a comment below with some of the most interesting and out-of-the way spots to visit in your country. Other readers who live there might find a great weekend getaway idea, or a longer excursion.  

So, are you ready to hit the road (or the skies, the seas, or the rails)?

This first site is from a fellow who collects vacation ideas. Some people collect stamps, quilts, old movie posters, or even tea spoons. Peter Shannon collects ideas for trips. His lists are extensive and fascinating. 

There is a seemingly endless list of vacation ideas grouped by location or type. Romantic vacations, those for the adventurous among us, unique places, seasonal trips, trips grouped by states or regions...the choices are all there. This link is one you should bookmark for all those times when the urge to explore hits: 1001 Vacation Ideas.

Another idea is to put together your own trip based around a theme. My wife and I like to drive portions of old Route 66. The famous "Mother Road" is still quite accessible in several places along its route from Chicago to Los Angeles. Old style motels, caf├ęs, and general stores that once bustled with travelers remain open for those who like to visit an important part of our past. Books that allow you to trace the route and provide specific, mile-by-mile recaps of what used to be there are loads of fun.

Over the last several years Betty and I have been visiting as many of the National Parks as we can every time we take a road trip. This goal feeds her photographic need and provides me with more blog ideas. You can specialize on national monuments, state parks, or anything that can be labeled.

How about all the places with picnic facilities that overlook a lake or stream within 150 miles of your home? Do you like to read? How about a trip that visits the best independent bookstores in your home state or region of the country. How about unusual museums? One of our most memorable finds was a salt and pepper shaker museum. Any hobby or passion can form the basis of a trip that you will remember forever. Now that I am collecting and repairing antique radios, I would love to put together a trip that visits stores that specialize in these beauties. 

The best idea generator lies between your ears. Take anything you like and build a vacation around that idea, hobby, or passion. And, of course, planning that trip is at least half the fun!

Get planning and start packing.

August 3, 2017

Did You Know That.....

...retirement was an unknown concept for most of human history. Work until you die, or can't do anything productive any longer was the "rule." With most of us living in rural situations, retirement made no sense. The cows needed milking and the crops had to be planted, regardless of your age.

Most experts cite the start of Social Security in the United States in 1935 as the official recognition of a change in mindset. But, not until Medicare was enacted in 1965 were most people able to even consider retirement at some point.

As you are aware, 10,000 Baby Boomers are retiring every day. This massive flow will continue for another several years. That many people puts Social Security and Medicare under tremendous pressure. Neither was designed to support so many folks for so long. In 1935 the government figured setting the retirement age at 65 was a safe move; the majority of recipients would not live for very many years after that.

Well, we showed them! Within a few years after the 1935 start, those aged 65 had an average of 12 more years to take those monthly payments. Today, that figure is more like 20 years. Those living into their 90's and 100's grows every year. 

Satisfying Retirement has been tracking and discussing all of this for the past seven years. Even after the major economic upheaval of 2008-2009, interest in retirement topics didn't really wane. Sure, a lot people had to delay leaving work, cut back on their plans, or consider some serious downsizing. Some had to abandon the idea of retirement completely. But, the dream didn't die. The belief that there would be a future of freedom and exploration continued.

Today, I am seeing the unfolding of a trend that is pointing us back to a place we were a generation or two ago: retirement as an uncommon choice for many working men and women. Studies that cross my desk all say the same thing: a growing percentage of those who have reached a typical retirement age are in no rush to leave work. Those in their 40's and 50's see retirement as a receding point on the horizon. Adults in their 20's and 30's don't see retirement as a desirous (or possible) option at all.

Of course, with projections that Social Security and Medicare will be unable to pay full benefits starting in just 17 years, maybe the younger folks are just accepting reality. Maybe they'd love to enjoy what those of us who are retired have learned: this phase of life can be the most fulfilling and exciting of all. 

Maybe they accept that Congress will not make the tough choices necessary to fix the system developed 50-70 years ago line up with the reality of longer life and a drop in employment. Maybe they can't or won't save enough to be away from a job. Maybe the movement away from social groups and organizations and into social media where human contact is minimized has something to do with it. A report by Bloomberg on July 17th says that retirement dread is replacing the American dream. That is a very sad state of affairs.

I don't know. What does seem apparent is that those of us enjoying our retirement now and those within five or ten years of leaving the workforce may be a vanishing breed. The system that supports us may not be available for our kids or grandkids. Even if we have taught them the importance of delayed gratification and saving, the lack of fiscal discipline from others could mess up everyone's future. The lack of leadership and will in Washington will catch up with us all.

The message for us is two-fold:

1) Enjoy every moment of your satisfying retirement. Things may sort themselves out and retirement will be possible and enjoyed by generations to come. But, you are here now. Make the most of all your opportunities and freedom.

2) Urge your family to plan for a future that may throw more burdens on them. If possible, leave some financial help for those who follow you. If you can't, leave them your wisdom, experiences and an attitude that all things are doable. It seems clear that more responsibility for our future will rest on us, on the individual's shoulders.