Everyone thinks he can retire at age 65. It’s an American ideal born in the last century with the rise of unions, the defined benefit plan, and generous pension systems. In reality — especially due to advances in health, medicine, and nutrition — many people have great capability to continue to work and contribute to society and themselves until 70-80. And they should, because they need to.
There is a crisis of affordability looming. Besides the enormously wealthy, for the most part no average person can afford to retire at 65. It is simply not possible, living a normal lifestyle, for anyone to put enough toward retirement by age 65 that will enable him to be supported for another 20-30 years. A life span of 85-95 is swiftly becoming the new norm. The only workers today who are the exception to this reality, and have any hope of a lengthy retirement with comfort, are public service employees. (That point is addressed in a subsequent piece entitled, “Abuse to the Taxpayer by Public Service Employees.”)
With the lifespan of Americans growing longer, retiring at 65 is no longer viable; the systems are badly strained. And it is certainly not rational for the longevity of Social Security and Medicare either. Yet the steadfast refusal of most of government to overhaul retirement systems or make age and formula adjustments to entitlement programs — in order to maintain this retirement facade — only compounds the problem.
Another one of the biggest detriments of being able to retire at 65 is investment return. Interest rates have been historically low for the last six years and there is a strong likelihood of them staying low for some time. As a result, people’s retirement portfolios have lagged in their anticipated growth and goals. The low rates mean less money overall for retirement time, a problem which can be offset by continuing to work and contribute to a retirement fund past the basic age.
Likewise, inflation is not the issue that everyone thinks it is. The true problem is the cost of living — but really, it’s the cost of modern living, the “keeping up with the Jones’s”. The cost of aspirin, color TV’s, computers, and long distance calls are NOT going up. But people now can have Celebrex instead of aspirin, surround-sound with flat screens instead of color TV, and smart phones instead of computers and standard phones. Newer models of everything due to technology is constantly changing — upgrading quality of life, but at an increased cost.
In sum, with living longer, low rates of return, and the “cost of Jones’s increase”, people must begin to realize that the time span between 65 – 75 can be, and should be, a healthy and productive time of life. Working, staying active, and continuing to save will be beneficial in the long run. The mindset of older citizens needs to change and they need to understand that they can should aim to be productive until they are 75. At 65 they can certainly slow down, but the concept of retiring and not working anymore at that age is unrealistic and unaffordable.