Designing a retro retirement

It seems like everything old is new again.  Starting with the redesigned Volkswagen Beetle in 1998, there has been a flood of retro styled products that are aimed at helping the baby-boomer generation recapture a piece of their youth.  To wit, The Rolling Stones 2005 concert tour was the highest-grossing tour of all time, retro muscle cars are a huge hit, and entire neighborhoods are being designed from the ground up to give them a more “1950’s” feel. 

Retro products seem to have one thing in common.  While the look harkens back to the “good old days,” the design and features offer decidedly modern elements that appeal to the world we live in today. 

With 70 million people hurtling toward retirement, I began to wonder what a “retro” retirement would like.  Just like retirees of yesteryear, we all want to be happy, healthy and secure during retirement, but our modern world offers challenges and opportunities that didn’t exist a generation ago.  Below are five modern updates to the classic retirement.

Personal savings is the new pension.  My grandfather hasn’t punched a time clock in over twenty years and yet, like clockwork, his former employer sends him a pension check every month.  The lifetime pension has become the exception rather than the rule.  A generation ago, most workers were covered by a pension.  Today that number has dwindled to less than a third.  Retirement hasn’t gotten any cheaper, so you will still need to get that check every month.  If it doesn’t come from your employer, it will need to come from you.  As you approach retirement, you are likely in your peak earning years.  Make sure to save as much as you can, especially in tax advantaged accounts like your 401(k) or IRA.

College is the new golf.  We have always known the benefits of staying physically active.  New research is beginning to show the benefits of staying mentally active as well.  Because of this, more and more retirees are opting for a book bag over a golf bag. 

Many colleges and universities allow people to audit classes—that is, paying a minimal fee to attend the class without receiving college credits.  Even better, many universities are now putting class lectures on iTunes for free.  Interested in art?  Just download Oxford’s drawing classes.  Want to study history? Columbia University has a free, twenty-five part lecture series on the history of the world.  You can also download classes from Harvard, Yale, UC Berkeley and a number of other great institutions on just about any topic you can think of. 

Auditing classes or getting them online is an inexpensive way to learn more about a subject that has always interested you and comes with the added benefit of keeping your mind sharp. 

Long-term care is the new Medicaid.  It is not unusual, as we age, to rely on others for care.  This care can be very expensive (A private room in a nursing home averages $78,000 per year) and more and more people are purchasing long-term care insurance to protect themselves.  While Medicaid will pay most nursing home costs, you need to qualify by being both sick and poor.  A quality long-term care policy will allow you to preserve your assets for heirs, have peace of mind and get into the facility of your choice.  To learn more about long-term care, read this article

Sixty-five is the new fifty-five.  Back when Elvis was king, the average U.S. life expectancy was about sixty-eight years.  Today, the average life expectancy is about seventy-eight years.  Given that information, you would think that the average retirement age has risen.  It has actually declined by about four years to age sixty-two. 

Earlier is not always better.  Retiring at sixty-two not only means a permanent reduction in your Social Security benefits, but it could mean that you will spend 20-30 percent of your life in retirement.  That takes a great deal of savings and planning.  If you’re in good health and expect to have a long life, you might want to work a few extra years to bolster your savings.  Doing so might actually lengthen your life.  A recent study showed that mortality rates were higher for employees that retired at age fifty-five than for those that waited to retire until they were sixty-five.

Prevention is the new cure.  Quality of life is just as important as quantity of life.  Modern medicine has shown us that eating right and exercising your mind and body can go a long way toward avoiding many of the diseases that are associated with aging.  Heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, and many forms of cancer can be directly linked to lifestyle choices.  The best way to avoid the negative effects of these diseases is to keep from getting them, rather than trying to treat them once you already have them.

So there are a few ideas on how to put a modern twist on the classic retirement.  Make a few updates and you’ll be ready to grab your bell bottoms, hop in your Beetle and head into a long, healthy, secure retirement.

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