With all of the monumental challenges facing retirees, I sometimes wonder if retirement as we know it will survive. Many potential retirees are ill-prepared from a financial and non-financial perspective, and the clock is ticking. Maybe people will just work until they die, rather than attempt to exit the rat race and enter their second act. But there’s also the possibility that these doom and gloom predictions are exaggerated and retirement will not be all that bad. Here are eights reasons your retirement will probably be just fine:
1. Average life expectancies have been trending upward for decades. In 1900, the average life expectancy was 46.3 years for men and 48.3 years for women. Today the average life expectancy in the U.S. is 79.6 years, while Japan leads all countries with an 83.2 year average.
2. For many people, retirement represents a time of opportunity. The majority (86 percent) of baby boomers between ages 45 and 65 who have a minimum household income of $75,000 view retirement as a whole new chapter in life and a chance to reinvent the person they are and will be, according to a 2011 survey commissioned by the resort real estate advisory firm Civano Living. And 90 percent of those surveyed believe retirement will give them time to pursue their interests and hobbies more fully. Retirees should be excited about this chance to journey down a different path and pursue what they are truly passionate about, rather than just existing.
3. The nature of work has changed from the physically demanding jobs of old. Today’s knowledge workers use their minds more than their backs. When retirement age is reached, these seniors still have a lot of mileage left and can consider the possibility of a second career more along the lines of what they would like to do.
4. With 10,000 people reaching age 65 each day for the next 20 years, the impact of aging baby boomers is being felt far and wide. Senior citizens are a large portion of the population and have powerful organizations like AARP behind them. They are a highly influential group whose interests and impact cannot be ignored. Expect senior citizen voices to be heard and attention to be paid to their specific needs.
5. With longer life expectancies, many seniors see themselves living well beyond the official averages, continuing to remain productive, and developing deeper family relationships. According to a 2011 SunAmerica Financial Group and Harris Interactive survey, two-thirds of adults age 55 and older say their personal goal is to live to 100.
6. With aging comes challenges to health and well being. However, 82 percent of seniors are satisfied with their own physical health, according to the Civano Living survey. And 84 percent of those ages 45 to 65 say they are interested in health and fitness programs designed for them.
7. The years of experience and knowledge gained in the working world will make seniors increasingly more important in the job arena. Older workers are, in fact, not more expensive to employ because their typically higher wages are based on experience rather than age, according to Peter Cappelli, coauthor of Managing the Older Worker: How to Prepare for the New Organizational Order. Changes will need to be made to adapt to the needs of older workers such as increased flex time, age-friendly work environments, and less forced retirement when the worker has many good years still to offer.
8. It turns out that the adult brain is not a slower version of the youthful brain. Instead, the middle-aged brain maintains many of the abilities of youth and even acquires some new ones. The Seattle Longitudinal Study showed middle-aged adults performed better on four out of six cognitive tests than those same individuals did as young adults.
Retirement will be a big change from the way of life we were accustomed to while we were in the workforce and raising a family. We need to prepare financially and socially if we are to realize the fulfilling retirement we want. But it is encouraging to see that retirement can be an exciting, positive time in our life, even for those with modest incomes.
Dave Bernard is the author of Are You Just Existing and Calling it a Life?, which offers guidelines to discover your personal passion and live a life of purpose. Not yet retired, Dave has begun his due diligence to plan for a fulfilling retirement. With a focus on the non-financial aspects of retiring, he shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement–Only the Beginning.