What to Do if You Cannot Afford to Retire

In today?s world, this concept is so scary that most people don?t even want to think about it. But if you cannot afford to retire, you must think about it.. And you must do more than think about it ? you need to create definite strategies and the willingness to follow through with them.

Let?s start with this thought: your life won?t be a disaster because you cannot afford to retire. Lot?s of people never retire, some out of necessity, some by choice.

What to Do if You Cannot Afford to Retire
What to Do if You Cannot Afford to Retire

But if you cannot afford to retire, then there are some choices that you?ll need to make. As you do, understand that your life won?t be lousy just because it isn?t perfect. But it doesn?t have to be a disaster either, and that?s what we?re going to talk about here.

If you?re looking for flowery promises and charts showing you how you can attain the retirement life of your dreams, you?ve come to the wrong place. This article is about real world strategies for a real world problem.

Social Security and Medicare to the Rescue? Well, Sort Of

Social Security is a poor retirement plan. But that?s because it was never intended to be a retirement plan. It was established as a supplement to lost wages due to old age. But in recent decades, millions have come to believe that Social Security either is, or should be, a full-blown retirement plan. You know, the kind that will allow you to live in relative comfort on a single source of income.

That?s not what Social Security is, but that hardly means that it?s an utter disaster.

If you cannot afford to retire, use Social Security for its intended purpose. See it as an additional source of income that will supplement other sources. It won?t make you rich, nor enable you to retire. But it can make your old age a lot more comfortable. And it doesn?t need to fully replace the income from your job to do that.

View Social Security as an additional income stream. With your monthly benefit, you won?t be entirely dependent on a job for your survival. As well, you may be able to reduce your work schedule from full-time to part-time, which will at least enable you to semi-retire.

Medicare is another important part of the retirement years. No, Medicare isn?t a perfect health insurance plan. You?ll almost certainly need to add a supplemental insurance policy to the mix. But even if you do, it will be a lot less expensive than if you had to purchase full coverage on healthcare exchanges.

At a minimum, Medicare will enable you to have coverage without needing to hold a job. That will not only give you lower-cost healthcare than what most of the working public have, but it will also give you geographic mobility. Because Medicare is portable, you could live anywhere that you want.

Plan to Have at Least Some Money Saved for the Retirement Years

There?s a tremendous imbalance when it comes to saving for retirement. A relatively small percentage of the population have most of the retirement savings. The vast majority have little or no retirement savings at all. The middle ground here is pretty slim.

I try to be realistic about this. It?s a fact that in today?s stagnant wage/high cost of living era that many people simply don?t have the financial resources to save for retirement.

But there?s also a psychological factor. Sensing that they?ll never be able to save enough money to actually retire, a lot of people don?t even bother to try. They assess at some point in their lives that there?s little chance they?ll be able to accumulate a $1 million retirement portfolio, or even $500,000.

The financial industry isn?t helping the case either. By liberally splashing rosy retirement projections, that show people having seven-figure or high six-figure retirement portfolios in just 20 or 30 years, they test the limits credibility for people of modest incomes.

Millions of people see these ads, get overwhelmed, and simply decide to put it out of their minds.

But all negative factors aside, you need to save at least some money. It doesn?t matter if it won?t be nearly enough for you to fully retire. Anything is better than nothing.

Think of it this way?$50,000 in savings won?t be enough to retire on. But you?ll be a lot better off in your retirement years with $50,000 than if you were broke.

If you can?t go for $1 million, at least shoot for $50,000.

What to Do if You Cannot Afford to Retire ? Going ?Old School? with Savings

Before World War II, when middle-class people didn?t usually retire, they saved money anyway. They saved money so they had breathing room throughout their lives. But they also saved money for old age. Not the way people save money for retirement today, but for old age nonetheless.

I?ll use my grandparents as an example here. All were born well before World War II. In that generation, it was a source of pride that one would be productive throughout his or her life. There was no concept of retiring to idleness at the beach. Your work was a part of who you were, and giving it up was not something that was done lightly.

Back in those days, people didn?t save money for a golden retirement. They expected to work throughout their lives, or at least as long as they were able to. The nest egg that was saved up was mostly to provide for them during the last year or two of their lives, when they were either sick or no longer capable of working.

If you don?t have a big fat retirement plan, you need to have some sort of savings accumulated nonetheless. It may only be sufficient to cover you in your last years of life, but that will be enough. It will have to be, since you won?t have other options.

If you?re 60 years old and you have no savings, don?t give up under the assumption that it?s too late. Plan to save enough money over the next 10, 15, or 20 years so that you could survive for perhaps the last two or three years of your life on savings and Social Security.

It?s worth doing.

You Can?t Drop the Ball on This One: Get Out of Debt ? And Stay Out

If you won?t have sufficient retirement income, you can?t afford to have debt. Debt may enable you to pay for things that you can?t otherwise afford, but it also dooms you to spending current and future income on past obligations. It?s a burden you can?t afford to carry.

If your retirement situation looks bleak, getting out of debt is almost certainly the single best strategy. It will free up all of your income for current living expenses, and that?s a virtue unto itself.

Sell Your House if You Need To

Do you ever see those commercials and ads for reverse mortgages? I don?t know about you, but I?ve always thought it absurd that an elderly person would borrow money so that they can ?keep their home?.

Keep their/his/her/my home is the common phrase uttered in yet another attempt to justify borrowing money for current consumption. The phrase is a pure play on emotion, distilled from throw grandma out on the street. It?s also a slick marketing campaign.

Here?s a newsflash: it?s only your ?home? for as long as you can afford to pay for it. If you can?t afford to pay for it, then you have to give it up. Borrowing money so that you can continue to live in it is nothing short of desperate. The very fact that you might have to borrow money to keep a house is proof by itself that you can?t afford to live there.

Another angle on this is the concept of being house poor. Have you ever known anyone in this situation? They live at or just above the poverty level, all while having a substantial amount of equity in their house.

This might be even more absurd than taking a reverse mortgage. If you?re struggling to survive, then by all means, sell your house and use the proceeds for retirement capital. If you have no other savings, this shouldn?t even be a hard decision.

A house isn?t a virtue, it?s a thing. No matter how long you?ve lived in your house, the reality is that you can live in any number of places. It doesn?t have to be your house. It can be in an apartment, or even in a corner of the house or apartment owned by a family member or friend.

Plan to Do What You?ve Always Done – Work

Today, millions of people plan their entire lives around one day retiring to a life of blessed nothingness. But there was a time when ordinary people thought of not being able to work as being ?washed up?. No one ever wanted to be useless. It was thought that when you couldn?t work anymore, you probably couldn?t live either.

What?s ironic is that most people today work in occupations that are not physically taxing. Office work and many service occupations are not the type of work that grinds down a body. At least not in the same way that factory, farm, mining, or construction work did half a century ago.

Most of us have less physical need to retire than we commonly assume. What?s also interesting is that a lot of people ? when forced to ? actually can work well into their 70s. The idea that we need to retire is mostly a perception. Or maybe a desire, generously fueled by the media, TV and the investment industry.

If you don?t have sufficient resources to retire, then embrace work as a virtue. After all, the fact that you?re able to work means that you?re vibrant, and able to continue living your life to the fullest. That?s a positive, anyway you look at.

But at the same time, plan to change the way you work. Work part-time instead of full-time. Shift to doing work that you actually like. Start your own business. I have my own business doing work that I love, and could do well into the retirement years. Find something similar and you can literally change your life.

If you can?t retire, plan to work more comfortably than you have throughout most of your life. You might even find that you no longer have a desire to retire.

Adjust Your Expectations

This one is huge. Retirement today is perceived as a need or even a right, not as a luxury. But the reality that it?s always been a luxury. Retirement has always been for the well-to-do. And since most people are not well-to-do, most will have to accept some sort of compromised arrangement.

You?ll be able to do it if you properly adjust your expectations. Start by ditching the idea of a full-blown retirement to a life of leisure. Replace it with a mix of part-time work and part-time leisure. Embrace that as the virtue that it is ? a combination of more leisure time than you?ve had most of your life, with doing work that you actually find pleasurable.

Let go of some of the toys and excesses that are commonly associated with retirement. Maybe you won?t be able to travel the world, but you might be able to travel more around your little corner of the world. And there?s no need to buy a vacation home when you can rent one from someone else for a lot less money.

The retirement years won?t be your entr?e into the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. But they don?t need to be either. Sign up for Social Security and Medicare when the time is right, save more money for your old age than you ever thought you could, pay off all of your debts, sell your house if you need to, and develop a balance between more leisure time and continuing to work at something that you actually like, at least on a part-time basis.

Most likely, you?ll do just fine.

Do you have any other suggestions for someone who cannot afford to retire?

( Photo by Marianna Carerra )

34 Responses to What to Do if You Cannot Afford to Retire

  1. What I like about this article is the concept of thinking differently than the past. In alot of ways I think that people who are between the ages of 40 to 60 have had it the hardest.
    What I mean is I was raised in a more old school type of way of doing things. Somewhere along the line in my adulthood it changed. Pensions went away. Good safe investments are no longer. The concept of getting a decent job and holding it for life retiring at the end, getting a gold watch and riding off into the sunset went away. Or maybe it was always a myth. I wasn’t taught that it was so I always believed it.
    Those of us who saw it were able to adjust to see it change maybe before is was obvious are a little better off. Those that didn’t have a much harder time. It reminds me a guys I see who are still waiting for manufacturing to come back. I have news, it isn’t.

    My 15 year old son will never know that world. It will be easier on him than me because I did see it.

    So that is really where my heart is at when I comment. Trying to get people who are in my age bracket to understand or try and learn different ways of doing things. Getting into a different mindset. It is never too late to unlearn ways that don’t work anymore.

  2. Hi Tim – You make a lot of good points. Expectation is a lot of the problem. 40-60 year olds have high expectations, which is a disadvantage in a lot of ways. Because of when we grew up, we came up believing in an American Dream that no longer exists. But with that said, I have to say that I’m generally happy with my life. Even though I didn’t follow the prescribed route forward in life (a job in corporate America) things worked out. I also lowered my expectations a long time ago, so that anytime things go well I’m a happy camper. And when they don’t I see it as normal.

    In regard to your son, my kids are in their 20s and keenly aware that there’s not a lot of places to go. They both have a lot of friends who are either working 2-3 jobs, or are having trouble staying employed. What’s crazy is the number of them that have student loan debts to boot. Believe me, they get that they’re coming up at a tough time.

    We all need to change our thinking, expectations and strategies. It’s not at all hopeless if we do.

  3. Great article. I love having the different perspective. I like the way you dispel the myth of the reverse mortgage. I’ve always secretly thought it was a con of some sort. It makes more sense to sell one’s home, find affordable housing, and have the proceeds of the home to live on. Thanks for writing about this.

  4. You hit the nail on the head with “con”, Paula. That’s exactly how I’d describe it, though I used a lot more words in the article. But as Charles Hugh Smith recently wrote, the con man’s best friend is the “mark”, that person who’s only too happy to be conned. They have to know better. A reverse mortgage is pure equity stripping. That was seen as blatant evil during the Financial Meltdown, but all that’s been forgotten. Just tell people how they can get their hands on a bunch of money, and how it comes about is irrelevant. And later, when things get ugly, they’ll claim victim status. That’s the wackiness of our culture.

  5. I hear you. I gave up on that a long time ago myself. The only difference I see is that I am already trying to steer my kids away from the student loan trend. I have watched a learned from a lot of 20 year olds who went the conventional student loan route and are paying the price now.

    The payout at the end has to be huge for me to agree to finance any kind of college. To borrow 50,60 thousand and come out with a dime a dozen degree that is only going to net you 40,000 a year is a waste of time.

    Starting and growing a business is the greatest teacher of all. I can help with that for sure.

    Any kind of debt is bad debt. You can bet if your seeing it advertised it is to no advantage except to the companies that offer them.
    Just like Kevin said, Selling is much better, smarter and an example of thinking a different way.

    Don’t get emotional about a building. The family inside is the most important thing. A building is just that a building. Not worth risking your financial future for. No building is worth that.

  6. The student loan thing is a example also of us thinking differently. if we are to steer are kids in a smarter direction we need to educate ourselves on why it 80 percent of the cases it makes no sense.

    I was raised to believe if you went to college than borrowing is a good investment. Its’ not anymore. Not with the things are now.
    There are smarter ways to go than that. Yes, you need school to become a doctor or their are other fields but not as many as we are lead to believe.

  7. I’ve been steering my kids toward self-employment. My thinking is use a job only as a bridge into self-employment, and later just to shore up cash flow if necessary. People are being herded into a system that no longer serves us. I think it’s a strategic advantage to plan your own course, outside the system. That means self-employment/transferrable skills, and away from jobs and debt.

  8. Thanks Bernice! That’s why we need to have these discussions, to show ourselves that we’re not crazy and we’re not alone in how we see what’s happening. What really scares me is the people who don’t even think anything’s wrong. It’s like they’re lambs to the slaughter. The biggest problem we have collectively is that we can’t seem to rally around what’s wrong, let alone how to fix it. That’s why there’s never a political concensus. The System has done an outstanding job of keeping us confused, divided and powerless.

  9. I sure am glad to see my husband and I are not the only ones who see retirement as not being the golden years. Great article!! Fifteen years ago, we first got hit with him being told he would not be seeing a pension… I started adding more to my 401K to make up for it, then the 401K bottom out in 2008… not to mention the changes to Social security… AWK! 8 years until full age retirement! We have made major changes to save by downsizing everything.. utilities, groceries, debt, vacations etc… Saving all we can at the Credit union and making double payments on our home so it will be paid off in 4 years. We do plan on working as long as we can at least part time, by keeping a good health regiment with diet and exercise now. We figure going without now will prepare us for when we have no paycheck.

  10. Hi Deb – You and your husband are on the right path. You were hit with a series of bad events, but you’re doing the best you can with what you have. That’s a great story by itself, especially in a world where sulking in victimhood has become something of a cultural preoccupation.

    Cutting back on expenses and paying off your mortgage are the best strategies. You’ll be able to keep your living expenses low. Go on SS no sooner than your full retirement age (70 is even better to maximize the benefits) and keep working as long as you can, if only just part time.

    When you reach the point where you can no longer work, you’ll have whatever savings you accumulate between now and then, plus the option to sell your house to free up more cash. You’re situation if far from hopeless. And if you can eventually find work you really like (assuming you haven’t up to this point), not having traditional retirement plans won’t matter much anyway.

  11. Great article Kevin, but you see it doesn’t apply to me. I am well past retirement age with only social security for retirement. I have continued to work, but for several reasons, I feel compelled to make a change in the way I am earning money.I have turned to the internet and am attempting to learn how to do internet marketing.
    I’m sure there are many people in my position that would love to have your input and advice.

  12. Hi William (or Jerry) – You’ve entered that vast virtual space where so many things are possible. I know because that’s exactly what I’m doing, though I haven’t hit the retirement years yet. For anyone who’s worried about retiring, you can create a work-at-home business with the web. It just takes some investigating, then applying it to what it is you’re passionate about. It may take few years to ramp it up, but what are you going to do anyway? Younger people are starting internet businesses all the time, and there’s no reason older folks can’t either. It’s just a matter of expanding your paradigm, and being open to learning something new and different (and exciting!).

    I’m really glad to hear from people like you who are digging in and working with what they’ve got. So many want to just roll over and die when things don’t work out. They way I see it, if we can’t succeed by the traditional/proscribed path, we cut a new one. It’s also great to continue to learn and grow until we draw our last breath. Like Yogi Bera said, “It ain’t over til it’s over.” That really is true.

    It’s refreshing to see older people cutting new paths in life. I hear so many retirees go on and on about pills and politics, and it’s downright depressing (which is what I think they are). The best thing any of us can do is not join that crowd. There’s always a new adventure over the next hill, even if it’s only on our laptops.

  13. Hi Kevin. Another good one. I like what Tim said about it’s never too late to unlearn ways that don’t work any more. I won’t speak for everyone here, but I’d guess that many of your readers who are in their 40’s, 50’s and over were raised to think that you went to school, got the job, stayed for life, retired to peaceful bliss with a great pension. I know I was. Not so anymore, and it’s hard to unlearn what you’ve been taught and seen for so many years. As Deb said, the golden years aren’t so golden any more for many of us. But it can and must be done. I’m with you, I sure don’t want to turn into one of those people who talk obsessively about “pills and politics.” I’ve seen my own family go through that. No thanks. I’ll continue to work, cut back when we have to, and stay as active as we can. We may not have that do-nothing-on-the-beach lifestyle, but it doesn’t have to mean your older years will be crummy either. We all have to be creative about adapting to a new world and our own personal circumstances. Good writing and examples here.

  14. Thanks Bev. My optimism comes from my faith and the number of people I’ve known over the years who have never retired, or did so only near the very end of their lives. Most of them seemed to be pretty happy, and even lived well without all of the bells and whistles we’re told we’re supposed to have by retirement. We can either sulk about what we don’t have, or count our blessings over what we do have, and continue to make life better as we go forward.

    I suppose my thinking is also influenced by those I’ve know who have retired being well off. I’ve noticed that a lot of them aren’t always happy. It’s hard to let go of a money fixation when that’s what’s guided you all of your life.

  15. I wanted to tell a story.
    Way back when I first had my job in law enforcement. 30 years ago now. I was able to double up my shifts and I would have four to five days off a week. I had money. I had no kids and was not married. I spent three or four days every week golfing. Basically I was living a retired lifestyle while I had a job.
    I hung out at the beach, went fishing but mostly golfed. After a year or two of that I noticed that it didn’t make me happy. I came to actually dread all that idle time. That’s really when I started thinking about this whole retirement thing not being what it’s cracked up to be.

    I’m not convinced to this day that is really about money as much as it’s about having a purpose. I think that what’s does a lot of people in who trade in a purpose for nothingness. All that time spent on your indulgences turns your brain into mush. You end up being one of these miserable people who sit around complaining about everything. Their is nothing else to focus on.

    The most successful people I know never stop working. If they do they focus on things to better someone else or throw themselves into charity work or whatever gives them a purpose. They start businesses. We all have to have a higher calling in life other than to live for nobody else but ourselves.

    That to me is real retirement. Not the myth that’s sold to the American public. It’s not about how much we have at the end.

    I remember a quote I read by Andrew Carnegie. He said if you die with money in the bank you wasted you time here on earth.

  16. Ah, Andrew Carnegie – my son’s idol! I’ve actually heard that saying, which is attributed to him. I think there are two factors at play here. One is that people don’t get how short life is. If they did, they’d live differently. Idleness wouldn’t be a goal. They’d get the need to accomplish in life, and the necessity to always have a purpose.

    The other, I strongly believe, is that people believe that if they have enough money, they’ll somehow insulate themselves from death. I’m not saying this is rational, or even conscious, but I believe it to be true. It’s an extension of the thinking that money is the ultimate force in the universe. This despite the fact that no one ever cheated death, no matter how wealthy they were. For example, in 1912 John Jacob Astor was the wealthiest man in the world. Yet he lost his life with 1500 other people – all of them poorer than him – when the Titanic sunk.

    People forget that life isn’t about what we have, but what we do. No amount of money can insulate us from everything. Maybe we achieve the greatest comfort when we come to peace with the limits of life. As a Bible believing Christian, I think that this realization is easier for me to accept. Proof once again, that life isn’t all about money.

    We all need a certain amount of money to survive, but usually we need a lot less than we think. For example, you may achieve happiness level X if you have $50,000 in savings. But that doesn’t mean you’ll be 10 times happier with $500,000. You have to ask yourself if the time, effort and self-denial was/will be worth the extra wealth. I suspect it usually isn’t. That’s because enough money is never enough, and turns into an bald-faced paper chase. And like I wrote in an earlier comment, people who have a money fixation throughout there lives don’t suddenly get mellow about it and start enjoying life. They constantly worry about money, and that isn’t living.

  17. I’m so happy to be reading all of these posts from Kevin and the replies. It sincerely helps me to rethink our future. I was becoming obsessed with having enough money to retire, and now I think we’ll just continue to work as we can (we’re self-employed), and know that we’ll be ok. Thanks to all who reply here and tell their stories. I think it might be helpful to all of us.

  18. Bev, I think you’ve captured what I was trying to say with 2,000+ words. We’ll all be OK. Maybe this is just me, but I’ve found that as long as I keep moving forward, everything works out. Maybe not the way I expect or hope, but it works out. Sometimes it works out even better than I expect, and then I’m a really happy camper. And you know by now that I’m one of those types who sees a lot of the darker stuff that so many try so hard to ignore.

    We never really own life, we really just rent it. That’s a figurative way of saying that we’re just passing through. Intellectually we all know that, but emotionally (egged on by the media and government) we’re hoping for a different outcome.

    I’d rather live a life that’s rich in experiences and poor in money, then vice-versa. Of course, in a perfect world it would be better to have both. But this ain’t a perfect world, and that’s what these threads are all about. We’re imperfect people trying to live the best life we can in an imperfect world. That’ll look different for each of us, but we need to be open to the possibilities, while rejecting the culture-induced messages that tell us we’ll be doomed if we don’t follow The Program – what ever that happens to be for each generation.

  19. Being downsized at my job at 60 and unemployed for 13 months afterward put a big hole in my savings. Finding a job at half my previous salary has made it even more difficult to save. I have had to adjust my expectations about retirement. As long as I’m healthy and able, I’ll work – hopefully for myself eventually, by working on building a “side hustle” now, and supplementing with a part time job.

    I just made my first Medicare premium payment today – am very grateful I’m able to be on this program.

    Thanks for writing the article, Kevin!

  20. Hi Kathleen – A lot of people complain about Medicare and I get that it isn’t perfect. But it’s the very best coverage for the money you pay. We’re paying $1,875 per month on COBRA right now. That’s for a family of four, but it’s higher than our house payment. The ACA had a plan that was $1,722 for just my wife and I. Medicare gives you fighting chance, and shouldn’t be dismissed.

    I encourage you to create your own business. If you can, you can probably run it from home, and work as little or as much as you like. That may be better than retiring. You’ll have control over your income, not to mention a sense of relevancy late in life. That’s more important than people realize. I think a lot of the elderly tend to be miserable because they lack relevancy, and they know it. The complaining and whining is an attempt to get people’s attention. If they had something productive to do, something that gives them a sense of control and relevancy, I think they’d be happier. I’m all for more of that!

  21. Another Excellent Article!! The common sense perspective which accompanies these articles is so refreshing.

    For Christians, there is no scriptural support for retirement but plenty of scriptural support for saving up for a rainy day. And I don’t believe it means to put your money into anything except maybe a safe or closet. Once you give it to someone else (investment, bank accounts, etc) you rely on others. *It* comes like a thief in the night so we need to be prepared.

    Simply working until at least age 70… then taking Social Security at that time should be enough for most people to live on who have not saved well for a rainy day. https://www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/1943-delay.html#delay

    I want to work, at least seasonally, for the rest of my life. We’ve recently moved to a tiny touristy town which boasts it’s recreational opportunities in preparation for our later years which are approaching quickly.

    Research seems to back up that working beyond 65 extends lifespan.

  22. Hi Marie – Thanks for bringing some much needed additional research to the discussion. I’ve long believed that continuing to work extends a persons life, and can also improve the quality of life. We often think of work as being a burden that we need to escape from, and yes, certain occupations certainly fit under that description. But most people can transition into less taxing work, especially once they’re on Soc Sec and Medicare and don’t need as much income or benefits.

    I also agree with you about the Bible and retirement. There’s no scriptural directive or promise of retirement. However in the New Testament Jesus does direct us to rest, but it’s throughout our lives, and not retirement in any sense. His lessons advocate strongly for balance throughout life, which if we had more of it retirement wouldn’t be necessary.

    Also, as I’ve found to be true time and again, He tells us to rest in Him, and directs us not to be anxious for anything. On the flip side, the world tells us we need to worry about everything, and there’s no time to rest – until you retire. (See how that works?)

    That’s a real Catch-22! Talk about stress! No wonder we’re all tired and anxious all the time!

  23. I wasn’t from a family that talked about investing for old age, but was always told buy a home and have 3 months expenses put away for a rainy day. I see the co pays and deductibles my mother pays at 82 after working until 65. I know some that retired earlier for a lesser check, to qualify for Medicaid. Mother is $100 over the level. It angers her, blaming it on politics. Yet she has a loving home with us, after a year in the Nursing home wiped her out, house and all. I know I can’t afford long term care insurance. Somethings are not avoidable in life. Might as well be grateful for what you do have, making the most of each day, than to complain.

  24. Calvin Coolidge once said that “if you’re traveling down the road and you see 10 troubles ahead, nine of them will fall to the wayside before you get there”. I think that really is true. We often worry about preparing for problems that never happen. All we can do is all we can do, and no more. We have to accept that and find happiness. We’re not super men and women, we’re just human beings trying to live our lives.

    I often think that our (high) expectations doom us.

  25. This is such a great article and totally hits home with me. Thank you. I’m almost 59,and last year, I lost my job of 15 years which paid 28.00/hr. and I took it for granted that I would retire from there, but it wasn’t to be. So I’m really re-thinking everything. At 55, I couldn’t wait to retire and do nothing. I saw my in-laws at home all the time, relaxing and living a life leisure and pretty much figured that was what I wanted in retirement ASAP. Well, my mother worked WELL into her 70’s out of necessity, (my dad died in ’96) and it kept her totally engaged in life. She’s 85 today and kicks butt!! A role model for me; a person can definitely work far past “retirement age,” not only because it helps pay the bills but because it really helps KEEP US GOING!! I see myself going that route to supplement my pension and social security,even if it is part-time, and self-employment is better yet.

  26. You’re on the right path Tony. Sitting around doing nothing is way over-rated. I’ll admit that on those workdays when I feel stressed and overwhelmed retiring to do nothing looks attractive. But that just means I need to downshift a bit. Also, working into the retirement years means you won’t start drawing down retirement savings early in the game. I read an article about a guy who invested $250,000 at 58, but took $4,000 a month out so he could retire early. He thought the $4,000/mo was guaranteed for life. Well, at 64 he got a call telling him his account was drained. Shortly after he filed for bankruptcy, lost his house and now lives on a $1200/mo Social Security check, plus what ever he can earn from working. He’s now in his mid-70s.

    That’s an outcome we all need to be wary of. If you retire at 60 or 62 or 65 and live another 25-30 years, you could outlive your money. Best to delay tapping that until you certifiably can’t work at all. In my accounting days I saw retirees drawing down their savings. It’s a real thing, and something that needs to be considered and prevented.

  27. I have worried myself to tears over this subject, to the point where at times I wished I had never been born, so to not have the overwhelming (and seemingly impossible) task of having what the “experts” say I need to have in order to retire. This puts the quest in more realistic perspective, and I am so grateful for finding this article.

  28. Hi Evan – Don’t get yourself in knots over this, it isn’t healthy. The experts and talking heads are talking to the top 10%, and they’re also representing their industries, which are the brokers and the companies that have a vested interest in retirement investing in particular. They know it’s a point of insecurity with most people, so they keep trumpeting it to generate fear.

    Save and invest what you can, as anything is better than nothing. But apart from that, invest your time and effort creating a productive, worthwhile and satisfying life that’s less money-centric. We came into this world with nothing, and we’ll go out with nothing. But what happens in between is largely up to us, and not determined by your bankroll at age 65. Your life is worth a lot more than money (Please see Luke 12:6-7, Matthew 6:25-27, and Philippians 4:6-7).

    None of this means you give up, but it does mean you do what you can, and stop worrying about it. I’ve known too many people of limited resources who lived comfortable lives right up to the very end. We’re not building empires here, we’re just living our lives within the scope of the resources and talents we have. My guess is you’ll be just fine if you can adjust your thinking to that reality.

  29. I will never be able to afford to retire. I am going to drop dead at my grueling, back-breaking job (PCT, aka shit-scraper at a hospital) in my 70’s. I am 31 and I have no hope for the future.

  30. Hi Lyn – At 31 you’re way too young to be so fatalistic. Start savings small amounts of money (no amount is too small!) and begin exploring other income opportunities. Please don’t give up so easily. In your case it isn’t just about retirement, but the quality of your life between now and then. That’s what you really need to concentrate on. Baby steps at first, but as you gain confidence you can take bigger steps. You have the advantage that time is on your side. But it won’t be if you spend too many years thinking the way you do now.

  31. Excellent article, Kevin! I?m one of the people who sometimes feels like it?s too late to save. I?m 61 with a full-time job involving business travel, a house that?s only half paid off and I?ve been lazy about taking advantage of my work?s 401K. I can take another 9 years of this high pressure job but I?m starting to think that I should change course. Yes, 9 years of serious saving would help my future retirement but at what cost due to the stress of the job? I?ve definitely got to think about this.

    Oh, by the way, you never mentioned the knuckleheads who count a possible inheritance as future retirement money. That?s insane! There are tons of people unrealistic enough to think that their parents will leave them with, maybe not fortunes when they die, but at least a nest egg. That?s money that should NEVER be counted on! A parent may have all the best intentions but end up using all their money for a health catastrophe.

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