It’s an all too common problem.
Every month I host a financial planning class and I ask all the new students to introduce themselves. And while there’s the occasional 35 year old housewife there, unfortunate widow whose husband did the finances there, or even the young whipper snapper 23 year old trying to get a jump on things, the plurality of my students are,
“A few years away from retirement”
“…but haven’t saved anything,”
and now on the precipice of retiring conclude…
“It’s time to get serious about retirement!”
I painfully have to tell them, “It’s mathematically impossible for you to retire at 65. You are going to have to work well past 65.” Their response is usually silence.
This unfortunate reality is in stark contrast to what media, news, and society in general has led the baby boomers (and everyone else) to believe. That retirement planning was something you could do in the 9th inning of life. That you could pull a Tom Brady-come-back and in 5 years save up enough money to last you 20. The math simply does not work that way, and today only 15% of baby boomers have saved up enough for retirement.
So what’s the solution if it’s mathematically impossible for most people to retire?
Simple, don’t. Because retirement is death.
The one saving grace about retirement is that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Matter of fact, it’s detrimental to both your physical and mental health. People post-retirement are 40% more likely to be clinically depressed and 60% more likely to be diagnosed with at least one physical condition (compared to non-retired peer groups). And this only stands to reason.
Retirement is not some Viagra commercial, replete with svelte chardonnay-chugging wives and husbands, frolicking on some Floridian beach. It is the end of your previous life, which, for all of its faults and drawbacks, provided you with reason, agency, and purpose. And to stop that life, without replacing it with new point and purpose to live, is the quickest way to a sad, depressing, and unhealthy retirement. Thankfully, this problem and inadequate savings for retirement can be solved by continuing to work past retirement.
This doesn’t mean you have to return to the rat race, suffering commutes, cubicles, and office drama. But it does mean some job, any job, even if part time will go a long way to improve your physical health, mental health, happiness, and finances during retirement. Make this a mandatory part of your retirement planning. You owe yourself that much.
Editor’s Notes: Aaron Clarey is an ex-banker-and-economist-turned-author who rides motorcycles across North America, moonlights as a ballroom dance instructor, smokes cigars, and otherwise engages in hedonism. You can find his book “Poor Richard’s Retirement – Retirement for Everyday Americans” here.