Much has been written about the “Millennial” generation – those born between the early 1980s and 2000 (definitions vary), who are between the ages of 15 and 35 today. They may be the most researched and reported on generation to date.
I identify with many of the Millennials’ values. Sometimes I feel like I was born thirty years too early, but then I remind myself that I would have missed out on experiencing first-hand the great music that came out in the 1970s. (I’m serious about that. But the fashions? Not so much.)
One of the most often cited characteristics of the Millennials is that they value experiences over things.
I think they are absolutely right. Looking back on my life, I see that I have prioritized the acquisition of things over opportunities to experience what the world has to offer.
People have a lot of misperceptions about retirement. I’ve heard a lot of them over the years, and I’ve become especially aware of them since I started reading and researching extensively in order to produce content for this web site.
Where do these misperceptions come from? Generally, misperceptions thrive wherever there is a lack of knowledge or awareness. And many people rarely think about their retirement during their working years.
The average 50-year-old in the United States has saved $43,797 for retirement. 36% of Americans have saved nothing for retirement at all.
Whenever I think about this sobering statistic, it leaves me sad and perplexed. Why are we, as a nation, so underprepared? I am convinced that this situation exists because these misperceptions exist.
Financial preparedness aside, I have observed that many people either view their retirement with dread or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, with an overly simplistic and rosy outlook.
Let’s take a look at twelve retirement myths, and then consider the reality that undermines each of them.
It’s easy to imagine an ideal retirement lifestyle, filled with stress-free days in which you are engaging in all those self-fulfilling pursuits you’ve always dreamed of but never had time for. You probably have a nice list of things you would like to do and places you want to go after you retire. Maybe you have an actual “bucket list.”
But how many of those things on your list will you actually do?
Chances are, not very many.
Because many of those items on your list require you to do something differently than you have been accustomed to for most of your life. They may require you to change your habits or change the way you live. Some of them require a lot of planning. Some require you to leave your comfort zone.
The truth is, you are a creature of habit. A lot of those habits have been engrained in you for most of your life.
What will it take to get you started on the path towards the ideal retirement you envision?
Years ago, knowing when to retire was easy. Back then, you probably would have taken it for granted that you would retire when you turned 65. Or, if you worked for the same employer your entire career (which was much more common in decades past) you would retire when you had worked enough years to qualify for a full pension.
Today it’s different. The decision of when to retire is no longer clear-cut.
It’s much less likely that you’ll stay at the same employer long enough to qualify for a meaningful pension. Many companies don’t even offer pensions any more, offering only tax-sheltered savings plans (such as a 401(K)) instead. And the window in which you can begin to collect Social Security has widened to age 62 to 70.
In fact, the average age at which American workers retire is now 62. Americans also retire an average of three years earlier than they had planned. This may be come about due to health issues or needing to care for a loved one with health issues, being laid off and unable to find a new job, or being offered an attractive early retirement package.
You may find yourself facing the decision of whether or not to retire sooner than you expect. How can you decide if it’s the right time to retire?
It’s a complicated decision, and there are many factors to consider. This article will help you navigate some of these issues and answer some of the many questions you are facing.
Do you ever daydream about where you’d most like to live after you retire?
When you visit beautiful places on vacation, do you ever think, “Wow… It sure would be great to retire here!”?
Do you ever think that surely there must be some place out there that’s just right for you?
It’s fun to think about where you want to retire! After all, once you no longer have your job tying you to a particular area, there’s no reason not to move to a place that’s more to your liking if you want to. Perhaps you want to move someplace warmer, someplace where the cost of living is lower or someplace closer to the water.
But once you start to think more seriously about where you want to live, it becomes more complicated and perplexing than fun. There are so many factors to consider: cost of living, weather, taxes, how close you want to be to your friends and family, whether an area has the amenities you desire… It can get overwhelming fast!
With so many factors to consider, which ones are truly important?
Would you like to slow down your rate of physical decline by as much as 62%?
Want to be able to reduce or delay the risk of cognitive decline?
The answer is not some new miracle drug. I’m not even talking about exercising regularly and eating responsibility – although those habits are certainly important and you should do them too.
We all dream of a retirement in which we enjoy a free and easy life for many years. We envision a retirement in which we’ll be active, see and do fun things, and enjoy it all with good friends and family. We acknowledge that we’ll get older and slow down a little, but life will still be good.
But for a surprising number of seniors, their life is not that way at all.
What I’m going to share with you today is a quality decision you can make for yourself that will dramatically improve the quality of your life. It’s a simple behavior change.
Do you ever wonder how you’ll be remembered after you die?
At your memorial service and for years to come, what will others remember most about your life?
What do you want people to remember about you and your life?
Of course, you’ll be gone, so it may not matter that much to you. But if you’re like most of us, you hope that you made some difference on this earth with your life.
Most of us will not make a major, life-changing difference like discovering a cure for cancer or ending world hunger or negotiating the political break-through that leads to world peace. But you will inevitably have an impact on many of the lives you touch. And many of those people will want to remember you. And while the best memories will live on in their hearts, it’s nice to leave some tangible mementos as well.
What kinds of vacations would you like to take after you retire? You will no longer limited by a fixed number of vacation days at your job, and you can go anytime you want.
But have you factored your vacation dreams into your retirement planning budget? What will you be able to afford to do? You have more options than you may think.
I'm delighted to return as Mark McNease's guest on his podcast series, "Live Mic with Mark McNease" on lgbtSr.org.
Mark and I discuss a topic many of us are thinking about this time of year – vacations. Listen in as we talk about how your vacation options may change after you retire, as well as how to plan for them and afford them.
We also discuss how the vacation landscape for LGBT people has changed over the years as a result of wider mainstream acceptance and having more options available.
Give a listen!
There’s a buffet restaurant a few miles from our home called Pacific Seafood Buffet. Most of the food is Asian, and the primary draw for us is all the sushi we care to eat for one price. Of course, there are a lot of other good dishes there too: tempura vegetables, shrimp, crab cakes, and many things you typically find at Asian buffets. And there’s green tea ice cream for dessert!
The lunch price is very reasonable, so we go every couple of months. (If we went more often, we would be huge.) Overall, I stay away from buffets because they are invitations to overeat. Our visits to Pacific Seafood Buffet are no exception; often, on the drive home, we realize that we have probably eaten too much.
What does this have to do with retirement?
A lot of people, both retirees and those who are still working, enjoy vacationing on cruise ships. I have taken ten cruises that have carried me to Europe (four times), the southern Caribbean, Alaska, Hawaii, Tahiti, South America, and New Zealand/Australia. I have enjoyed them all immensely, especially the last three.
Recently, I saw a meme on Facebook about a woman who eschewed living in a retirement home in favor of living permanently on a cruise ship. When asked by the unidentified author, she claimed that living on the cruise ship was cheaper than living in a nursing home. The author went on to enumerate ten benefits to retirement on a cruise ship.
Of course, this meme had me scurrying to Snopes.com, where I expected to find this urban legend thoroughly exposed and debunked. In fact, some of the claims made in this story are inaccurate or entirely false. But I was surprised to learn that there really are people who live almost full-time on cruise ships for years at a time (and I’m talking about paying customers, not the ship’s crew).
Just think - you could travel the world, meet new people, and never have to cook or clean! Could this be retirement utopia for you?
Could living on a cruise ship really be less expensive than other options?
Do people really do this?