Life is much like my kaleidoscope pictures on this page . . . it changes with every twist and turn we make. 

“Work is much more than an income ... the focus later in life should be on pursuing meaningful ventures, not preparing for the worst."

- Chris Farrell, author of Unretirement: How Baby Boomers Are Changing the Way We Think About Work, Community and the Good Life and The New Frugality: How to Consume Less, Save More, and Live Better.

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"Working longer or into traditional retirement years appears to be a predicted reality for a third of middle-class Americans who say they will need to work until they are 'at least 80 years old' because they will not have enough retirement savings, holding steady from a year ago. Half of those in their 50s say they will need to work until age 80. In another new question asked this year, a quarter (26%) of middle-class Americans say working into their 80s is something they plan to do even if it’s not a financial necessity."

- from a Wells Fargo survey in October 2014, "Saving for Retirement Not Happening for a Third of Middle Class."

"Today, one in four people who reach age 65 will live past 90, according to the Social Security Administration. One in 10 will live past 95. With such longevity, financial advisers say, people need to be more creative about finding new income in retirement—which more often makes a job a regular part of the plan."

 - from a Washington Post article, "The anti-retirement plan: Working 9-to-5 past 65."

For Additional Perspective: 

Why More Americans are Working Past 65

Who says it's time to retire? A Columbus Dispatch article finds, "Millions of people continue to work well past 65."  

What’s Your "Beautiful Question" For 2015? This article by Warren Berger is about how big questions can lead to big breakthroughs in life. He says, "A beautiful question ... can be thought of as an ambitious, yet actionable, question that can begin to shift the way we think about something—and can serve as a catalyst to bring about change."

Will You Be Still Working In Your Seventies?

Here's a story about retirement planning with the simple financial exercise that changed my life and the way I was looking at work itself. It might change your retirement outlook too.

by Barbara Brabec
Posted February 2015

 

IT ALL STARTED LAST AUGUST when my youngest sister, Mollie, came out from California to help me get through a hernia-repair surgery that my surgeon said was likely to be extremely painful with a long recovery period.

Surprisingly, I woke up in Recovery with no pain at all and never needed even a Tylenol after I got home. So this visit with Mollie turned out to be another blessing because we literally talked around the clock while she was here—about life, faith, dreams, goals, aging and physical concerns, and more.

One day when I was talking about my need to get back to work after she left, she asked, "Why do you feel you need to work all the time when most people your age have been retired for a decade or more?"

After giving her my usual workaholic and money-related reasons for spending most of my days in front of the computer, she said, "Okay, I get that. But have you ever figured out how much money you actually have in savings, investments, and other financial resources, and how much money you think you'll need each year over and above your Social Security and other income you can count on?"

Because I've always kept close track of every dollar spent for both business and living expenses, I could easily estimate my annual living expenses and home-business overhead, add something for inflation, and come up with the figures needed here. 

The BIG Question

WE’VE ALL SEEN THOSE ADS on TV asking, "In retirement, will you have enough money to live life on your terms?" That question had haunted me for decades, and even more so in recent years as I've watched my living expenses rise every year. The guidelines for figuring out the answer to retirement questions are much different for today's job holders than for someone like me who's already well into her retirement years. Who knows how long we'll live or how much our living costs are going to increase in the next five or ten years?

Until Mollie asked me the above questions, I'd never looked at my widow's financial picture in terms of how long my money would last if I actually started to withdraw regular amounts each year. I think this has a lot to do with how I was raised. By the financial guidelines of those days, my folks were poor, yet my sisters and I never felt poor because we had everything we needed or wanted (within reason), including good food, new clothes for every new school year, music instruments and lessons, school pictures and sweaters, formals for proms, and so on.

We were taught, however, that money was hard to come by and thus precious, and it was necessary to work hard in life, think twice before spending our income, and save as much as possible so we'd have money in our old age. Which is exactly what my parents did, what my husband and I strived to do throughout our lives, and what I've continued to do since he died. Although I live frugally but very comfortably now, I've always been reluctant to draw much from my savings because I feared running out of money in my old, old age and being a financial burden on my sisters. As my research in the sidebar proves, millions of others are also concerned about having enough savings for retirement.

But Mollie was now making me look at my life in a way I'd never done before, and she made a good point when she asked me what I'd been saving money for all my life if not to spend some of it now. Then she helped me finish the financial exercise she'd challenged me to do earlier:

"Now that you have a total of your financial resources, divide the amount you think you're going to need each year into that total and tell me how many years you come up with. Then compare that number to how many years you think you're likely to live."

In the end, it was all about YEARS and my acceptance of the fact that I was well into my so-called "Golden Years." I was stunned to find that if I continued to live as prudently as always, I probably had enough savings and other financial resources to get me into my nineties, even with inflation and without considering any income I might receive from my web business, royalties on books I might publish between now and then, and a number of possessions I'm planning to sell just to simplify my life. Talk about a change of mindset! It was comparable to being born anew in that I suddenly saw light at the end of my financial tunnel.

How Long Do You Think You’ll Live?

IF YOU THINK THAT'S A BIG QUESTION, answer this one:

How differently would you live if you thought you had only ten more years of life?

NOW THAT'S A QUESTION I'm still thinking about and one worth pondering by everyone, regardless of age, simply because none of us knows when our number is going to be called. Few of us want to think about the eventual end of our lives, but sooner or later we all must accept the fact that we're not going to live forever. Our lives hang on a slender thread, and clearly we're not in control of our destiny. News stories remind us every day that people younger than we are losing their lives in such ordinary events as accidents at home or work; vehicle, train, and plane crashes; fires, natural disasters, accidental explosions—even guns in the wrong hands. And who hasn't mourned the loss of a younger family member or friend struck down in life by disease or other medical issues, or killed in the line of duty?

I like to think I'm going to live well into my nineties, but God may have other plans for me. If I begin to think now, as well as in years to come, in terms of having only ten more years to live—or five, or even just one if I make it into my nineties—it will be easier to focus on what I really want to do with the rest of my life at that point in time. I can relate to what the ill-fated iconic actor James Dean once said: "Dream as if you'll live forever. Live as if you'll die today."

It was a life-changing moment for me to finally realize that I no longer have to work all the time to maintain my present life style, but can choose whether to work for clients or for own pleasure. After a lifetime of writing and publishing to make a buck, "work" has always been my middle name, and I'm not ready to quit my work on the Web just yet because I have valuable skills that others need. More important is the fact that I've gotten a great deal of personal satisfaction and joy from meeting and working with other writers, especially those first-time authors who needed help in getting published. I like being needed and appreciated, so this kind of work will be hard for me to ever give up voluntarily.

For now, however, I've decided to be more selective in the client work I accept because what I really want to do for the foreseeable future is write more books. And while I cherish readers who buy my books and appreciate what I have to say, writing isn't just about making money now as it always was in the past; it's just something I have to do at this time of life to feel fulfilled and productive.

As I've often said, "Old writers never die; they just change their subjects." I have a major book that I want to finish and publish this year, two more in progress, and a dozen others I'd love to write in the years ahead. I've always imagined myself at the end of my life saying, "WAIT! I'm not done yet."

If life is a play, then I'm well into my Third Act, but to think in positive terms, I'm reminding myself that sometimes Act Three is very long.

Related Articles

Out with the Old, In with the New. In this continuing series of articles for widows, Barbara tells how reaching the ten-year mark in her widowhood journey prompted her to take another life-changing step.

How to be a Fearless Dreamer and Reinvent Your Life at Any Age. Barbara's thoughts and research about the importance of dreaming and changing your life if it isn't all you want it to be.

Looking at Your Life in An Exciting New Way. This article will help you take a sharper look at where you're going in life, and whether you are truly on the path you want to be on.

Pruning Your Life to Encourage Growth. As we grow older, we tend to try to rid our lives of things that are stressing us, taking more time than we want to give them, or are simply becoming a burdensome physical responsibility. You can do something about this.

 

Copyright © 2015 by Barbara Brabec.
All Rights Reserved.

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