Looks Like I’ll Never Retire…How about You?

They’ve brought a lot of studies to bear in recent years on the question of retirement and whether any of us can ever afford to go down that long-awaited road. “They” include AARP, Merrill Lynch, Charles Schwab & Co., Inc., and many other financial experts. (Google for more.)

If you’re over 50, you may need to make immediate, hard adjustments in your financial behaviors. And it takes both partners in a marriage to pull that off. Each analysis indicates we all need to have many times our current earnings put away in savings before we walk out the door to pursue the next dream on our list, anywhere from 5 times to 20 times our annual salary. Right! Like that’s going to happen.

How do you save as much as you need to live on now, especially when you don’t have an affluent lifestyle that could be cut back? Yet the experts’ opinions are because our expenses won’t really decrease in retirement, unless our homes are fully paid for or we go live in a shack in the woods! The allure of decreased expenses is a myth, proved by totaling up everything you spend money on now and what will replace those items later.

Most studies assume a retirement lasting a minimum of 20 years. But many women live for 30 years after spouses pass away, so where does that leave them?

The author's widowed mother at 92
The author’s widowed mother at the age of 92

Some end up widowed much longer than that after being left with sparse assets – if any – after paying funeral expenses.

Few older women want to get married again and put up with possible disgusting treatment from spouse, in-laws, and over-protective step-kids who automatically assume she will get “their” inheritance. And the widow (or divorcee) definitely doesn’t want to remarry just to have a roof over her head. This isn’t the 19th century, even though the economy still stinks. Nor does any woman want to be a full-time caregiver a second time. She is already exhausted. It is her time to be taken care of instead, possibly in assisted living. That definitely doesn’t come cheap.

Sometimes, I think the experts are puffing on something to come up with their numbers. They are definitely not considering the lower income strata of society, nor what used to be the middle class. But then I see online reports that indicate out-of-pocket medical expenses for a couple can easily total $300,000 over 20 years. There are no obvious decisions any more. Even a step as frugal as downsizing to a smaller home to save on insurance and maintenance costs can require consultation with financial and tax experts first.

I’ve read several books about retirement choices and found conflicting advice from some of the authors. Regardless, we need to save, save, save. Even so, I’ve concluded it is too late for me to do anything other than continue to work at paid employment. Unless someone has a lottery ticket they’re not planning to use. Anyone?

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