As a Gen X, my thoughts on retirement are pretty typical for my generation. I’ve said things like:
“Retirement? I love what I’m doing. Why would I ever retire?”
“Social Security and Medicare won’t be there for me.”
But lately, I’ve started thinking about it on a different level.
When the US Social Security Program originated in 1935, it did so for all the right reasons. At that point in time, there were 37 workers for every one person in retirement. Life expectancy was around 61 years old, which meant there were plenty of ways to fund the people in retirement.
Compare that today. Today it’s less than a 3 to 1 ratio. And life expectancy has shot up to 75 and beyond.
Today’s elders no longer think in terms of slowing down. You’re more likely to hear “I’m never going to retire” come out of the mouths of 50, 60, 70, and 80 year olds than ever before.
I fall into that category. I haven’t “worked” in a very long time. As an entrepreneur, I love what I do. I’m a writer, and I love to write. So “retirement” for me means never “retiring.”
Have you ever run into a thirty-something who retired early? A lot of dot-commers made their wealth and stepped into retirement. Most of them returned to work shortly thereafter, bored out of their minds.
Traditional retirement is just a way of sitting down and fading away. And I don’t know too many people who want to take that path anymore.
But there’s a problem which we’re all going to have to face sooner or later. There comes a juxtaposition between wanting to work and having to work. And that can be a very scary place to be if you’re not prepared.
Retirement isn’t funded the way it once was. We all know Social Security may or may not be there for us Gen Xers. And if you’re like me – an entrepreneur – your retirement years need to be funded entirely on your own.
I love what I do. I can’t imagine not doing it. Writing is more than my life; it’s who I am. Mark Twain said:
Find a job you enjoy doing, and you’ll never work a day in your life.
Still, I’m human. Things happen. There can come a time when:
I wake up and no longer want to do what I’m doing. I did that with photography, when it no longer filled my soul.
A skillset becomes obsolete. Think Amazon hasn’t changed the world of books? Traditional publishing houses know how true this is. If you rely on any one thing in this world, there’s a good chance the industry will “die” at some point in the future.
Regulations or technology change so significantly, you can’t do what you want anymore. We seriously looked at building a business around drone photography, but the regulations that hit that industry in a short period of time made us turn the other way. For some, it’s worth the effort. We decided to move into other areas.
Sometimes you just burn out. I know that feeling first hand. It’s happened to me several times in my life. Each time I sit back and only do what truly needs to be done. It’s when I do my greatest changing – watch out world!
Health comes and goes. And it doesn’t take many reminders to know how true this can be. I had that experience just last week as I walked my typical path one evening. I suddenly felt a sharp pain in my leg just above my shoe. I never saw what it was, but I’m guessing a wasp or hornet. The venom spread quickly; I developed a small allergic reaction to whatever pricked me. My ankle swelled up, I had to walk home slowly, I canceled my plans for my exercise classes for a week. We don’t plan on sickness or injury, but it can hit you at any time just the same.
Those are the things you have to prepare for.
Pensions don’t cover as much as they used to. Social Security may or may not be there.
Even if you have a guaranteed inheritance or are a trust fund baby, that can be lost in a moment.
What is Gen X going to do?
Top Searches For Retirement
The good thing about Google is it tracks everything. The top Google searches when it comes to retirement look like this:
- How to retire early
- How much do I need to retire?
- How much to save for retirement
- How to retire at 50
- What is the retirement age?
- Where to retire
Dig a little deeper, and you’ll find people are a bit more concerned:
- How much will I spend in retirement?
- How will I pay for medical expenses?
- When should I take Social Security?
- How long will my money last?
Clearly, Gen X has a lot on our minds. I know I do.
I’m making big changes in my life in the coming years. So I’m starting to think a lot about retirement (or for me, substitute “retirement” with money/income streams).
So I read a lot on this topic. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of the “10 tips to save more for retirement” posts that don’t apply to me. I’d go so far as saying a lot of it just doesn’t make sense.
Have you ever read a post like that and laughed? Me too.
But that doesn’t change the fact that “retirement” is creeping up, fast.
I figure we’re all in this together, so I thought I’d share the three things I’ve been doing this year.
Build Other Income Sources
Gen X has had it especially hard saving for the future. We’ve been bullied by two recessions; we have mounting credit card debt just to pay the bills. We help our kids pay for college; we navigate the realities of caregiving for our parents.
Then there’s the “job” market. If you have one job and one income source, life can get a little scary. It’s all or nothing. If your job is there, great. But what if it goes away?
I asked that question years ago, when I watched my father devote his career to a company that re-interviewed him again and again as he approached his fifty-fifth birthday, only to die from the stress a handful of days short of his goal.
I won’t follow in his footsteps, not on that. That’s why I jumped off the “job” track years ago.
Lately, I’ve been coaching a number of women who are turning away from traditional jobs, and are turning to the internet to find solutions.
It’s never been easier than right now to do what you love and build an income stream. No matter what you love to do, jump online and blog about it. Start figuring out how you can bring in a little extra income to help you do it even more. It might not start out as a lot, but very quickly, it can add up. I do it every day.
Together, the two are helping me create a lifestyle I’m designing. I can see myself doing this for a long, long time.
Just choose your area of expertise and share your wisdom. Have expertise with pets? Blog about it. Have secrets in navigating holistic healthcare? Write about it. Throw in a little coaching now and again, and you have the best step by step plan you can do for years. What’s even better, because it’s internet based, you can do it from anywhere.
Training and Workshops
I noticed a course called Social Security For Couples Over 50 in my local community. Even writing that, it sounds like the most boring class available. This year I decided to attend.
I know a lot of employers offer information about Social Security from HR, but as entrepreneurs, I haven’t thought about it in years. Frankly, I’ve assumed two things:
1. That all my work from years ago would never amount to a lot of retirement income.
2. That Social Security wouldn’t be around anyway, so why bother?
It was two solid hours of information, and I’m glad I attended. While I still don’t hold out hope for Social Security to be funded the way it is today, it did open up my eyes to couple-planning rather than just thinking about it as an individual. It made us ask different questions, and ultimately come up with new solutions.
Again, I wouldn’t use Social Security as my primary source of income, but it was interesting to learn more about the process. If you’re fifty or quickly approaching, and you’ve worked your entire career, why not spend the time ensuring you maximize your output wherever you can?
That’s really the point. At fifty, you can’t afford to put the concept off anymore. It’s time to start seriously thinking about the numbers.
Look for classes in your local community, or online. Find a financial planner who speaks your language. Don’t push it aside, thinking it’s just too complicated.
Women are especially at risk because we live longer, and there’s a higher chance we’ll be solely in charge of our own lives at some point as we age. If you haven’t heard of Ellevest, check them out. I love the fact that a woman started it, and the majority of their staff are women helping women. They make conscious decisions about what to invest in, and send out a weekly newsletter to help teach you more about savings and investment.
If you take away just one thing from this post, let it be the concept of education. Do one thing to learn more about your own retirement. It might open your eyes to possibilities, like it did mine.
Attack the Wealth Robbers
I had to laugh at tip number one on this list. The contributor said to “reexamine insurance expenses. Many people pay too much for insurance.”
Just for “fun,” I tracked my medical costs this year. For 2019, I’ve spent $14,790.41. And I have NO medical issues. I paid $12,120 for health insurance. I paid close to $1,500 for chiropractic, eye checkups, dentist visits, and holistic appointments my health insurance doesn’t cover. Close to $1,000 was for co-pay and office visits for routine blood work and tests – my $12,120 insurance payments pay for NOTHING until I hit an $8,500 deductible.
I’m self-employed, which means I have to go into the marketplace to find a policy. I’ve worked with insurance brokers to try and find a better way. This is as good as it gets, given my situation.
I’m not on prescription meds. I supplement only. And I’ve still paid $14,790.41 this year!
I still get shocked by seeing that number. And I know it’s going to get worse before it gets better.
Even if Medicare is around by the time I reach the magical age, I know it’ll be a lot higher than it is currently. So that $14,790.41 medical expense is my reality. It won’t be going down anytime soon.
And that’s something I’m seriously considering.
What will it take to lower it? How can I get better wellness care, and only pay for things that are important to me?
I know artificial intelligence will be changing healthcare forever. And I know a lot of wellness techniques simply aren’t affordable (or even available) in the US.
Medical tourism is at an all-time high. Do a quick search, and you’ll find many ways to get involved.
I also know that US medicine focuses on sickness, not wellness. Do I really want to keep paying for that? What if I take my traveling up a notch, and find someplace that allows me to focus on wellness instead of sickness? I’ve poured over lists like this one, which is updated every year to provide the best locations to live in.
I have friends who live in Mexico, Portugal, and Spain. I have friends who travel around the world, exploring different cities every few weeks, and find it a great way of life. And the health care systems are far superior to what we deal with here.
So maybe the best way to “reduce my insurance costs” isn’t by finding a better insurance agent or a cheaper plan. Maybe the best approach is to “attack the wealth robber” and do what’s best for me.
What thoughts are you having on retirement?
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