Is retirement even possible for gen-xers? Do I even want to retire?

April 22, 2014 by Eric Linden
Financial charts and graphs

I recently filled out an online tool on a financial advisor website. It had some catchy feel good name like Dream Catcher or Dream Machine or something of the like. Apparently, this little tool was going to make me feel pretty dang good. The Golden Years would be just that… GOLDEN….  A wonderful dream of travel, leisure, and good times! Feeling all warm inside, I gathered up all the necessary information this Dream Machine requires: Current earnings, how many years to retirement, approximation of social security benefits and a few other financial nuggets. As I compiled my numbers, I dreamt of scuba diving the Galapagos Islands, sipping tea in Japan, and kayaking down the Amazon River. I mean, I am a frugal individual right? Heck, I have never even had a car payment. I drink Folgers! Well, okay, I do occasionally have a $2 Starbucks espresso but dang it that is rare! I can retire and live these Golden Years too, right?

$2.7M. Yes… you read that correctly. I need $2.7 MILLION to retire at 67 at 75% of my current income (and this is not executive level income). But why so much? Inflation and health care costs are a retiree’s worst enemy, according to the Dream Machine. The United States continues to spend more on healthcare than any other industrialized nation. I shudder to think what it will be in 30 years. And while my expenses may drop in retirement, what about all that free time I will have that I used to spend slaving to the grind? More time to spend more money, right?

Since The Great Recession of 2008, we have seen wages drop, health care costs and taxes rise, and some even say there is an all-out war on the middle class. For many, saving nearly $3 million is a stretch, if not outright impossible. This is not to say it cannot be done, but unless something drastically changes, many of us may never be able to retire.

But before you toss your hands in the air with despair, let us look at this problem in an entirely different way. What about working longer? Maybe loving what you do? Staying vibrant in mind and body for as long as possible. Working does not have to be hell on Earth. This reminds me of a fantastic quote by a famous marketer by the name of Seth Godin: Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don't need to escape from.” I tell you, working for 40 years just to get to that far off day when I can finally hang up the computer mouse only to find out I do not have enough money is not very appealing. Heck, I may not even be healthy enough to enjoy it.

The experts also say that for my generation (Gen X), one in two will eventually live to 100 years old! Retiring at 65 is just not economically feasible for many, so maybe we need to toss out that old advice and think outside the box. Find jobs and careers we like and change as often as necessary to stay happy, challenged and engaged in what we are doing.

Embrace this new world and change your outlook. You may just find out what you are truly capable of. Be it learning a new skill, starting a new career, or saving a bunch of money! This way, our Golden Years can still be golden. The gold just may not be found on the 18th green at Augusta National, and that is just fine.

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