Okay, let’s talk about the bad news first. Financing our retirement is one of the major challenges we baby boomers face today. As Suze Orman often says on her show, most boomers will be unable to retire in their 50s and 60s like previous generations.
There are several different reasons for this new reality. The recent recession with its spike in unemployment took a toll on boomers’ bank accounts; our inheritances on average won’t be that significant; Social Security is on shaky ground while many traditional pension benefits are phasing out; and many shop-till-you-drop boomers simply haven’t saved enough money to last through retirements.
Combine the income crunch and lack of savings with the dramatic increase in life expectancy and it looks like many of us will be working into our 70s.
So what’s the good news? According to a recent Charles Schwab survey, about a third of those still working in their 60s don’t want to retire. A quarter of the respondents said this was “the happiest time in their working career.” “As you get older, the more you like your job,” noted Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, senior vice president of Schwab Community Services in an interview for US News. “Many of them said they’re happy with their jobs and want to be there,” she added.
Perhaps we can take a cue from some of the old folks who are working into their 60s and even their 70s and loving it. Unlike some unhappy boomers in their 50s who feel stuck in their jobs and are working for financial reasons instead of personal satisfaction, many in the older generation are discovering fulfillment in their careers. “There is a group of people who will continue working because they need the income, and they want to save up before dipping into Social Security and savings,” says Kerry Hannon, author of What’s Next? Follow Your Passion and Find Your Dream Job. “And because we’re living longer and healthier, why not keep working?”
Hannon adds that as people age, they also start considering their legacy and what they can do to give back. Often, it’s by continuing to practice the skills they spent their careers building. Those who are in the position to do so, may work outside the constraints of a full-time job, by working part-time, starting a small business, or creating a small nonprofit organization. “It’s an opportunity to use your existing skills in a new way,” she says.
In fact, studies of healthy aging suggest that working to an older age could have a number of positive physical and psychological effects. Since most jobs require workers to engage in a number of productive and social activities, working longer can benefit us in a number of ways. For example, working can help us maintain meaning and a sense of purpose in life as well as adapt to aging.
Yup, once again it’s about the attitude folks. By the way, happiness is a critical factor for work. Studies show that happier people outperform unhappy people. That’s no surprise since happy people are generally more cooperative, productive, generous, and less self-centered. They work better with other people since they’re often willing to pitch in to help their colleagues and are typically more confident and assertive which makes them better leaders.
So maybe it’s time to quit pouting about working longer. Instead, let’s look for ways to create new opportunities and seek experiences that excite us and broaden our perspective.
Point taken, you might be thinking. But what if I have a monotonous, boring job that I absolutely hate? More on this in my next blog…