Retirement. What a fantastic thing! Imagine never having to work again! Or working only by choice! If you are nearing your 69th. born day like me, you will soon join the fastest – growing segment of the American population. In 1900 there were 123,000 Americans age 65 or older. Today there are 34.7 million such Americans. It is estimated that in 2030, there will be 69.4 million Americans over 65.
The notion of age 65 having some sort of magic is not an American idea. Americans first began to collect Social Security retirement benefits in 1937. When Social Security began paying retirement benefits, an American man lived until 65 and began collecting Social Security benefits, he could expect to live another two to three years. When most married men died, they left widows who had not worked outside the home for many years, if at all. Social Security set a policy of allowing surviving spouses with dependent children under 16 and spouses age 60 and over to collect benefits based on what the working spouse had contributed to the Social Security system. The average life expectancy of Americans increased 50% in the 20th. century. A baby boy born in 2000 has a life expectancy of over 72 years, while a baby girl born that year has a life expectancy of over 79 years.
What’s interesting is that the older you are, the older you are expected to get. An American turning 65 today and beginning to collect Social Security benefits can expect to receive those benefits for more than 18 years. You might think of retirement as the third full chapter of your life! What you do today in terms of planning and saving will have a large impact on whether you spend that time in relative financial comfort or worrying about your finances. Perhaps the most important message is that you are retiring to something, and not just retiring from a job. The more you prepare for the potential of those years, the more fulfilling they will be.
It is crucial for you to understand that your retirement will not be like anyone else’s. The choices you make about how you will live in retirement, where you will live in retirement, and how you will save and invest for that retirement are among the most important decisions you can make.