I’m going to be 62 years old this year. I don’t feel old, most of the time anyway, but I know that I am on the downhill slide now. For anyone around my age, do you remember the TV show One Day At A Time? The mom, played by actress Bonnie Franklin, goes off for a quiet moment when her daughters have thrown her a birthday party. She looks in the mirror trying to cope. “Middle aged now”, she moans. She was turning 35.
So, here I am pondering my “retirement”. Those of you who know me or have been reading this blog for a while know I started a new business last summer and I am really excited about it. Can-Do Real Food captures the surplus produce from small farms nearby and preserves the fruit or veggies by canning. Local consumers are responding well and some of the farmers have completely sold out and I am conserving some in order to start the outdoor market in May.
So, I am working, but golly gee, I really am not, as most new businesses, making gobs of money. Any income I generate goes right back into the business so we can grow. That’s the way it is, because I certainly am not independently wealthy. So, realistically, we are living on my husband’s retirement and the income he produces as an adjunct professor at a nearby university teaching two courses a year.
I got to thinking about living on retirement income, since it is time for me to make a decision about my Social Security. Some of the Presidential candidates are declaring doom and gloom about the Social Security System. They like to use buzzwords to scare people, like Ponzi Scheme and delayed retirement age. In reality, people my age have nothing to worry about. We will get 100% of the benefits we have accrued through our many many many many many (many) years of working. Also in reality there are ways to improve the way the funds are secure so no one has to worry much.
But there is one other reality that needs attention. Social security does not provide ENOUGH to live on. Oh, if your income was higher than mine all your working life, your payout will be higher. It just won’t be anything like the amount you have gotten used to if you typically spent all you earned.
I’ve been hearing for at least 40 years that each person needs their own retirement account as well as social security. That was the reason why IRAs were introduced in the 1970s. But people are NOT saving. Very few people near retirement age have managed to save more than $50,000 in retirement assets.
So, we have a problem. We have Baby Boomers, the largest age cohort ever born in the US, in or approaching retirement. Some are living in homes purchased during their earning years but many are renters and some are even homeless. The proliferation of RV parks and pre-fab home construction all across the country point to the need for less expensive housing.
So how do older people manage? Many need public assistance. Some live with family and combine incomes. Some even move overseas where a monthly social security check can adequately provide for rent, utilities, food and a few other items, especially in a country where medical care is available and comparatively inexpensive. However, this move also results in isolation from family and funds might not extend to provide for visits back here to the US.
So, in comparison, my husband and I are okay. We’re still able to work and we’re doing things we love. Our energy is pretty good and we just take it slower on those other days. We have access to decent health care and we do as much a preventative lifestyle as we couch potatoes can. But we are not living the way we did when we had income flowing in from jobs. We have learned to cut back and be okay with less.
Now, you people in your 20s and 30s and 40s, it is time you check on YOUR retirement savings plan. You can not rely on Social Security the way the government is playing with it to fund wars. You will need to provide for your golden years. If you haven’t started, start. And talk to a good professional, or even meet with a few to find someone who can explain all those acronyms to you and will be patient and caring to help you get to a secure end zone phase of life.