The Changing Face of Retirement

By Roger Sorensen

Americans are retiring younger and leading more active lifestyles after than ever before. The Baby Boom Generation has already begun taking early retirement. In another 30 years, Generatoin X will have nearly completed the retirement transition. Both groups are changing what it means to be retired.

A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll earlier this decade provided the first strong evidence of the changing idea about retirement in the U.S. Among the poll's findings, fewer than 10% of future retirees intend to live in a nursing home. Previous generations filling 20,000 nursing facilities with over 1 million retirees during the 1990's in the last decade are not going to be imitated. The new retirees aren't planning to let life pass them by.

Nearly 70% of future retirees plan to work after they retire, an enormous increase over the number of current working retirees. American Express Retirement Services reports that about 24% of today's retiree income comes from part time employment.

More than 2/3 of the respondents in the WSJ poll indicated they plan to volunteer with community organizations or do some other pulblic service. Almost 30% of non-retired adults fear boredom and/or alienation after retirement, and they plan to be involved in their communities to combat this fear.

What about Social Security? Today's retirees rely on it, and tomorrow's retirees will need it, although less than today if they have planned carefully. Nearly 10% of current retirees cited financial worries as a significant disappointment in retirement. 30% of non-retired Americans admit to being scared about the financial implications of retirement. About 60% of those polled for the WSJ study indicated that Social Security was highly important to them (ranking 7 or higher on a scale of 1 to 10). 31% indicated that Social Security will make up all or most of their retirement income. This, even with the enormous popularity of 401(k) and other retirement programs over the past several years enabling a growing number of future retirees to rely less on Social Security than their predecessors.

This reliance on Social Security contrasts with the view held by a majority of Generation Xers. Many would rather opt out of Social Security and take retirement into their own hands than trust the government to keep its promises. A full 36% of Gen Xers in the WSJ poll don't expect Social Security to be around when they retire. 46% of them will retire before age 60, compared to less than 20% of Americans who retire pre-60 today. The face of retirement is changing, but the heart of each generation's plans is financial security. The sooner you shore up your retirement savings, the sooner you can join the Boomers and the Xers who work a little, volunteer a little, and enjoy living the good life after retirement.

Roger Sorensen

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