In 1953, when I was born, my life expectancy was 66. That’s why, back in the 1950s, when my grandfathers quit working, most people were retired by age 65. The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) admitted members at age 50. Today, my life expectancy is 83. Those 17 extra years are literally life-changing, and quite significant for retirement planning. This year I will turn 60. And rather than consider retirement as my grandfathers did at this age, I am looking forward to at least another decade of work. I can’t imagine retiring in my 60s. That’s the difference the extra 17 years of life expectancy have made.
Yet the world has not adapted to the longer life expectancies.The AARP still admits members at age 50. Senior citizen housing is available at age 55. Most senior citizen discounts still kick in between 60 and 65. Perhaps this is a subtle hint for us baby boomers to step aside and make way for the younger generation to move into our jobs. But I have a problem thinking of myself as a senior citizen at age 60 because there are still members of my parents’ generation alive and well in their 80s and 90s. Those are the real senior citizens – the Greatest Generation. People in their 60s and 70s are perhaps juniors. That makes 50-somethings just sophomores in the school of life.
So with almost another quarter century until my life expectancy age, I have no intention of slowing down. It’s full speed ahead into my pre-retirement. The only thing I hope to do is begin retirement saving in earnest. But that will be tempered by all the vacation traveling I hope to do in the next 10 years. My wife and I already have the next five years of trips mapped out. This is really my idea of a hedge against not making it to retirement. For someone like me who has had heart disease and cancer, it’s more important to live life than to save for retirement.
Actually, as long as I can take frequent vacations, I see no reason to ever retire. I’ve seen retirement, and it didn’t look like fun for my grandfathers. It was just a lot of television. I would much prefer to be useful every day and earn a paycheck. Maybe I’ll revisit the issue of retiring when I hit 80. But I doubt that it will be attractive even then. I think that our generation may actually retire the word “retirement.”