Thursday, January 22, 2009

What? Me Worry?

Retirement - what a beautiful word.
The first thing I think of is being able to wake up when I want, go where I want, and do what I want. Or, better yet, not getting out of bed at all. For me, though, it's far, far away. It's the pot o' gold at the end of the rainbow that I haven't found yet.

I was talking to my father the other day about his retirement. He's 60, a baby boomer like so many in this country, and on his desk at work he has an electronic countdown - a clock ticking down the days and hours until he retires. He doesn't really need that though; he has the date memorized: May 23, 2009. Sounds great, right? Roughly a hundred some-odd days away from playing with his dogs, gardening all day, or finally focusing on his side business. Boy, was I wrong. He's actually thinking of staying until he's 63, maybe even longer. I thought he was crazy - why would he want to do that? I asked my mother about her retirement and she's going to stay until she's 65!

Why are these baby boomers opting to delay their retirement? The impression I always had was that once you were perfectly aged (not old mind you!), the government rewarded your efforts with Social Security, your IRA, or the 401(k) plan. After further research, I now know that the chance of younger generations supporting retirement via Social Security is slim to none. According to, there are three main reasons why personal retirement funds are dwindling: failing stock market, decrease in home value, and few job prospects.

"Many baby boomers would like to scale back to part time, start a new business, or take an extended break from the workforce instead of retiring completely. But opportunities to try these creative forms of retirement could become scarcer. In 2006, 37 percent of employed men and 22 percent of employed women ages 65 to 69 worked for themselves, but the credit crunch could make it difficult for people to start and sustain small business."

Now, I have to argue against their logic. While jobs are becoming harder and harder to find for most college graduates, they aren't short. We're just picky about what we want to do with our lives. Everything has become digital, electronic, or involving computers. Our country has stopped manufacturing goods and contracted out to other countries for them. How often do we see "Made in the USA" stamped on things anymore? I know most of the things I buy come from China, Indonesia, or Thailand. Currently, China's economy is similar to how ours was in the 1920's and we are the ones in debt, unable to give our senior citizens the Social Security they've been promised.

A society that is not self-sustaining will over time inevitably lose ground in the global marketplace. If we stop buying cheaply and instead support the local businesses, we would keep the money within the country, stimulating the economy. It would decrease job loss, help people - even those without an engineering or other high-demand degree - get a better paying job based on their skills, and decrease the US debt.

Just because the life expectancy has increased to 78 doesn't mean we have to work until then. There is supposed to be something at the end of the rainbow, an incentive to keep working hard and pushing towards the end. Isn't that what this country is all about? Striving to be the best and to succeed so eventually you don't have to deal with a stressful job? To be your own boss?

It appears that most people, my parents included, will work longer than expected just to ensure everything works out. My father's logic is that since he's still healthy, why not keep working? It's not like he completely hates his job; he'd rather do something else, is all. Moreover, going to work keeps individuals healthier mentally and physically due to the daily social interactions. However, he has told me that once he decides to hang up his hat, he is going to upgrade his side business to full-time and do what he loves everyday. I think that's his pot of gold: working for himself while supplementing his nest egg.

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