By the time you’re in your 40s — and certainly your 50s — you begin thinking about retirement.
It’s how we’ve been conditioned since “retirement at age 65” was fabricated back when Social Security was introduced in 1935.
The idea was to provide assistance to older people, yes. But it was also to force them out of the largely manual labor market.
We live in a very different world of work now. The headline of this issue poses a question, though, that can be read two ways.
For the 2/3 of Gen Xers who currently lack confidence that they can retire comfortably, it could be: “Retirement? What are you even thinking?”
But thanks to COVID-19, even older and wealthier Americans have become pessimistic about the prospect of retiring. Not to mention that more and more Baby Boomers are choosing to keep working, both for continued income and maintaining purpose.
Yes, we need to think about retirement, because the variables have changed quite a bit, and will continue to. So this issue of Further is dedicated to giving you the right questions to ask yourself when thinking about the “R” word.
Do you want to retire?
The first question to ask yourself is, do you actually want to retire? Yes, you may want to do something other than what you’re doing now, but do you want to stop working altogether?
The current crop of Baby Boomer seniors are already turning retirement on its head. They’re in great shape, still feel young, and most importantly, many have no desire to stop working.
Plus, retirement isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be. It can lead to depression, isolation, and even an earlier death. Losing your sense of meaning and purpose can lessen your will to keep going.
It’s the End of Retirement as We Know It (And We Feel Fine?)
What if you live 30, 40, or 50 years beyond 65?
It may sound fanciful, but I bring up the topic of longevity a lot for this reason. It’s because there’s a decent chance Generation X will be the first group to live much longer. What does that do to the concept of retiring on a fixed income when it goes on for many decades?
Scientists believe that the capacity of the human body currently reaches its limits at around 115 years old. But most people fall short of that due to the ailments and vulnerabilities that accompany old age.
A growing number of companies believe that slowing the aging process is not just possible but inevitable, and there’s been a burst of investment in the longevity space. The Boomers may benefit, and certainly the Millennials will. But we need to consider scenarios where we live much longer, healthier lives than we expected.
Our Average Life Expectancy Could Increase to 115 Years Very Soon
How will you care for others?
We’ve seen a steady stream of periodic disasters, beginning with 9/11, that have made it difficult to save for retirement. On top of that, we have additional financial obligations as the sandwich generation, meaning we often provide for adult kids and our aging parents.
According to Nationwide, providing care for loved ones can be extremely expensive. In fact, caregivers on average spend an estimated 26% of their own monthly budget on the costs associated with caring for others.
The idea of living in a tropical paradise for $2,000 a month is still possible, but only if it’s just you and maybe your significant other. Lengthening life spans, however, mean an increasing number of us will still be serving as caregivers for parents or siblings even during our own retirements.
Will Caregiving Responsibilities Kill Your Retirement Plans?
Is it too late to get back on track?
As I’ve said many times, I have no intention of retiring at 65. I may not work super hard after that point, but I’ll still work. Even so, I’m socking away cash in retirement accounts when I can, because who knows what will happen.
So if you’re behind, it’s not too late. The bigger issue — more than how much you’ve saved up to this point — is maintaining your income until you retire. Unfortunately, the odds of losing your job greatly increase once you reach 50 and above.
That’s a topic for another issue. For now, if you’re in a bad spot when it comes to savings, there are four moves you can make to get your retirement plan back on track.
4 Ways to Get Your Retirement Plan Back on Track
Down below, we’re talking decluttering not to spark joy, but just to get through the damn day. And I took a random approach to this week’s Flashback that resulted in a timely selection.
P.S. Macaulay Culkin just turned 40, and the “nursing home alone” jokes have been brutal on Twitter. And here I am thinking he’s just getting started.
Dump Your Stress by Decluttering
By Trudi Roth
It’s understandable if you’re feeling stressed. The volume of unpredictability and upheaval lately has been massive, making overwhelm feel like an understatement.
As we’ve discussed in Further over the last few weeks, self-care is all about summoning calm to diffuse chaos. And simplifying your life can be a powerful remedy for stress and anxiety.
But don’t worry — I’m not here to tell you that tossing out your raggedy yoga pants, organizing photos from 1992, or tackling your junk drawer is only about sparking joy. I’ll leave that to Marie Kondo, who, like the rest of us, found her important plans (promoting her new book, Joy at Work) tossed in the dustbin when the coronavirus hit.
Frankly, “joy” can feel like a stretch nowadays, so let’s stick to what decluttering can do for you: make room for a sense of peace and well-being.
Messing with your mind
Tidying up for many of us can bring back memories of being ordered to clean up under penalty of losing something we desperately wanted, like a night out with friends. Now that we’re all essentially grounded, it turns out that your parents were right about one thing: a hodgepodge can rob you of the break you crave from the stresses of life.
Research on clutter’s effect on our psychological and neurological abilities shows it can significantly impact our mental health, behaviors, decisions, cognition, and emotions. Sabine Kastner, a Princeton neuroscience and psychology professor, has been researching the science of attention for more than a dozen years, particularly how chaotic environments negatively affect our functioning:
Many of us aren’t good at processing clutter. It can become overwhelming and make our brains do more work to complete simple tasks.
Having tidied up helps you focus and reduces cortisol, the hormone that kicks your body into the fight-flight-freeze mode. A decluttered space frees up your mental capacity, so you can get more done while you stress less.
Clean up your act
While for me clearing the decks works wonders, clutter isn’t all bad. For some, it breeds creativity.
So, there are a few additional ways you find meaning in a beautiful mess. Going through old stuff and indulging in nostalgia increases feelings of connectedness and decreases anxiety, loneliness, and boredom — a great way to counteract the emotional impacts of coronavirus.
And if there’s no escaping your lifestyle clutter, you can use mindfulness as an organizing principle. Rather than allowing your physical surroundings to distract and distress you, ditch cluttered thoughts by writing them down. You can address them later, or toss them out, whatever works for you.
The point is, decluttering can help you make a clean break from stress and anxiety. That much is clear.
Why Pandemic Stress Breeds Clutter — And How to Break the Cycle (National Geographic)
Thompson Twins – Lies
Quick Step & Side Kick, 1982
This week’s Flashback was chosen by turning on Apple Music’s New Wave Radio and selecting whatever played first. Fortunately, it was Lies by Thompson Twins. A solid song, and timely given election season is in full swing. (YouTube)
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