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Lea Ann Knight: Who wants to retire, anyway?

Long naps, strolls with your lifelong spouse in the middle of others’ workday, the creak of the rocker on the porch. Retirement for the boomers? Not likely, and here’s why.

We’ve heard over and over statistics about the looming lack of resources many baby boomers face when they retire. Many ignore the warnings.

This lack of worry once puzzled me, a boomer. In fact, the more extravagant a boomer’s lifestyle is now correlates to how little you worry about retirement. This disconnect stems from two attitudes:

––Spend now, spend later. Many of you still-working affluent with six-figure incomes, a comfortable house and no debt but the mortgage spend extravagantly. You keep day-to-day finances under control. The paycheck comes in (minus the 401(k) contribution) and the bill payments go out on time.

You spend the money left over, assuming all is well if you live within your current means and max out contributions to retirement plans. The key question: Are you saving enough now to sustain this spending through retirement? If you retire at 65 you might live 25 to 30 more years without a paycheck.

What about the adage that you spend 75 percent of your annual current expenses when you retire? Hogwash. If you are a spender, shopper, traveler or golfer, retirement gives you more time to spend more money on what you enjoy. Will less than your current full paycheck cover that?

––Habits of a working life. Our parents’ retirement dream meant working a career at one company and leaving at 65 to start collecting Social Security, take their company pension or accept their company’s policy forcing their retirement. Many also bought fixed annuities and bonds at double-digit rates for a stream of income.

We baby boomers don’t think of ourselves as retiring –– ever –– in the sense our parents did. We happily change careers, reduce work hours, consult, help out a charity and take on other worklike, post-career activities. In our minds, if we stay active we aren’t really old, retired folks.

We don’t worry about a quarter century or more of no paycheck, inflating expenses, a health care crisis (we stay healthy as long as we work, right?), kids returning home to mooch off us, bond interest rates at 1 percent and other indications that money flows out quicker now. No rocking chair for us.

We intend to learn all our lives yet ignore that tuition costs money. We intend to travel the world and ignore that hotels also cost money. We intend to do social good and ignore that such work pays little or nothing. We will never retire as our parents did, so why worry about retirement’s cost?

We must stop talking about retirement and talk about what we do next in life, forego strictly financial retirement calculations and start retirement life flexibility calculations.



Lea Ann Knight is a CFP at Garrison/Knight Financial Planning LLC in Bedford, Mass.


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