Many Americans are not saving enough for retirement, and you don’t have to search long on the internet to dig up details about the shortfalls most of us face. CNBC reported in June that Fidelity recommends that we have six times our salary in savings by the age of 50. So, by this standard, if you make $50,000 a year, by age 50, you should have $300,000. In the same article, a chart showed the average American age 50 -59 has $174,100 in savings. That may seem like a lot, but with longer life spans (more time in retirement) and skyrocketing health care costs, funding retirement takes more savings than ever before.
All the information available about F.I.R.E. (Financial Independence Retire Early), a trend where people develop savings techniques so they can retire in their 40’s or 50’s, could make us assume that all Americans are set to retire with enough money to support their golden years. But that doesn’t seem to be the case for the majority.
Along with numerous articles about the shortfalls in savings most of us face, there are plenty of articles about seniors following seasonal work at campgrounds, festivals, resorts, etc. These seasonal, low paying jobs help pay senior’s living expenses. These articles often paint a dire situation for older people who have to go back to work after retiring from a job or those who got laid off from a previous position. These employment situations leave seniors in a spot where they need to find work wherever and whenever they can.
So many of these articles, make us conclude that our twilight years will be grim, and all the dreams of lazing in a hammock on a tropical island are out of reach. The information might also make you think that scratching trips off of your bucket list, or picking up hobbies in retirement doesn’t seem likely or possible either.
Many of us will have to work much longer at our jobs than we might have hoped or dreamed. Instead of retiring at 60, some of us may find we need to work another five to ten years if we are able.
The outlook doesn’t have to be all bad news, though. If our retirement age is higher than most of us expected, there are ways we can make our dreams come true and continue to work full time. I call this strategy, “Live as Though you are Retired,” and it is what my husband and I, in our mid-fifties, are doing now.
How do you live as though you are retired while still working full time? First, ask yourself what you would do if you didn’t have to go to work every day? Make a list of all the things you dream about doing with the extra time you would have if you didn’t have to clock in for forty to fifty hours every week.
Would you take up cycling or train for a 5K? Would you take a trip to Aruba or Egypt? List everything you have always dreamed of doing. Then divide that list into two categories, a once a year (like taking a trip to Egypt or Aruba) and an everyday category like taking up cycling or training to walk or run a 5K.
Once you have your once a year list and your everyday list pick one item off of each list to focus on in the coming year. For example, an everyday item might be to read a book a week. To accomplish this change, you can start small. Change your habits by always carrying a book with you. This way you can read in waiting rooms, or while getting your tires rotated, instead of watching television before bed set a goal of reading a chapter a night, and so on.
If you want to train for a 5K, make yourself get up twenty to thirty minutes early and walk or jog. If mornings don’t work for you, change into your shorts or workout gear as soon as you get home and have a training session before dinner. If you find you are too rushed for time during the week, pick up ways to train on the weekends.
The other list is your yearly list. Pick one thing off of it, like a trip to Italy. Start looking at ways you can save money to take a trip once a year to one of your bucket list places. First try reducing your monthly expenses, by renegotiating your cable bill, your phone bill, your internet bill, etc. Also, there are other ways to save, for example, pack your lunch instead of eating out, or make coffee at home. You don’t want to cut out all of your pleasures, though because the goal is to add more pleasure to your life, not take it away.
For some of us, a trip to Italy won’t be possible no matter how successful we are at reducing our monthly expenses. If that is true for you, you can bring Italy a little closer to home (or any country). To explore the essence of Italy without the expense, try taking an Italian cooking class, or read some Italian literature. It is also possible to visit a city with an Italian neighborhood. San Diego has a whole community called Little Italy, and so do several other U.S. cities.
Many of us may not be able to binge-watch Netflix in our pajamas every day, but we can make some dreams come true. It simply takes a little creativity and planning. We can create a satisfying life even if retirement seems so far in the distance.