Sunday, July 19, 2009

Oh, crap. Retirement looms

Ever notice how many of the kids in your high school yearbook have goofy haircuts?

I thought of that recently when I ran across a 10-year-old AARP survey of what I and my fellow first-wave baby boomers expected retirement to be like. It's a hoot. Eight in 10 of us planned to work, at least part time, after we hit 65 just to keep active and perhaps to provide breaks between some serious recreational plans.

Reality is different, of course. First, growing numbers are being pushed into retirement sooner than we planned, the Employee Benefits Research Institute recently reported. Second, many of us aren't financially ready for that shock. Our savings rates, until recently, have been abysmal. And a $6 trillion housing market meltdown threatens to leave many first wave boomers with little more than Social Security and Medicare to get by on, the Center for Economic and Policy Research calculates.

So, chances are many of us will try staying in the workforce longer, but not for the reasons we told AARP back in 1999. More of us than we imagined will be trying to pay off credit cards that we haven't yet maxed out, say pollsters at Securian Financial Group.

I already posted a few months ago how this changed the way I'm handling some of my own plans for retirement income. Now, The Motley Fool's Robert Brokamp, posting on the Get Rich Slowly site, finds that this situation may be changing the whole notion of retirement. But we've heard that before too. And the future didn't work out the way Merrill Lynch expected either.

I wonder if our haircuts now will look funny maybe 20 years from now.

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