When people think of the word retirement, I am certain that the concept of simple living is not one of the first things that comes to mind. But that is the approach we are taking here. If we are making choices to create a life of peace, understanding, joy, beauty, and faith now, then it also should carry over into our money and retirement planning.
I know from reader surveys I’ve done, that the majority of people who read here regularly are Gen Xers (born between 1965 – 1980, give or take a few years on either side). There are quite a few Baby Boomers and Millennials as well, but Gen X makes up a big percentage.
In the past I often wrote about money, but when I followed the advice of all the “blogging experts” in order to create a “niche blog” that Google and readers would “love,” I took all those posts down. We had some interesting discussions during the housing bubble crisis, the 2008 crash, The Great Recession, etc. I still have those posts and comments saved in my unpublished archive and it’s interesting to go back and read them now.
I realized recently while posting things that if we are going to round out our simple living pursuit here, we’re going to also address money. I don’t know about you, but pretty much every aspect of my life intersects in a significant way with my finances. Whether it is work, homeschooling, homemaking, health, parenting, or faith, they all impact and are impacted by my finances.
Our Gen X Retirement Status
At some point I may go into more about our individual financial and retirement situation, but I will never be one of those bloggers who gives a blow by blow account of our detailed finances each month. I will say at this point that we have some things working in our favor regarding retirement planning and others things not.
David is considered either one of the very last Baby Boomer babies or one of the very first Gen X babies. There are some experts who put the end of the Baby Boomers in the month and year he was born. (I don’t recall the reasoning why now.) He does not consider himself a Baby Boomer in any way and identifies much more with the Gen X cohort. I am four years younger so I am solidly in the start of the Gen X group.
But, to his and our benefit, David is old enough that he has a pension from a previous employer. It loses purchasing value every year because it is not adjusted with inflation. But given how many Gen Xers don’t have access to a pension at all, we consider ourselves fortunate. That is one thing that works in our favor. Twice the company has offered a buyout amount to get the pension off their books. But no matter how strapped we were when the offer came (and one time we were really strapped financially), we did not take the buyout. (Calculating how much you would have to save to generate the same amount as even a modest pension is eye-opening.)
We both qualify for Social Security and still have many years ahead of us to (in theory) increase the amount we can expect to receive. We’ve made peace with the fact that unless something significant happens in the coming years we will be working at least until our full retirement age of 70. This was certainly not our plan when we married, but that’s the way life has unfolded to this point. Finding and creating work opportunities in those coming years will be the ongoing challenge as ageism is rampant in our culture. We have already seen it more than a few times in recent years.
Job loss, underemployment, and health issues have put us behind in many ways. But we are determined to do what we can do. I’ve done extensive reading on Gen X, money, and retirement and I know we are not the only ones. The numbers are actually quite grim for a significant portion of Gen Xers which I’ll write about in other posts. So while I am thrilled to encourage women to create a simple life, if we ignore the elephant in the room for many of us (money and retirement planning), we’re missing a big part of our struggles and obstacles we need to overcome.
Gen Xers Planning to Work in Retirement
In The New Reality of Old Age in America from The Washington Post, Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan introduce us to a few older couples who are work campers or workampers. This term applies to people of retirement age who generally live in a camper or RV and travel to seasonal work that is usually lower paying and includes no benefits. Stories like this of people who must work in retirement are becoming more prevalent as people come up short in their retirement planning.
One of the biggest mistakes people make when they are young is underestimating how growing older will slow them down. Ask the average person who is over forty if they have noticed a change in their physical stamina and most will say that they can tell a bit of a difference. Ask someone over fifty and, if they are honest, they will admit that they can definitely tell. And so it goes with each successive decade.
Many people (like us) now say they will delay retirement as long as possible. Many plan on working until they die. There are an increasing number of stories about people working well into their seventies now.
While the sentiment might sound great, it isn’t a retirement strategy. A retirement strategy is to save and plan like you won’t be able to work past early retirement. Anything you can do after that is icing on the cake.
This is the place where we find ourselves and I’m guessing this is where many of you are as well.
Working until you’re 75 or 80 as a retirement strategy is taking a big risk. If you find something you enjoy doing and you can make money doing it well into older age, then that is one thing. Being forced to choose between eating and working when you’re 70 or 75 or 80 and in failing health is a terrible strategy.
I don’t want to end up there and I don’t want that for you either.
Creating a Better Gen X Retirement Life
So there we go. It’s time to also think about how we work toward creating a better retirement life. How do we make choices today that will move us forward? I’ve got ideas and I hope you do, too.
Where are you with retirement planning? Are you fortunate to be in a good place? Or is it a struggle? What are you doing today to not only create a life of peace, understanding, joy, beauty, and faith now but also into your retirement years?