There have been multiple occasions where I have read people talk about how they’ll probably end up working for most of their lives. The comment is usually a part of some discussion of retirement planning, and these people basically convey their opinions that retiring early is simply unlikely. These people simply expect to keep on working until they’re old, as they don’t see themselves being able to retire comfortably anytime too soon.
Well, I think many of these folks, if not most of them, are wrong. They think they’ll be working until very late in life. However, they actually won’t be, based on my guess.
My suspicion is that many people make too many assumptions about their ability and opportunity to work when older. Instead of thinking realistically, some folks lose sight of the changes that come with aging, in terms of our place in the work force. Along those lines, it just might be that people are too optimistic about how much remaining time they have to work and earn money.
While we want to think that we have a number of years to be able to work, that simply might not be the case. Here are 5 reasons why you can’t work forever, and will likely retire sooner than you might think.
- Your Health. When we’re young, we have the energy to work long hours. We might not like to, but we might have the capacity to do so. When older, our health might unexpectedly hit some serious bumps in the road. Things happen, whether we like it or not or can foresee it or not. We may be healthy now, but If we aren’t physically capable of working as we get older, retirement may have to happen. Ironically, we might need to work because of the high cost of health care in retirement.
- Your Mind. #1 above referred to our physical health. However, it’s not always our joints and muscles that give way. Sometimes, we have cognitive issues as we age. Memory loss is not uncommon, and “senior moments” don’t exactly help one achieve success in this fast-moving world we live in. The bigger issues are those related to problems like alzheimer’s and dementia. It’s very sad to see somebody so smart be rendered marginally effective due to such afflictions, but tragically this happens unexpectedly.
- Outdated Skills. It does happen, where people let their skills atrophy over the years. If this happens, and you try to get back into the workforce later in life, it can often be an uphill battle to get back in the game. When people get laid off or lose jobs later in life, it can be quite tough to come back. Not always of course, as some do bounce back. But some don’t.
- Ageism. Sadly, this exists out in the marketplace for talent. I really think that in many endeavors, experience matters and can make a person much more effective. The thing is, some people don’t see it the way I do, and tend to value fresh, young workers over older, less energetic-looking workers.
- You May Not Want to Work. Yes, right now you might love what you do, and have tons of energy. However, you may just not feel like working as you get older. Some people simply get tired. Maybe this is related to #1 and #2 above, but to a lesser and more indirect extent. But your interest in working might change. You may have to take care of a very sick relative, help with grand kids, or take on some other activity. Bottom line is that your feelings toward work might change later in life.
What’s the takeaway from this? You may want to plan to ramp up your retirement savings efforts now, as you may not have as long to work as you might presently believe.
My Questions for You
Do you plan on retiring early, at a “typical” age, or do you think you’ll work very late in life?
Do you ever think about the “unexpected” things that might happen in the future that could keep you from working when older?
Is saving for retirement an active part of your personal finance strategy today?