Whenever I teach an investments course, I ask the students if their vision for retirement involves penny pinching or taking luxury cruises. Once the silly ideas are tossed away ("I want to be a millionaire by twenty-five but don't plan to save"), the seriousness of what could happen (absent focus and discipline) starts to set in. There is no magic potion. Deciding how much to set aside, when one can retire and how to invest and still sleep at night are far from trivial questions.
In today's New York Times, Elizabeth Olson writes about "When Outside Factors Dictate Retirement Age." Her sense is that life expectancy, fears of age bias and "changing technological demands of the workplace" could materially influence when an employee punches the clock one last time.
Not everyone concurs that leaving the work force earlier than originally planned makes sense. According to "The anti-retirement plan: Working 9-to-5 past 65" (October 3, 2014) Washington Post reporter Jonnelle Marte describes one segment of the population that happily sprints each day to join colleagues for another eight hours. Historical U.S. Department of Labor statistics show that "employment of workers 65 and over increased 101 percent, compared to a much smaller increase of 59 percent for total employment (16 and over)."
The topic of retirement planning is not new but is certainly grabbing policy-makers' attention, in the United States and around the world. The macro implications are far-reaching from a collective perspective. Too few savers can put a drain on a country's resources and ability to grow its economy.
From the viewpoint of each household, the importance of taking individualized facts and circumstances into account as part of retirement planning remains as true today as it was ten, twenty or thirty years ago. For example, some people want to stay active because working is fun for them. Others groan. As famed basketball coach Abe Lemons said "The trouble with retirement is that you never get a day off."