This is the second in a two-part email on aging. If you missed part one, please read blog 1 of 2. Credit to Thomas Day through the courtesy of the National Care Planning Council provides provocative information.
Part Two of Two:
The Effect of Inadequate Income and Lack of Savings
According to the Government Accountability Office, an investigative arm of Congress, more than half of Americans will have to rely solely on Social Security benefits. The average Social Security retirement benefit in June 2019 was about $1,470 a month, or about $17,640 a year. But that’s an average. This means Social Security for many recipients is much less – say around $12,000 a year because they took it at an earlier age. The Social Security incomes for a couple might be enough to maintain an adequate lifestyle in retirement, but for single individuals or widows, it is likely not enough to provide more than a meager existence.
The Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies reports that the median retirement savings for Americans in their 60s is $172,000. This is generally far too little money to support a successful retirement. Half of all Americans are above this level and half are below. For the half that are below, savings are even less sufficient to maintain retirement. If these folks are relying entirely on Social Security and have very little savings, they don’t have much of a future to look forward to. The retirement dream of traveling to exotic places, living in expensive retirement communities and golfing for the remainder of their lives is exactly that – an unfulfilled dream.
The Reality of Losing Independence
Nearly 40% of people age 65 and older have at least one disability, according to a U.S. Census Bureau survey that covered the period 2008 to 2012. Of those 15.7 million people, two-thirds of them said they had difficulty in walking or climbing stairs. Difficulty with independent living, such as visiting a doctor’s office or shopping, was the second-most cited disability, followed by serious difficulty in hearing, cognitive difficulty, difficulty bathing or dressing, and serious difficulty seeing. The Administration for Community Living has determined that 69% of those turning age 65 today will need, at some point, some type of long-term-care services—either at home, in their community or in a facility. Typically, women need care longer (3.7 years, on average) than men (2.2 years). And while about 30% of people who are 65 may never need long-term care, 20% of those who are 65 and older will need it longer than 5 years. Dealing with the loss of independence significantly interferes with those dreams of enjoying the golden years.
Coping with the Realities and Adversities of Aging
Perhaps the most important approach for coping with the realities and adversities of aging is to quit dreaming about that future retirement Nirvana. As I have pointed out above, it just may not happen whether there are adequate savings and income or not. The key is to start doing those things now that you are wanting to do in the future. Take that trip, do that cruise, enjoy that tour. Do stuff with the family now instead of dreaming about it. A lot of workers hold onto their vacation time or sick time in anticipation of converting that into income. My suggestion is to use it and do those things now that you think you are going to do when you retire but may not be able to do when you actually get to that point in the future.
A growing trend in this country is to not plan for retirement at all but continue working even though there might not be a need for that extra employment income in the senior years. If the retirement is forced upon them, many will seek other employment. Additionally, many individuals have decided that they are unhappy with their current employment and seek new employment skills that are more fulfilling. They actually do something about their dissatisfaction rather than complaining about it. Or many just simply quit and start new businesses. In addition, many who have stopped working are not that happy with a lack of purpose in retirement and decide to go back to work by learning new skills or by starting their own businesses. I have one acquaintance who retired from a highly professional management position with more than enough income and assets to live comfortably, but his whole life he wanted to be a truck driver. Now in his early 80s he is hauling freight and absolutely loves it. He doesn’t need the income.
For those who are retired and do need extra income, learn new skills that can generate income. Unless as person truly is cognitively impaired, we can all still learn new things. It is important to learn computer skills. Engage in writing essays, blogging or emailing friends or family, writing personal histories or using the computer to do genealogical research. Browse the Internet to learn all about other places and people. Read biographies and histories and learn geography. Read the classics and entertain age-old philosophies and ideas. Learn new languages. Learn computer languages and do coding. Use Google Earth and Google Street View to visit far-off places that you never will have access to. If your hands don’t work and you can’t type then use voice to text software such as Dragon NaturallySpeaking. Commit to lifelong learning!
If you are in pain or suffering, you can do something worthwhile for others. Call someone to cheer them, send a card.
If you are disabled and relying on others, you can still find a purpose in life. Perhaps it to share the lessons you have learned about coping and continuing to move forward.
If you don’t have enough income or assets, research ideas on how to supplement income.
Exercise regularly. Even if you are impaired, there are modified exercises you can do. Keep your brain active through reading, researching and interacting with others. Maintain good nutrition, drink plenty of water and make sure to supplement with vitamin B12 and vitamin D which are generally deficient in most aging seniors.
Perhaps the real value of a life well lived, for all seniors being actively involved in improving the lives of others.
I believe the following poem expresses this idea in a wonderful manner.
Have I Done Any Good? By Will L. Thompson
Have I done any good in the world today?
Have I helped anyone in need?
Have I cheered up the sad and made someone feel glad?
If not, I have failed indeed.
Has anyone’s burden been lighter today
Because I was willing to share?
Have the sick and the weary been helped on their way?
When they needed my help was I there?
There are chances for work all around just now,
Opportunities right in our way.
Do not let them pass by, saying, “Sometime I’ll try,”
But go and do something today.
‘Tis noble of man to work and to give;
Love’s labor has merit alone.
Only he who does something is worthy to live.
The world has no need for a drone.
Then wake up and do something more
Than dream of your mansion above.
Doing good is a pleasure, a joy beyond measure,
A blessing of duty and love.