BOSTON (CBS) – Retirement is something American workers spend decades dreaming about. It’s the day they can pack up their desk and start doing the things they love. But it seems more and more workers are worried that day will never come. “I’m sure I’ll be working until I’m 104,” one woman who just took out a $100,000 loan for a doctorate degree told us. Another man, who has several kids to put through college, said he would retire once he hits the lottery.
That pessimism is fairly common. A survey by Wells Fargo found 25% of middle class workers say they will have to work until they are 80-years-old. That’s 2 years longer than the average person is expected to live.
Bill Nadler looked forward to retiring, but at age 70, he’s still going to work every day teaching computer skills to unemployed workers in Boston. He thought he would be spending his golden years a little differently. “Enjoying life, driving a corvette and enjoying nature,” he said.
“Those days are over,” explained Arlington certified financial planner, Debra Neiman. She believes middle class workers are going to have a tough time taking that traditional full retirement at age 65 for a number of reasons. For starters, the economic downturn has eaten away at savings and home values. Health care costs continue to rise and are expected to continue to chip away at retirement nest-eggs. The newer issue burdening both baby boomers and their kids is the cost of higher education. According to Neiman, a lot of families get into trouble when they are choosing colleges. “Families who can’t afford a home in Weston don’t go looking for a home in Weston. But when it comes to colleges, families that can’t afford let’s say a Middlebury or a BC, go and look at those colleges,” she said.
“I think we need to rethink what retirement means,” explained Dr. Marci Pitt-Castouphes, director of the Sloan Center for Work and Aging at Boston College. She believes the idea of retirement as a time of full-time leisure is a relatively new concept. Less than 100 years ago, a lot of people worked until they were no longer physically able. She believes we are returning to a time when many will work, in some capacity, during retirement.
Working during retirement isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Bill loves his job and feels it keeps him sharp and connected to society. He would, however, like to drop back to three days a week. “Just so I had a little time for me,” he said. That’s where experts say a lot of workers are going to be disappointed. Many will need to work full time in order to make up for their lack of savings, or skyrocketing health care costs.
Deb Neiman says it is possible to retire. She has clients who have managed to save carefully on a teacher’s salary and retire comfortably. She has also known doctors who may never be able to retire because of big mortgages, private schools and summer homes. According to Neiman, your odds of retirement depend on the lifestyle choices you make while you are working.