How to Have a Good Retirement When Things Are Looking Bad

by Joe Plemon on May 16, 2011

Great retirement will require some ingenuity

For many Americans, the prospect of a dream retirement is fading.  However, those very factors which produce so much gloom can actually make retirement better.  Hold that thought as we first examine the bad news about retirement.

Retirement Pensions are Gone Forever

The days are gone forever when an employee worked for the same company his entire career and retired with a lifetime pension. Industry can no longer afford such extravagances and even government workers are giving up pension benefits as state and local governments nationwide are struggling with huge budget deficits.

The 401(k) is “iffy”

I am a huge proponent of the 401(k) because it forces us take responsibility for our futures. However, with a struggling economy, many companies have cut back or eliminated their match. Without the match, employees are less prone to contribute, thus amplifying retirement shortfalls.

The future of the market is shaky.

Whichever retirement vehicle one uses, if it is dependent on positive stock market returns, the fragility of the market gives little assurance that an investor can depend on having achieved his desired nest egg by his projected retirement date – or hang on to it once retired.

Social security is under funded.

For the first time in 30 years, Social Security will pay more than it takes in this year. Those who run Social Security predict the program will go into the red permanently by 2015 and will run out of money in 2037 unless dramatic changes are made.

How could all of this possibly be good?

Good question. Let’s start by rethinking retirement. Realistically, a life of leisure may not happen for you. But this is not bad. This study indicates that when people retire with little to do, their life expectancy plummets. Why? Evidently work gives people purpose, and people without purpose don’t live as long.

Living your purpose is good.

Reality is that you may need to continue earning an income at a more advanced age than you had previously thought. Therefore, instead of viewing work as drudgery, now is the time to dovetail work and purpose. After all, if you are going to be doing it anyway, why not be doing something that you are gifted at, something that you love, something that meets a need in others’ lives and something that gives you purpose. Your life will have a new vitality and you will not only live longer; you will live better.

Developing ingenuity is good.

With your retirement future hazy, you should develop as many income streams as you know how. This doesn’t mean working 100 hours a week, but it does mean becoming more innovative.   When you allow your creativity to kick in, you will discover both active and passive income ideas — many of which you will be passionate about and will therefore will want to continue later in life. Yes, you need ingenuity, but that is a good thing.

Serving others is good.

“What?” you say, “You challenge me to find my purpose and develop my ingenuity. Now you say I need to be serving others. This is overwhelming!”

My response is that your purpose will include serving others. You weren’t put here on earth to live for yourself. A truly prosperous life is one focused on others, not yourself.

Concluding thoughts

Realistically, your retirement might not come exactly as you schedule it. However, this is not all bad. If you make plans now to find your purpose, become ingenious about your income streams and make serving others a high priority, you will live a rich and fulfilling life.

Allow this quote from James Michener settle deep within:

“The master of the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving to others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he is always doing both.”

Thanks: My 91 year old Mom, who continued in the work force well into her 70’s, is the inspiration not only for this post, but for me personally.  Thanks Mom!

Readers:  Does the gloomy retirement outlook throw you into a funk or motivate you to be more innovative?  In what ways?

Note: This is a modified version of a previous post I wrote for Christian PF

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Marlene May 16, 2011 at 1:09 pm

A little bit of both… for me, I’m not worried. I have planned ahead and have a lot of eggs in a lot of different baskets. I’m also educated, have a varied background and enjoy my work, which can branch into several different areas should one ever not be lucrative. Plus, my work is not physically labor intensive. However, I am worried about my mother, whose situation is exactly the opposite of mine. She is bad with money, has no savings, a technical degree in a field that is physically strenuous that she will not be able to do much longer. Worse yet, she isn’t exactly motivated to be creative with her situation. My husband and I want to start a family soon but I’m weary about the very likely possibility that while we still have young children we will be taking in my mother, who will be under the age of 60, physically healthy but a financial mess.


dido May 16, 2011 at 1:40 pm

bad news….. good news…..
what can u do if you are a sick or wick person strength wont last forever….


krantcents May 16, 2011 at 7:09 pm

My Mom had multiple careers and retired several times! She sold her business at 49, sold her second business at 66, retired from a part time job at 86 and stopped selling her handicrafts at 91. I fully expect to be engaged in some daily activity of volunteering/blogging well into my 80s. I want to stay engaged and active doing something with people.


joeplemon May 17, 2011 at 9:04 am

Yes, staying healthy is probably the most important and the most overlooked aspect of a great retirement. In fact, we should start calling good health management a retirement investment. Thanks for pointing it out.

Wow. You Mom sounds a lot like my Mom. It is no wonder that both of us want to stay active well into our 80s. I love your last sentence: “I want to stay engaged and active doing something with people.” Me too!


Derrik Hubbard, CFP May 17, 2011 at 6:08 pm

I find it so sad that we take a lifetime to grow in experience and wisdom and then “retire”. That is prime time to share what we’ve accumulated for others benefit!

Derrik Hubbard, CFP


joeplemon May 17, 2011 at 6:44 pm

Wow. You DO have reason for both optimism and “weariness”. Good job on the planning for your own future. I love lots of eggs in different baskets, plus the fact that you enjoy your work. You didn’t ask my advice about starting your family, but I am hoping you will go ahead with it. You are obviously an intelligent and innovative woman who will figure out how to balance (if it happens) three generations under one roof.

Exactly. Historically, in various cultures, the “elders” were revered and respected. In America today we put them out to pasture. And most live their lives looking forward to that pasture. I agree with krantcents (above) who is planning to stay active into his 80s. The world would be a better place if all seniors thought that way.


Haley May 27, 2011 at 1:55 am

Great post.Thanks for your sharing
Retirement is an important part of our life when we grow old and have no energy to work anymore.It’s as a safe ticket, but,when things’re looking grow bad,we should know how to save money from now


lusiana158 June 1, 2011 at 8:47 pm

I am going to retire.I want to learn the way to save money.Great blog, I’m going to subscribe to your feed.


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