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

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