Senior Life 101: The fear of retirement

As strange as it might seem, for many today there is a very real fear of retiring.  It’s not a fear of the unknown, but rather what is known.  That is … a fear that I’m not prepared financially to face the prospect of living on a fixed income, especially if I find myself (or my spouse) with health problems.

Even for those who have a pension and have faithfully set aside funds in an IRA, or have accumulated a nice investment portfolio, there are the risks of market fluctuations, national economic uncertainty, adjustments to Social Security and Medicare benefits – the list goes on.

However, the sad and scary truth is that a significant portion of our aging population don’t have the benefit of supplemental income from a pension or investments and are solely dependent on Social Security and Medicare for their retirement income.

Not wanting to be a burden to their children, or worse yet, having a broken relationship with children, which is likely to result in having to face an uncertain future alone, many seniors are living lives of desperation and despair.

Sleepless nights worrying about what “might be”, or experiencing guilt and depression because it appears too late to correct the deficit, is a common dilemma.  For many it seems overwhelming and hopeless.

The result is that many people today are delaying retirement, hoping that their health will permit them to continue working for as long as possible.  And even when someone does retire, they are immediately looking for some type of employment (full or part-time) that can supplement the cost of their lifestyle, and ease the stress of the transition.

Questions rise up when someone who finds themselves in this dilemma. What to do?  Is there hope?  I believe there is, but it’s going to require taking some immediate and intentional action.

In his book, Thriving in Retirement, Jason Parker, a local financial advisor and member of KARE, offers the following advice: “My prospective clients often ask, ‘Can I afford to retire?’ I have found that retirement is all about cash flow, not net worth.  The most successful retirees I know have learned to live within their means.”

In other words … there needs to be some disciplined, “corrective” action:  downsizing … adjusting spending habits to reflect a more simplified lifestyle … and getting some counsel from legal and financial experts on how to structure and protect what assets you do have so that there are adequate resources for the future.

Although there are many competent and trustworthy professionals in our community, I can confidently recommend the members of KARE as a great resource.  Please check them out at www.kare-wa.com .

Retirement doesn’t have to be scary, but it does require taking some action now.


Carl R. Johnson writes monthly on the challenges of growing old in the 21st Century  and is the Community Relations Director  for Kitsap Alliance of Resources for Elders (KARE) in Silverdale.

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