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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Work for the rest of my life? Uh, no. . . . .

I just read an incredibly interesting (and somewhat shocking) article on MSNBC called "Gen X shrugs, says 'whatever' to retirement". Apparently, a majority of my peers (the 'Gen X' crowd, aged 27 to 42) don't believe they'll ever have the funds to retire! How did my generation become so pessimistic? I know that most of us don't believe Social Security will be worth much, if anything, by the time we reach the age of 67, but how can more than two-thirds of us believe that we'll need to work forever?

I truly believe that I'll have the financial security to retire at some point. Granted, when I 'retire' from full time work (hopefully by 59 1/2) I'll choose to work part time somewhere else for the benefit and for the social outlet. I've learned that in order to do this, I need to do some planning of my own.

How do I know this? Two reasons: my mom and my dad. My mom contributed money to her 403b fund and also has a government pension. She planned. She retired in her early 60's. My dad, who owns his own business, never (and I do mean NEVER) put a penny into a savings account or an investment vehicle. He is still working as an electrician at the age of 74---he can't afford to retire.

What have I learned from this?

  • Don't count on social security

  • In fact, live and invest as if social security didn't exist
  • Contribute to a tax-deferred investment---whether a 401K, 403b, or IRA early and often
  • Live below your means
  • Pay off debt, whether it be credit card, auto, or mortgage loans

Do my peers in Generation X think that we shouldn't have to lift a finger to provide for ourselves in retirement? Do they believe that Social Security was intended to provide for all of our needs when we could no longer work (it wasn't)? Did our parents provide too much for us when we were young, instead of teaching us that success and security are a result of hard work and planning?

I, for one, do NOT intend to work full time forever. Apparently, this places me in the minority when compared with my Generation X peers.


JB said...

I'm a little younger than a gen-x'er, but my brother is considered in gen-x and he has the same outlook you describe. He doesn't believe too much in saving and would rather live for today than save for tomorrow. I can understand that view point... and the amount needed for retirement can be scarey...

...but I think anything is better than nothing.

Bret Frohlich said...

I'm considered a Baby Boomer, but only by one year, since I'm 43. I'm amazed at how the Gen-X crowd thinks about personal finances.

I think you nailed it in this article. Perhaps they have been given too much and will expect somone to bail them out. Or, perhaps they just want to live in the now and not worry about the future.

I'm hopeful they start to wise up as they get older and closer to retirement. Unfortunately, that makes it much more difficult to save.

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