Not so long ago my mother and I went to grab a quick lunch at a fast food chain. We stood in line laughing and chatting and ordering food that really wasn’t good for us. As my mother, who by the way absolutely refuses to allow me to pay for her meal, was paying. She asked about their “senior citizen discount.” The young girl behind the counter innocently looked at my mother and said “well, you don’t get it because you have to be 65 years old.” Mom and I smiled at each other. She was 70. I think that made her day, well, and getting the discount sort of a “two for one” kind of a day. The reality is that for most Americans 71 is the new 60 when it comes to when old age starts.
Life expectancy for the average American has moved from 47 to 67 in a century. Science and medicine continues to work toward increasing our longevity. This is good news. It does mean, however, that we need to reevaluate the timelines of our lives. Can we stay in school longer and get more education? Perhaps it makes sense to get married closer to thirty than twenty and start a family in our mid to late thirties instead of our twenties. We’ve got time.
Most seniors today feel younger than their age and they love it. There are concerns. What is the point of living longer if we can’t live well? Seniors want to continue to do the things they’ve always done. They want to remain productive and contributing members of society and they want the health, mobility and financial resources that would ensure it. Bottom line: planning for the “new” retirement means a change of the planning paradigm. It may mean delaying retirement until they are 70 years old. Or it may mean working part-time after their planned retirement at 65. Americans need to plan for diminished physical and mental capacity as many will live into their 90’s. They also need to take a hard look at whether there is any chance that they will outlive their wealth and the added stress of the related increasingly expensive medical costs. If there is; the time to make the adjustments is right now.
Feeling 60 at 71 is wonderful. What a great time to be alive in America. Make it even better by taking the time to make a plan to have the resources and capacity to also enjoy feeling 70 at 81.