1980 was a long time ago. Or maybe not, depending on your perspective. I had a 9th grade geometry teacher who made us keep our books open and work until the very end of class when the bell rang. Students would often protest, “There is only one minute left of class.” He would always respond with, “That would feel like a long time if I was hitting you in the head with a hammer!

I sure hope you haven’t been hit with a hammer, anywhere on your body! An article caught my attention recently. It compared a number of retirement statistics from 1980 with the same data from 2013. Some stunning changes occurred over those 33 years:

Life Expectancy Increased:

Men’s average retirement period went from 14.9 years to 19.3 years. In other words, men’s life expectancy post-retirement went up almost 30%. Men gained an extra 4.4 years of life after their working years.

There was even more impact for women: For women who make it to age 65, life expectancy went from 74.1 to 88.8. Did you catch that? In the span of 33 years, 65 year old women gained almost 15 years of post-work life. That is an incredible difference. We love life. We want people to live as long as possible. The Psalms promise that the righteous will be satisfied with long life (Ps. 91). At the same time, there is a significant financial effect. For women, this means an additional 15 years of living on retirement income.

Over the course of the same 33 years, pensions have largely disappeared: In 1980, 67% of workers at private companies had pensions. In 2013 the rate dropped to 17%. And since pensions disappeared so quickly, we might expect to see a increase in the rate of personal savings to make up for the loss of guaranteed retirement income. However, the data shows the opposite trend: Personal savings fell from 9.7% in 1980 to 4.8% in 2013.old guy

So, when we put this all together, it doesn’t look great:

-People are living much longer after retirement than they used to.

-The number of people with guaranteed pension income has dropped precipitously.

-The personal savings rate has fallen, rather than increased.

Ouch.

And yet,one benefit of greater life expectancy is that the number of productive years may be increasing as well. Another way to say this: part-time work in retirement may be more feasible (and necessary) than it was 30 years ago. While that might sound depressing, the reality is that many retirees find great benefits to part time work, even beyond the paycheck. Work provides opportunities to maintain social contact, keep your mind active, structure your time, and feel significant and needed. My friend Roger Whitney wrote an article about the value of the “Gig economy” for retirees HERE. We also have a column on Great jobs for Retirees at http://beerandpeanuts.net/great-jobs-for-retirees/.

I hope this post doesn’t depress you. Instead, I want us all to enter the rest of our lives with our eyes open, ready for whatever might come our way. Retirement can be a great time to try new things, find a new career, meet new people, and take a little pressure off. A part time job might be the answer to the scary stats at the top of this post.

Check out the source data at: http://wealthmanagement.com/retirement-planning/rep-index-retirement-then-and-now

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