Retirement years not so golden?

Have we all been bamboozled by the delusions of a good life post-retirement? It’s an interesting point. While I think there is value in productive roles throughout the lifespan, I believe there are multiple ways to achieve that productivity. Work is only one, of many productive roles. Furthermore, given the amount that Americans work, it still doesn’t address why we are among the lowest in life expectancy, compared to other industrialized nations.

This suggests that we not only promote older adults to work longer, but we also need to re-consider our work policies like workplace flexibility and part-time work that would allow older adults to remain engaged in work roles, while still transitioning to other roles that may be equally important (e.g., work-family balance is still important for grandparents).

From the NPR Special Series on Retirement:

One in four retirees think life in retirement is worse than it was before they retired, according to a poll by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health released today. The poll shows stark differences between what pre-retirees think retirement will be like, and what retirees say is actually the case.

“Those of us over 50 and working are optimistic about our future health and health care, but that optimism is not necessarily shared by those who have already retired,” said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, MBA, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “Many people who have already retired say their health is worse, and they worry about costs of medical treatment and long-term care. Insights from the poll can help policy makers and others think about how to meet the needs of aging Americans. There are changes we can make to our health care system, finances and communities that might help ensure that our retirement years will be as fulfilling as we hope.”

The poll focuses on views and experiences related to retirement among people over age 50, including not only people who have retired, but also people who plan to retire (“pre-retirees”) and those who do not plan to do so. It was conducted by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Findings show that a large majority of retirees say life in retirement is the same (44%) or better (29%) than it was during the five years before they retired. Many retirees say their stress is less, their relationships with loved ones are better, their diet is improved and the amount of time they spend doing favorite activities is increased—yet 25 percent of retirees say life is worse.

“The poll shows that a significant number of people who are near retirement may be underestimating the challenges of retirement,” said Robert Blendon, professor of Health Policy and Political Analysis at the Harvard School of Public Health. “When you compare what people think retirement will be like with what retirees say it actually is like, there are big differences. Pre-retirees may underestimate the degree to which their health and finances may be worse in retirement.”

The poll shows only 14 percent of pre-retirees predict that life overall will be worse when they retire, compared to the 25 percent of retirees who say it actually is worse. Only 13 percent of pre-retirees thought their health would be worse, while 39 percent of retirees say it actually is. Less than a quarter of pre-retirees (22%) predict their financial situation will be worse, while a third of retirees (35%) said it actually is.

Findings also show that pre-retirees expect to retire later than those who are already retired and some expect never to fully retire. A sizeable majority of pre-retirees (60%) expect to retire at age 65 or older, while only 26% of current retirees polled said they waited to retire at age 65 or older. More than one in 10 pre-retirees (15%) say they never expect to fully retire.