At my forty hour a week job, I work with a lot of people who are nearing, at, or even past traditional retirement age. In my late 30’s, I am one of the youngest in the office. When the opportunity arises, I try to ask my coworkers questions about their retirement dates and plans, without prying too much.
One former colleague just retired permanently, but he had already retired from the government and came back as a contractor to support his aging mother. His government pension was not enough. When she passed away, he finally retired, many years later than he originally planned.
A former manager of mine who I still see in the hallways also previously retired from the government but came back after one year away. Her reasons for coming back are that she did not have enough to do at home, and she missed the human connections in the workplace. She also has an adult son who needs support, which contributes to her reluctance to retire for good and inhibits her desire to downsize her home.
Unbeknownst to my coworkers, their issues serve as frequent reminders of the types of family and health situations that can derail a retirement goal like mine. Trying to foresee and plan for situations that can arise with family and health, and minimizing their effect on my retirement goal, is a significant component to my retirement plan.
Nine More Years
Just the other day, I saw another coworker in the break room and he asked about my kids. He quickly changed the subject to the surgery he would be having in a few days. Standing on a stepladder to reach something, he fell off and seriously injured his knee. This same guy had recently underwent back surgery, requiring him to take long-term disability, significant time off, and undergo indefinite physical therapy.
He is overweight, has smoked since his teens, and at age 58 has trouble standing and walking without a cane. Why he was standing on a ladder doing anything is beyond my comprehension. He sat down next to me and started talking about paying off his house.
There was a 20k balance left on the mortgage and he figured he might as well be done with it. So he took some money out of his savings and paid off the balance. He bought the house in 2001, so it took him twelve years to pay it off which to me is impressive. He spoke a bit more about saving for retirement, so I casually asked him when he was planning to retire.
A disappointed look came over his face and he said “about nine years”, age 67. That date was mostly based on getting the maximum benefit amount from social security. I did not ask any more questions about his situation.
But my initial thought was how is it possible that you have your house paid off, your kids are through college, you are 58 years old, and you are not planning to retire for another nine more years? The answer of course was simple; he did not have enough retirement savings. He needed to work more to finally focus on saving for retirement, now that his health is a hindrance to his ability to make a living. That must have been why he looked so glum when I asked him when he planned to retire.
An Unhealthy Environment
Sitting at a desk in an office for forty plus hours a week is not a healthy lifestyle. Your hip flexors and knees are not meant to be at an angle for long periods of time. Sitting is bad for your back, even if you have perfect desk posture, which none of us have. The human body is built to wander, not remain idle. We are meant to consume food and burn it off by acquiring more food, not to store up calories as layers of fat, and acquire more food by walking by the snack jar and eating candy.
October is the worst month because candy goes on sale in September, people buy it and bring it into the office, and then they buy more for the kids and bring in whatever is left over on November 1st. Sometimes it seems like my coworkers deal with their own weight issues by adding more sweets to the snack jar, trying to get others to join them in their weight gain.
Skinny people jokes are common, and somehow not considered inappropriate in my office. While a fat joke would rightly be followed by cricket noises, unless of course it’s a joke told by the overweight person, which is also commonly heard around my desk. A great number of people in my building are overweight. But what came first? Are they obese and unhealthy because they have an unhealthy job, sitting at a desk all day? Or were they unhealthy to begin with, and the office culture attracts people who prefer to sit all day?
With this blog my hope is to not only address the financial aspects of retiring before my Dad, but also to write about and discuss preparing for family and health issues that impact retirement. Mentioned above, my former coworker had to continue working for a long period of time in order to pay for his mother’s medical needs.
I do not know all the specifics of his situation, but what if years earlier he had talked to his parents about long-term care insurance? Were there any other steps they could have taken thirty years earlier to plan for her needs if she lived that long? Probably, yes. When did she run out of money to the point that her son was required to support her? Was there another care facility that was more affordable?
For my other coworker who came back to work, I guess some people enjoy the company of coworkers, and not everyone has a lot of friends at home or hobbies to keep them occupied. That is okay I suppose, but not for me. As for having an adult son living at home, there are certainly steps we all can take as parents to foster independence in our children.
I know when my kids graduate college, they will be expected to be independent. It’s okay to have some short-term support from home, possibly living at home for a defined period (I lived at home for six months after college and was very grateful for that help), but long-term living at home, as in failure to launch, is not going to be an option for my children and they will know this early on. Love him or not, this is one of the many things that Dave Ramsey is very vocal about and for good reason.
I found this link to some very inspirational quotes about healthy living. Not a bad healthy living blog too if you are into that. You should be if you want to retire in magnificent fashion. Some people have more health issues than others. Sure, heredity plays a role in individual health. But we control what goes into our bodies and what we do with it. Habits are formed that are good for the body, and other habits are detrimental to your longevity and quality of life.
My coworker with the back and leg problems says he does not know what caused them, but he thinks it was from playing sports in his youth. This may or may not be accurate, but he said his doctor could not give him insight on the original source of his back problems. Sitting at a desk for forty hours a week for 30 years with bad posture likely did not help.
Smoking, eating unhealthy food, and a sedentary lifestyle at home certainly did not help either. As if all that was bad enough, he has a number of medical debts piled up, further handcuffing him and his retirement date.
Science tells us what is good and what is bad for our health. One of the biggest predictors of longevity is how many calories we intake. Healthy eating also decreases the risk for heart disease, cancer, diabetes… blah blah blah this is not a health blog.
You do not want to be unhealthy for your retirement, do you?
Neither do I. I am no tri-athlete, but I stay in relatively good shape. I eat reasonable portions, swim laps, walk, ski, stretch; I do things that make me feel good. When I retire I want to travel the world again for extensive periods of time, and I do not want to do it with a cane.
No matter whom you spend your time with, your peers, coworkers, online friends, listen carefully to how they are planning for their retirement. If you have done any sort of retirement saving over the past years, you will likely be more prepared than they are. Also listen to their problems, particularly with family and health.
Unexpected family situations that could evolve 30 years from now will easily be dealt with if you think about possible problems today. Simply saving more money today while you are healthy can alleviate the necessity to work if you need to support a parent or end up with a few medical bills down the road.
Insurance policies for retirement planning and long-term care are out there, and they are cheaper the earlier you buy them. Finally, maintaining a healthy lifestyle has endless benefits today, but will also pay off with lower medical costs in the future, and a higher quality of life when you reach your retirement date. Don’t take it from me, ask your coworkers.