In this day and age, the news cycle moves pretty fast, which means almost every day there is a new poll, study, or research project aimed at retirement. At times, it can be hard to read everything, let alone digest it all. But that’s what I do. I spend my days reading and researching every nook and cranny of retirement in an effort to help people see and plan beyond the dollars and cents of it.
One of the interesting things I have found in the literature is an abundance of research on the financial aspects. Recently I read, that debt among older Americans is rising. In 2016, the average debt for families in which the head of the household is age 75 or older was $36,757. That’s up from $30,288 in 2010, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute in Washington.
The same report also stated that the average monthly Social Security check is $1,404, and more than 40% of single adults receive more than 90% of their income from that check.
A separate study by Comparitech estimated one in ten people in the United States over the age of 65 has fallen victim to elder fraud in the last year with the average loss per case around $2,415 (based on numbers reported to state Adult Protective Services organizations)
When I come across figures like this, it’s a stark reminder to me that people at every stage of life need help and support. Too often we look at seniors and people in retirement as self-reliant, doing well, and not dealing with the same stress as working folk. But that’s definitely not the case.
As the report indicates, some retirees struggle with debt and don’t know the best way to get out from the burden of it. Others are struggling to make ends meet. Furthermore, despite reports that there is little to no inflation, the costs for healthy food, health care, and even basic technology can be out of reach for many retirees, especially single retirees who can end up isolated and struggling to meet their basic needs.
It’s also been my experience, that the people who are worst off are also the most poised to fall victim to a scam. When things are bad or aren’t going as planned, the need for a big pay day or easy money becomes more and more appealing. People have been grinding for so long, they welcome any opportunity to get out of their financial situation and as we all know, if it sounds too good to be true, then it usually is.
One of the positive trends in all the research is that more and more of it is going beyond the dollars and cents to look at everyday life in retirement. But similar to some of the financial studies, the results are not all peaches and cream. The Hartford Funds explored the transition into retirement and the honeymoon phase and found that 69% of new retirees have challenges adapting to retirement, 37% miss the day-to-day social interaction with co-workers, and 63% of people feel stressed about their retirement decision.
The struggle to make a successful transition can cause problems in relationships as well. The term gray-divorce has become a popular category for people who separate after the age of 50 and the numbers are shocking. While over-all divorce rates have fallen in recent years, the rate of divorce for those after age 50 has doubled in the U.S. since 1990.
Looking forward, the boomers’ propensity to break up, combined with the aging of the U.S. population, means we could see more than 828,000 Americans divorcing each year by 2030, That’s almost 30% more than in 2010, and four times more than the 206,000 older people who divorced in 1990.
Those are staggering numbers to consider because just as people invest for retirement, they also need to invest in their health and relationships. Too often people are programmed to run, run, run, and then when you get to retirement you can do all the things you missed or had to postpone. But you may get there and not only have challenges adapting, but you may find yourself alone or struggling to connect with others and find purpose. This is why I continue to advocate for the development of a written, non-financial plan like the one I share in my book Naked Retirement.
Overall, some research and reports can feel negative and highlight things we would rather not think about, let alone talk about. Which is why we have to add a dose of reality to the retirement planning process. Organizations and the financial services industry can no longer afford to be Pollyanna about it.
We have to look at it for what it is as a means to help people better prepare for it. By raising awareness to both the personal and financial issues that can come up, people can position themselves to make better decisions as to when to stop working or take time out to take care of themselves.