Over the last several months, I’ve been writing a lot of “how are we doing?” columns. They've ranged from business owners being generally optimistic despite the economic climate, to small business employees not being optimistic, and to us considering a new view of the American Dream.
Part of the American Dream is, of course, a secure retirement. But last year’s financial losses and on-going job cuts have for the first time created great uncertainty among the generations that make up our population. A landmark national study, Retirement at the Tipping Point: The Year That Changed Everything (summarized, and downloadable, here), launched by Age Wave and conducted by leading research firm Harris Interactive, provides insight into the new retirement fears, hopes, attitudes, advice, and plans among these four generations of Americans. Given that the average entrepreneur has a bit more control over how he or she shapes his or her retirement, it's worth taking note of these changes.
The term “tipping point” is, of course, a reference to the best-selling book by Malcolm Gladwell. A “tipping point” occurs when the momentum for change turns from strong to unstoppable. The study seems to confirm that we have since passed a tipping point in terms of attitudes toward retirment among all four current generations: Veterans (1922-1945), Baby Boomers (1946-1964), Generation X (1965-1980), and Generation Y (1981-2000). Although each group has different attitudes, behaviors, and expectations, they all have been forced to reassess the funding, timing, and purpose of retirement.
Here is a summary of the study’s key findings:
Resetting the Retirement Clock.
Today’s pre-retirees say they will need to postpone their retirement, on average, by 4.2 years. Should this come to pass, it would be the first time that retirement age significantly increased in so short a timespan in America. The uninsured costs of healthcare are now considered the biggest potential financial wildcard in retirement.
Needed: Financial Rehab.
After decades of out-of-control spending, Americans have been jolted into realizing that they must get back to basics and learn to live within their means in order to find financial peace of mind.
Am I My Brother’s Keeper?
Above all else, Americans define success as having loving family and friends. But with these relationships and connections come significant responsibilities to provide care and support for parents, children, and even siblings.
Retirement Finds a New Purpose.
In the midst of today’s crisis, Americans are beginning to envision retirement as a time of new purpose, new priorities, new careers, and new opportunities to give back to the world.
Whether the changes revealed in the study are rooted in economic necessity or are, in fact, permanent, only time will tell. You can make up your own mind by reading the complete study.
Jerry Kalish is founder and President of National Benefit Services, Inc., a Chicago-based employee benefit consulting and administrative firm that serves private-held companies, publicly traded companies, and public sector employers. He blogs at The Retirement Plan Blog and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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