By April 12, 2017

Retirement: Facing the Frightening Facts

By Chris Prickett  — I’m headed to my 40th high school reunion later this year, so yes, I’m at an age where retirement is staring at me like a coiled rattlesnake with dollar signs for eyeballs. I don’t know if, or when it’ll strike, but it’s got me plenty terrified.

Photo Illustration By Marius Britt

Everybody tells me I’ll never stop working, and they’re probably right, but I do want to reach a point where I don’t need to work if I choose not to, or in case circumstances remove the option. If I’ve learned nothing else in my fifties, it’s become quite evident I’m not invincible.

The average life expectancy in the United States is about 79. But, if you make it to 50, your expected expiration date goes up by a few years. That trend continues the longer you live. If you make it to 70, you’ve got a decent chance to reach 90… at least statistically.

Retirement experts say you should spend no more than 4 percent of your combined savings/pension annually, not including Social Security benefits, if you don’t want to run out of money before you run out of breaths. Neither my wife nor I have a pension so I’m counting on our accrued retirement savings.

If I take off my shoes and do the math, retiring at 65 and living until 90 will require 25 years of funds. If we happened to have a cool million set aside—which we don’t—our living expenses would be limited to $40K per year (including housing and healthcare). I don’t even want to think about figuring for inflation.

It’s the ultimate Catch-22: Retire young—and risk dining on kibble in your golden years, or keep working—and let the stress of it punch your ticket before you get to see the pyramids.

This is the stuff that keeps me up at night and makes me scream at my kids when they do something like, say, lose the $60-jacket I bought last Tuesday.


Over the Prickett Fence is a column in In&Out Magazine.

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