Is it time for a retirement reboot? 

By Christine Gibbs

The dictionary is very precise in defining retirement: Withdrawal from one’s position or occupation or from active working. For a growing number of people in New Jersey and around the country, that definition barely hints at the reality of retirement. A generation ago, half of all Americans said they expected to retire comfortably by age 65. By contrast, according to a recent survey, about 25% of Americans now anticipate that retirement won’t begin until age 70 or later. According to AARP, 40% of Baby Boomers nearing retirement expect to “work until they drop.” So much for Webster’s.

The math is far from encouraging. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 13%  of the current U.S. population is over 65, with projections escalating to 18% in 2030 and doubling in 2050 to almost 90 million. This puts stress not only on retirees, but also on their entitlements. Given that the average length of retirement is 18 years, right now four out of five Americans aged 30 to 54 say they are convinced they will not have sufficient funds to comfortably retire, and expect little help from diminished Social Security benefits when the time comes. They may be right. The Boston College Center for Retirement Research estimates that, as a nation, we are a mind-boggling $6.6 trillion short of what Americans will need to retire comfortably. 

If you’ve fully funded your retirement and feel confident that you can maintain a high standard of living and achieve all of your post-career dreams, you can stop reading here. If not, let’s do a reality check. 


The first meaningful step toward retirement is visualizing what life will look like for you. It won’t be the same as it is today, especially if you are behind in building your nest egg. You will almost certainly downsize in terms of your living situation. If you own a home, try to put a conservative number on what kind of cash a sale will generate when you move to something smaller or less expensive. And then think about what it will cost to live in your next home—taxes, utility bills, maintenance. Maybe you’ll be renting. Or sharing a home with your children.

How do you envision your lifestyle? Will you be taking around-the-world cruises or more modest travel adventures? Will you be joining country clubs or giving up your existing memberships? Will you be a buyer or a seller when it comes to the finer things in life, such as art, antiques or collectibles? Will you be eating out a lot or eating in?

Remember, everything comes with a price tag including, unfortunately, your health. Health issues increase with age, which often involve unexpected escalating medical obligations. Psychological and emotional distress often increases as we grow older. In fact for many, chronic anxiety and depression begin pre-retirement as we face the realities of aging. Although Medicare and private insurance plans can cover most of these costs, any decline in health—even a temporary one—is likely to erode your finances. Plan realistically for this eventuality. You don’t want to be 80 and snapping pills in half so you can afford to keep the lights on.


So where to start? A good place to begin your retirement reboot is by determining how much you will really need to save in order to make your late-in-life fantasy come true. Any good game plan must start with an honest personal assessment. The two critical factors to consider are when and how do you hope to retire. There are a plethora of online calculators that let you plug in financial and other data to calculate how much cash to stash to achieve defined goals. There are an equally vast number of retirement experts and advisers out there offering professional assistance.

Financial planners like to recommend saving 10 to 15 percent of your annual income starting as early as your 20s. A recent USA Today article suggests saving $300 per month starting at age 25 and investing aggressively (not to mention successfully) will accumulate more than $932,000 by age 65. Delaying saving by a decade would reduce the total nest egg to $408,000, while increasing the monthly savings by $100 would increase it to about $1.2 million. Which makes me wonder: Do any 25-year-olds read USA Today? Are you 25? The answer to both questions is probably not.

If you are in your 40’s or 50’s and have yet to pull your head out of the sand when it comes to saving for retirement, fear not. All is not lost. In fact, there is a consensus among the “big boys” in the financial arena on how to get back on track even when the retirement clock is ticking. A good place to start is to estimate how much cash you will need in your retirement kitty based on your projected monthly expenses.


  • The ancient Greeks would stockpile valuable olive oil as a way to survive during difficult times, including old age.
  • Revolutionary War patriot Thomas Paine proposed a controversial public pension system in a pamphlet published in 1795.

Monthly Income Need       Savings Needed for 20       Years Savings Needed for 30 Years

$1,000                                    $166,696                                $212,150

$2,000                                    $333,392                               $424,300

$3,000                                    $500,087                               $636,450

$4,000                                    $666,783                               $848,601

$5,000                                    $833,479                               $1,060,751

$6,000                                    $1,000,175                            $1,272,901

$7,000                                    $1,166,871                             $1,485,051

$8,000                                   $1,333,567                             $1,697,201

$9,000                                   $1,500,262                            $1,909,351

$10,000                                 $1,666,958                             $2,121,501

The above sums assume your portfolio will earn a 6 percent annualized return during the course of your retirement and endure 2 percent annual inflation erosion.

Obviously, the first step is to start growing your savings faster than you’re growing gray hairs. Clark Howard, a successful consumer expert, in one of his books entitled Living Large for the Long Haul, extends his own personal lifeline to those who have passed the 40-year mark with no savings for retirement.

  1. Crunch Retirement Numbers Realistically
  • Income (salary, portfolio, social security, pension)?
  • Unsettled debt?
  • Expenses?
  1. Get Aggressive
  • Stop stalling and start saving—as much as you can, as soon as you can!
  • Play catch-up: If you are 50 or older, the IRS lets you make extra contributions to supplement your retirement savings accounts.
  1. Rethink Your Retirement Timetable
  • Keep working beyond the standard retirement age.
  • Supplement with part-time work.
  1. Scale back
  • Get real about expenses and luxuries.


Medicare was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in 1965. It established eligibility at age 65.


What will the world look like for retirees now in their 40’s or 50’s?  They will be part of what one strategic forecasting agency recently referred to as “a tsunami of senior citizens.” It may change the very nature and culture of the United States, and will certainly have a major impact on the economy. By their sheer numbers, seniors will represent a juggernaut voting block, and millions of new jobs and perhaps even new industries will be devoted to their needs. And remember, this is based on current life-expectancy rates. With advances in medicine, a lot of today’s 50 year-olds will reach triple-digits. They are only halfway home! 


88% of Americans today are worried about retirement as compared to 73% in 2010.   


The U.S. Census Bureau indicates that average savings for a 50 year-old today is $42,797.  

What do those next 50 years have in store for us? A Place for Mom, a very successful for-profit senior living referral service, recently put forth the following predictions:

  • A drastic decline in traditional nursing homes in favor of continuing care communities and aging-in-place with at-home care.
  • Improved technology to include a wide array of accurate health-monitoring wearables, smart homes powered by cloud-based artificial intelligence, and even exo-suits worn under or over clothing to enhance mobility.
  • Neighborhood-friendly civic planning to accommodate common senior limitations.
  • Going green among the graying population through eco-friendly domestic design to save energy and money while making seniors safer.
  • A booming healthcare industry based on the Bureau of Labor forecasting job growth at 70% for home health and personal care aides.

In the end (no pun intended) a happy, healthful, meaningful retirement comes down to quality of life. And in that regard, everyone is different. For some, it’s a matter of money—of never having to say no to something because you can’t afford it. For others, it’s about staying engaged and maintaining a positive outlook—of never being afraid to say yes. Just as everyone is different, every retirement is different, too. The more you can picture your own bright future, the more realistic your chances are of making it happen. 


Age 66 is the full eligibility age for Social Security for anyone born in 1954 or earlier, with partial benefits available starting at age 62. For those born after 1954, the eligibility age increases by two months per birth year until it reaches 67.