In a recent radio interview the host asked what the greatest fear facing retirees is today. A quick visit to the World Senior Games reveals the answer to that question. On Wednesday, I had the opportunity to watch my mom and brother both swim in the 100-meter freestyle events. Their races occurred one after the other, giving me a great perspective on our modern definition of retirement. My brother, barely approaching 60, yet retired from full-time work, swam a race against others his age that was as competitive as I had seen when my own boys swam for the high school swim team.
This group, on the dawn of their retirement years, had trained rigorously all year with no less enthusiasm and effort than an athlete 45 years younger. I couldn't help but think that these athletes were just a couple of years away from qualifying for Social Security, a system put in place to provide "hope and protection to some of the most vulnerable members of society." These "retired" swimmers clearly did not fit that description.
The next race combined athletes from ages 80 to 95. Their times were slower and their bodies showed the affects of 30 years of additional aging, but their determination and athletic spirit was firmly intact. As I contrasted these two groups, standing side by side at the pool's edge, I realized once again the answer to the radio host's question. The greatest fear facing today's retirees is the fear of outliving their money.
The miracles of modern health and medicine have resulted in once vulnerable 60 year olds now being top shape competitive athletes. It means living into your 90s, once the accomplishment of legends, is now becoming the norm. We have no reason to doubt that in the coming years, the Senior Games will be adding many events for a growing group of centenarians.
The Senior Games are a reminder of the vast change that has happened over the last 50 years with retirement. Once viewed as a time when life starts to wind down, retirement today is a vibrant time filled with activity and years of adventure. As evidenced by the Senior Games, retirement is no longer a time to prepare to die, but rather a time to rediscover living.
A friend recently retired in his early sixties and asked if I thought he should wind down his accounts to much more conservative positions. My response was that someone in his family needed to keep working to pay for the next forty years and if it wasn't going to be him, then it had better be his money.
As I looked at the image of my retired brother, standing next to my retired mother (both wearing their silver medals), I was reminded that retirement has changed forever and if retirees want to be able to enjoy it to the very end, they will need to maintain an investment portfolio that is just as energetic and vibrant as they expect their lives to be in this new retirement paradigm.
Dan Wyson, CFP is author of the book "21 Financial Myths" and owner of Wyson Financial. Securities and Advisory services offered through Commonwealth Financial Network, member FINRA/SIPC, a registered investment adviser.
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