Retiring seems like a distant and almost unattainable reality to me. At 32 years old I know that I have several decades to go. However, unlike past generations, I have a real concern about what will happen when I retire. I look at people who are well in their years and wonder if they view others the way I see them. Feeble, dependent on care, sometimes forgotten, the older generation is a constant reminder that one day I too will be among them. I’m afraid, with no children of my own and the mistrust of government in this regard, I’ll be placed in some home hidden away from the rest of the world.
Each day I feel as though I’m taking one more step toward the retirement cliff. Like so many people, I live paycheck to paycheck. I’m always grateful that I can pay my bills but then there’s the very large student loan debt that I’m sure will follow me for another decade at the least. It hangs like an albatross around my neck and shoulders. If I’m not too careful the thoughts of all of this leaves me in a state of constant irritation.
After 34 years of service, one of my co-workers recently retired. Still very young and vivacious, in the weeks and days before her retirement, I began to think about what it’d be like for me when the time comes. I truly doubt that Social Security will be there. And if it is, it will not resemble what it is today. I pay into a retirement plan that theoretically should be there upon my retirement but even within that there are ways that it too could yield very little when I retire.
My husband plays the lottery each week. He usually spends no more than $5. Still, I tell him it’s a pipe dream and try to remind him of the astronomical odds of actually hitting it. He, without fail, reminds me that it only takes one and there’s no reason why it couldn’t be him. The thought of easy money is great. There are times where him and I will be driving in the car and talk about what we’d do with the money. I’ve often said that I don’t need to be a mega millionaire, I simply want to be able to pay off our bills. After all, I’m still well within my working years and if left idle I’d lose touch with reality.
It scares me, it really does. Retirement is an uncertainty to me. Although I already live on a fixed income the thought of having no control over what my income is frightens me. So, too, does the idea of wondering what my quality of life will be. I already have a list of health concerns and a medicine cabinet full of pills to prove it. If it weren’t for the medical insurance I presently have I’d struggle to work as I do. With the recent downturn of the economy it has made me give considerably more thought to all of this. In the many lists of things I do within my job one is in being our benefits coordinator. In that capacity I’ve seen the changes in health coverage in the past decade. No one year is the same and more and more medications are being bumped up to unrealistic price tiers.
They always say that it’s never too early to start on your retirement but now it seems to be more of a necessity than it is a polite suggestion. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life paying on debt, and I certainly don’t want that to continue to be the case when I’m in my retirement. Getting out of the debt hole often takes much longer than it did to get into it. What I do know is that I want to be able to enjoy retirement regardless of whether or not I hit the lottery. We all should strive to, as financial counselor Dave Ramsey says, “If you will live like no one else, later you can live like no one else.”
This article appeared on page 5A in the 5/8/13 issue of The Union-Recorder. The article appeared under the title, The Challenges of Getting to Retirement.