The road to elderhood, a successful elderhood at least – relies upon a foundation built on experience. The experiences of this “newness” to one’s old age or elderhood, implies that in the second half of one’s life we can utilize our experiences of trauma, grief and pain which we all experience in the first half of life and translate them into our own personal form of resilience. Well, that might be a goal at least. How many of us get evaluated or graded upon these kinds of things? Hmmm, not many – particularly when many of us who have reached that “certain age” as the French call it, care less about what others might think of us. Retirement insecurity can take on many characteristics including depression due to a lack of a purpose to get out of bed or a place to go, not knowing where we “fit in” in the new world of retirement, determining where we want to live if our grandchildren are far away, and so on.
Change Typically Makes Us Feel Insecure
So, can this story of one’s elderhood be a “new” story for us? I think the answer is a resounding “yes” – this notwithstanding my lack of reference to a single “self-help” book! Acknowledging the hurts and harms we sustained in the past and being with them to the extent that we neither deny their existence nor do we fixate on trying to heal those hurts. Maturity here calls forth both a degree of necessary resilience as well as a certain perspective taking which is not “all about us.” The funny thing about time and our relationship to it is that we are always able to remake and retool that relationship. I think about the oft-used saying that it is “never too late to have a happy childhood.”
We Can Plan For Some Semblance of Security and Adjust Our Expectations
I will use the quote by Antoine de Saint-Exupery (author of the beloved story The Little Prince) on this topic:
The time for action is now. It’s never too late to do something.
The number of boomers inching into retirement continues to rise, this notwithstanding the changes and insecurity that retirement brings. I have heard many people say that they can’t afford to retire and they will just keep working. . . but this is often realistic because it ignores some of the challenges that come with aging and assumes that there will be a job or some form of suitable employment. Here’s a recent Washington Post article about financial insecurity in retirement.
As the U.S. government Accountability Office recently observed in a report – financial insecurity is trending. I’m not quite sure what that means – but I don’t think it’s a good thing! Section four of the GAO’s 173-page report examines the need to re-evaluate the nation’s approach to financing retirement. It notes:
Over the past 40 years, the nation has sought to address the issues facing the U.S. retirement system in a piecemeal fashion. This approach may not be able to effectively address the interrelated nature of the challenges facing the system today. Fundamental economic changes have occurred, as well as the shift from DB to DC plans, with important consequences for the system. Further, it has been nearly 40 years since a federal commission has conducted a comprehensive evaluation of the nation’s approach to financing retirement. A panel of retirement experts convened by GAO in November 2016 agreed that there is a need for a new comprehensive evaluation. The experiences of other countries can also provide useful insights for ways to improve the system.
There are numerous articles about the failed IRA and 401(k) experiments as a replacement for defined benefit (DB) plans, a/k/a pensions, but I will steer clear of those. These plans have encouraged Americans to save for their retirement, but about half of Americans aged 55 or older have NO retirement savings in an IRA or 401(k). But here is a link to a Forbes article which disputes the dire findings of the GAO report for its failure to account for valuable pensions.
It’s Not Too Late to Plan for Or Scrutinize Our Retirement Budget Expectations
So, retirement saving and planning is both an individual and a collective phenomenon, that’s nothing new – but what about those factors affecting the sufficiency of our retirement income based on our savings, pension and social security income? How much money will we need in retirement? The answer is, of course – it depends!
The single biggest expense that faces Americans in retirement is health care and it is under attack once again, this time in the form of tax legislation which the Congress is still working on, but the handwriting was on the wall for Medicare when the 2018 budget was recently unveiled. We still don’t have any details about the tax package.
How Many Elders Will Be Able to Afford Medicare Coverage in the Coming Years?
Here is a 10/27/17 article from the Kaiser Family Foundation which examines how the loss of the ACA’s Cost-Sharing Payments will affect insurance premiums in 2018. While the costs of health care in retirement remain largely uncertain and unknown for most of us, an article from last summer estimated that health care will cost couples $275,000 in retirement. Wow! What happens to those elders who can’t afford the Medicare premiums, co-pays and deductibles?
It is extremely difficult to anticipate how much coverage will be left in Medicare as well as how much it will cost in premiums. Here is a link to the 10/26/17 AARP’s “Premium Support is the Wrong Direction for Medicare: Highlights from a New Research Report.” The Urban Institute’s 10/26/17 Report, on which the criticisms of restructuring Medicare premium support is based, is available here. The conclusions include several areas of concern around the effects of premium supports, which they conclude would drive up premiums, making better plans much less affordable, along with the prospect that in some areas, private plans may no longer be available. These effects would not lead to any increase in choice, but would lead to homelessness and hardship among elders, as one source reported only a few days ago.
Perhaps elders still have some voice in stating preferences about how they will be affected by changes to Medicare. . . .
© 2017 Barbara Cashman www.DenverElderLaw.org