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Gambling on Retirement

Retirement Gamble: Gambling on Now….Not Later

Gambling on RetirementI have a 15% chance of living to be 100. Check out the chart here.

I have a 30% chance of living to be 90. Check out another one here.

And I have a 50% chance of living to be 80.

Is it possible to budget for such an undetermined future. When you were 20 years old and you were deciding what you wanted to do with your life, would it have been possible to predict 25 years into the future. Or 30 years. With all the changes that happen in the years from age 20 to age 50, it is virtually impossible to plan for all the possible outcomes with the hope of being prepared for what is to come. During those years, we get married, have children, change and lose jobs, we experience health challenges and accidents, and life and death. And we roll with whatever comes our way while making plans in the best way we can manage.

So why is it, that as we go into our retirement years, we are charged with the responsibility to be fully planned for the next 40 years. In these years we will experience life and death and health issues and accidents, change our residence, potentially change jobs and travel. All equally as unpredictable as the possibility of predicting our years from age 20-50.

But retirement planning requires that we do so. In financial ways and lifestyle ways. Potentially it is because our earning power and our concomitant ability to care for ourselves is lower. Perhaps it is because our health issues are more frequent and more costly.

Still, we cannot plan for a future that is 40 years in the future. We can apply broad brush strokes to the possibilities and then get down to the business of living in the world we are in now. Is it prudent to sacrifice these years for a future to which I have a 15% chance to be a part of.

We are gambling on financing a lifestyle into our nineties and postponing doing the things we wish to do in our now. It seems there is a little lunacy in the decision to continue working at something you dislike, that absorbs all your energy, so you can fund a lifestyle that reaches into your potentially, non-existent  nineties. And with a 10-30% chance of that life that you have funded happening….it seems incredible that a massive investment community has convinced us to give up our precious present to fund this obscure future.

It is a trade-off to depart the work force now, when the rest of your peers are working and potentially run short of money when you are 92 years old. If I happen to live to be 92. I am gambling more on now rather than later. It does not mean that I have left myself without, into my nineties, but rather that I am balancing my budget with those odds and assuming that by 90, I will no longer be part of the huge machine of consumption.  I am counting on that life will be simpler then and will cost less as well. I have indexed my retirement funds to offset inflation as well.

It is a balancing act and we all make our choices based on the level of risk we can live with. But too often, I think, we mortgage our now for a thin possibility of a later. Our health is a major determinant of our ability to enjoy our later years. Manulife has a calculator on their site that allows you to calculate your odds of dying or becoming critically ill or disabled by age 65. It is based on gender, age and whether or not you smoke. I think it should include exercise as well. If you are 40 now, those odds of being critically ill or disabled are 41% by the time you are 65.

I remain hopelessly optimistic of my own chances, but these calculators are based on historical incidence of disease and as some prognoses get better, others get worse. We have been so able and well and capable of anything and these diseases have always been something that happens to older people. We boomers are, or have been,  invincible in our ability to solve anything that comes our way. And we work out and eat right and supplement and we hope it is enough. But it may not be.

So we gamble our quality of now for a debatable later. I am just saying….


Thanks to Alvimann at Morgue file for the freephoto.


  1. Hi Kelly! What a provocative post! And you know how I like those! This is such a great question for us all to be asking ourselves–especially those in Midlife. One big problem is that even when we all hear about how we should be “saving for retirement” very few of us (at least U.S. citizens) are doing so. What about them? Instead they are mainly in heavy denial or worrying themselves half to death with fear for what will come. Those who do have money or at least a retirement plan from their work are many times slaving away at soul-sucking jobs and putting in time just so they will (hopefully) have a little money to enjoy it when they can finally leave that hated job. Not a pretty picture any way you look at it.

    My solution. Well I can’t speak for anyone else but my husband and I decided to “right-size” our lives at our age (not waiting for retirement) and that allows us while we are still working to pinpoint those things in our lives that are really, really important and to let go of all the rest. When you do that you know what you want money for in the future (working or not) and how you want to spend it. Most people live unsustainable lives spending scads of money—right sizing can help you spend only what brings the greatest amount of pleasure instead.

    Time goes so fast it is madness to do as you say, “mortgage our now for a thin possibility of a future.” Amen to that!


    • Kelly says:

      Very well put Kathy. I love your idea of right sizing to create a lifestyle that fits whatever budget that you have. It is funny that after a lifetime of striving and saving, you can suddenly just relax and just be, once you have gone through the process of right sizing. I think that I, too lived an unsustainable lifestyle in my earning years but within that I had put away enough. Not a fortune but enough.

      Spending and limiting your spending to the things that bring you pleasure is definitely the way to go. I like that parameter to guide my spending choices. My choices for pleasure include travel and new experiences and I know those things also guide your choices. Thanks for your thoughtful comment as always!

  2. DJan says:

    I have been retired now for the past six years. At 71, I look at the future with hopes that there will be enough in our retirement fund to last us as long as we need. If I die first, my husband will get survivor’s benefits from Social Security. If he dies first, his money disappears, because he receives much less than I do. We have what is called two-life annuities from my working years, which means we will continue to draw a monthly stipend as long as one of us is still living, and then that goes away too. Since I have no living children, it is not an issue about inheritance, just being able to live decently as long as we can.

    At the present time, we are comfortable but are nowhere near wealthy. It should be enough, as you said, once we downsize. We rent and pay a reasonable amount, but it could always go up, since we are at the mercy of our landlords. They have been wonderful, but if push comes to shove and we have to move, our options are to move into an assisted living environment or a senior community.

    Good questions about what to do for those thinking about retirement. That is now in the past for us, and we must make do with what we have. :-)

    • Kelly says:

      It is always a bit of a juggling act is it not. When I read your blog you seem beyond wealthy in a non-financial sense. You seem to live an exciting and fulfilling lifestyle and that is what this is all about. We are all in some way at the mercy of outside influences whether that be the markets or your landlord or other things beyond our control. So heres to living the best life possible and you are an example of that!

  3. I have never been one to bet on living long enough to do all of the things one wants to do in life….I have never known anyone who made it that long! I say: do what you can, while you can (within some kind of reasonable bounds, of course). Tomorrow is promised to no one. My husband just survived a double lung transplant….unbelievable journey! This next year will find me traveling, and the two of us traveling…while we can.

    • Kelly says:

      OMG I cannot believe that he (and you) went through a double lung transplant. Your trip will be that much sweeter for having gone through that experience. I am sure that every day must be sweeter.

      Thanks for your thoughts…they add some real traction to the message in my post.

      And you made the message even more real for me as well.

  4. nancytex2013 says:

    What a thought-provoking post, Kelly. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever really considered how much we focus on what is an uncertain future. You’ve given me a lot of food for thought, once again.

    • Kelly says:

      Thanks for your thoughts Nancy. It is always a bit of a tradeoff no matter which way you lean. Am I going to live forever and run out of money or am I going to be unable to travel and experience all the things that I thought I would do when I retired.

      The stats are pretty scary on how many people are disabled or chronically ill at 65 years of age. 65 is not that far away!

      I am glad that my thoughts and writing make you think. That is high praise. thank you.


  5. Bridget says:

    Kelly-I agree with you 100%!!! The financial industry has a vested interest to make us feel we need to work to save $1,000,000+ to finance an uncertain future. They make money off of our money. As you have said, “now” is all we have. Thank you for your post. You are an inspiration as work towards early retirement.

    • Kelly says:

      It is really true that I spend far less now and I think it is because I am happy and I seem to be doing all the same things as before, except working of course. I do work but it is work that I enjoy so it never feels like work.

      I was speaking to someone about how much less you spend in retirement and we were talking about the savings if you just quantify 1 tank of gas per week less it is $320/m. And I actually think I use 1-2 tanks less per week. And it is only one of the things that drives reduced spending. There are more and they are significant.

      And now is important as it may be all we have. Thanks for coming by and sharing your thoughts on this Bridget.

  6. It really is a balancing act. I have to admit I waited a long time to think about retirement. I’m lucky because my financial life changed when I remarried. But it really is a crap shoot. Great post! Glad to find you!

    • Kelly says:

      Hi Carol. Love that you stopped by. I loved your thoughts today on the reset button for our lives. And that we all have it and can use it anytime!

  7. Linda Hoye says:

    I’ve given a lot of thought to this topic. My mom died suddenly when she was fifty-five and that event has been a driving force behind many of the choices I made in life–including walking away from a lucrative corporate career when I turned fifty-five last year. I’m finding great fulfillment in living simply and having time to focus on those things that fulfill me like the corporate world never did. I believe this was definitely the right choice for me. None of us have any guarantees about tomorrow and I can think of no greater tragedy than to drop dead working at a job that stifled you.

    • I love the way you describe the life you have chosen. The spectre of your mothers death could give you the best, next forty years doing things you enjoy, taking life more slowly and easily. After running for the last 55 years, doesn’t it feel so calm to stop and listen now.

      I missed this comment when you first put it up but I had to reply as your path is so similar to mine.

  8. Scott says:

    I just got laid off from megacorp myself. I am 41 have a wife and 3 kids to support. Fortunately I have a paid off house and 700k saved. Living more simply, I am seriously considering working part time (and the wife picking up a PT job as well) while applying the 4% safe withdrawal rule. Working PT will allow for more time to think up passive income ideas. Not sure which way to go…want to make sure my family is taken care of but am also want to spend as much time with them etc – Life is short.

    • You have done well so far…you have paid off the house and saved a substantial sum very early! Nice! What if you chose work that you enjoyed this time around? Less pay, more control over your schedule, more soulful type work….you are right though….life does go by so quickly. Thanks for your comment and for reading this blog.

      • Scott says:

        That’s a good idea. Any suggestions on how to find what a more soulful job would look like?

        Thanks for the replay and great blog. Not sure if I fit your target audience or not – but I usually tend to be a square peg in a round hole in most situations anyhow. :)

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