"I'm Going To Work Until I Die": A Look At How Unprepared Boomers Are For Retirement

Tyler Durden's picture

Authored by Patrick Watson via Mauldin Economics,

Wall Street endlessly gushes about retirement. Its TV commercials show how wonderful life will be in our golden years—when we are old, yet still healthy and wealthy enough to go hang-gliding every day.

Meanwhile, out here in the real world, most working-age Americans don’t want to talk or even think about retirement. Often this is because they know they aren't saving enough and probably will have to work until they drop dead.

This is the elephant in the room. 10,000 US Baby Boomers turn 65 every day. For most, life at that milestone won’t look much like the TV commercials.

That sounds dire, but it doesn’t have to be. Let’s look at ways this problem could be solved.

But first, some more facts.

Retirement Shortfall Among All Income Levels

Lately, I’ve been working with John Mauldin to research the huge public pension fund shortfalls. But it’s not just big funds that don’t save enough—most individuals are in the same position, or worse.

Teresa Ghilarducci is a labor economist at The New School, specializing in retirement security. Here’s what she told the Washington Post last month.

“There is no part of the country where the majority of middle-class older workers have adequate retirement savings to maintain their standard of living in their retirement.”

Her research shows even high-income workers haven’t saved enough to fund comfortable retirements.

The circles in this chart show how much money people should be saving for retirement. The shortfall (the red part) is around 30% for all income levels.

The green part of the circles is what Social Security provides. The program was never meant to be a full pension, and it clearly isn’t delivering one.

Yet a majority of the age 65+ population depends on Social Security for at least half of its income.

These are sobering numbers:

  • 19.7% of retirees get 100% of their income from Social Security.
  • A full third (33.4%) depend on it for 90% of their income.
  • And 61.1% get at least half their income from Social Security.

Now, consider what John Mauldin wrote in Thoughts from the Frontline last weekend (I’d also highly recommend subscribing to his weekly letter here). The federal government’s unfunded 75-year liability for Social Security and Medicare combined is $46.7 trillion.

So Americans aren’t saving enough for themselves, nor is the government saving on their behalf. And the Millennial generation, whose taxes Boomers and Gen-Xers will depend on, is not exactly off to a great career start.

It’s hard to see how this story could end well. It certainly won’t end with every older American enjoying a leisurely retirement.

“I’m Going to Work Until I Die.” Yes, You Most Likely Will, So Embrace It

Unprepared retirees are filling the gap the only way they can: by working well into their golden years.

In 1986, 10.6% of the population older than 65 was still working. In 2016, it was 18.6%, and I suspect the number will keep rising.

The Washington Post story profiles some working senior citizens:

Richard Dever had swabbed the campground shower stalls and emptied 20 garbage cans, and now he climbed slowly onto a John Deere mower to cut a couple acres of grass.


“I’m going to work until I die, if I can, because I need the money,” said Dever, 74, who drove 1,400 miles to this Maine campground from his home in Indiana to take a temporary job that pays $10 an hour.


Dever shifted gently in the tractor seat, a rubber cushion carefully positioned to ease the bursitis in his hip—a snapshot of the new reality of old age in America.

Dever’s story isn’t unusual. Many older people sell their homes, buy campers, and move around the country. Some just enjoy sightseeing—but many are making ends meet as seasonal laborers. Amazon even has a formal program for them called CamperForce.

Amazon makes it sound fun: “Your next RV adventure is here,” says the website. But it’s not the kind of adventure most camping enthusiasts would prefer.

Now, the idea of working past age 65 isn’t necessarily so bad. After all, work isn’t “work” if you enjoy doing it. The problem arises when the work is physically difficult or otherwise unpleasant.

I know many people over 65 who are very happily employed. John Mauldin, for one.

He’s 68 and keeps a schedule that would exhaust much younger folks. Working past retirement age isn’t always a nightmare—though it can definitely be one if you are forced into it.

Encore Career

This problem currently affects 76 million Baby Boomers who have already entered or are about to enter their retirement years. At 53, I’m one of them.

We know most Americans in that age group don’t have enough savings to simply stop working. If that’s you, here are some tips what to do.

1. Save and invest as much as you can, even if the amount seems small. It will still come in handy. (In my recent exclusive special report, I describe one fixed income asset class that can yield up to 6-8% returns with moderate risks.  Download it here for free).

2. Take care of your health. Lose weight, get exercise, eat healthy. This will both minimize your medical expenses and let you work more comfortably if you need to.

3. Think ahead about what kind of work you can do in retirement. Identify a job you can “retire into.” It should be something you enjoy, that earns real income, and that you’ll be able to continue even as aging slows you down.

4. Don’t look at it as Plan B. Think of retirement as a new stage in your career. As I said, work is only work if you don’t enjoy it. If you plan ahead, it can be a time when you work on your own terms instead of someone else’s.

In my case, there’s no reason I can’t keep writing into my seventies. Maybe I’ll take more vacations, but I don’t want to stop writing completely. I’m not sure I could stop even if I wanted to.

Meanwhile, those extra working years will let me save longer and my savings to compound, which will leave me in a better position when I can’t work anymore and have to tap my savings.

Medical breakthroughs extend what my colleague Patrick Cox calls "health spans." Not only can we live longer, we can be healthier longer. There’s a good chance 80 will be the new 60.

In that regard, watch this short video by Gary Vaynerchuk. It has a little profanity at the end, but watch anyway. He has a message that may help.

We all have more time than we think… and we can do a lot with it.

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junction's picture

That's the way it is, cattle.  Get used to it.

Creepy_Azz_Crackaah's picture

OK, hate me if you will. I actually **like** working. Both of my jobs. I might even do it until I die becasue I enjoy it. There is nothing like having the product of one's labor come to fruition in a beautiful, real, thing. Houses, satellites, rockets, all fun to design/build.


cheech_wizard's picture

I've always thought the key here was to enjoy what you do for "work". Then it really doesn't seem so much like "work". It generally takes people a lifetime to figure that out though. Could I do what I do now for years to come? Sure I could, but seeing as I've now touched on just about every occupation an electronics engineer can do, it's definitely time to start moving closer to my preferred choice of working with wood to make real world goods like furniture.



The Alarmist's picture

You're going to work until you die because the criminal elite are going to beat you down with debt and stagnant wages until your early death from opiod overdose.

Five Star's picture

Pension underfunding given realistic market values put in terms of tax revenues. Terrifying 


Fredo Corleone's picture

"The New School?"

Ghilarducci, of 401k redefinition fame ?

Durden may just as well be culling articles from the American Communist Party or Bernard Sanders.

secretargentman's picture

What I would be saving for retirement is being stolen every paycheck by the social security tax. Bastards!

Angry White Guy's picture

"I go out on my own, sir"

"Well played, old friend"

man from glad's picture

It certainly doesn't help that savings are only making .00000005% interest. This is criminal IMO.

HRClinton's picture

End the Fed (((Owners))).


TIMBEEER's picture

If the savings rate interest of 0% is a problem for you, then you have to complain to the guy in the mirror. Even in the US or Canadian stock exchange you can find numerous, consistent high dividend payers to build a 5%+ annual dividend portfolio. You just dont buy FANG stocks or Pepsico or J&J or crappy S&P ETFs.


booboo's picture

I actually hope I can work until I die. It does a body good.

Nobodys Home's picture

I thought that was orange juice.

Logonaut's picture

I hope you're going to drink that orange juice during your fifteen minute break, or the deal is off.

iampreparedru's picture

Yea, someone else's fault you did not invest. I started with nothing and made it, did they miss me?

stormcrow's picture

I've told people the same thing same thing and been told in effect that I'm being idealistic. Well, yeah, why not aim high?

jwoop66's picture

Im with you.  I never understood why people would want to retire.  Retirement=death.    I don't want to be busting my ass to squeek by, but I have never saw myself retiring.

GunnerySgtHartman's picture

Agreed, sir.  I anticipate "retiring from a job," but I never plan to retire from working.

People who retire from a job and then retire to a rocking chair wind up dead in relatively short order.

sessinpo's picture
Most people make the mistake of thinking in a linear fashion. 
  1. First, they think the income they have now will be similar to what they will have if they retire.
  2. Secondly, they think that when they are of retirement age, they will have the same mental and physical capabilities they have now. 
Both likely to be false assumptions for most.
NoPension's picture

 I like working. And this world needs me working. Of course, life goes on, I know...but.

Besides..retire and do what? I'd probably find a big project, and pay to hang out.

Offthebeach's picture

Every day, thousands of local, state and federal employees,  many with 2-3 government pensions and a spouse with a gov pension, retire and these stewards of public trust need many house hold and personal servants.  You too can join this rapidly growing field!

yellowsub's picture

There's only so many Walmart greeter jobs around.

darteaus's picture

Everyone will work until they die.  That's life.

For example, if you inherited $10M, wouldn't you invest at least some of it?  Of course you would.  Then, you'd be making sure that investment was keeping its value.  That's: 'work'.

The $10M would, however, allow you to take a job in a field you like as opposed to a field chosen primarily because of the money.

Catullus's picture

$10m still only yields $300,000/year. That's not enough for high income earners to replace income.

You could be pushing 8 figures and still not have enough for retirement. Thanks Bernanke and Yellen!!!

_triplesix_'s picture

FFS, what the hell do you need more than $300K a year for in retirement?  I'm nearly 50 and have reduced my overall consumption and spending drastically the last 5+ years simply because I have everything I need.  I wouldn't know what do to with $300K a year but sock it away for my kids when I die.

JohnG's picture

That dick won't suck itself son.

High end hookers are $1000 for the hour, $5000 for the night.

Really great weed is *very* expensive.

Have you priced a case of Pappy Van Winkle lately?

I don't much care for coke but the girls like it.

Sure lower your standard of living.

Fuck that.

cynicalskeptic's picture

We  can't all be arms runners for the CIA owning a couple houses and planes making a nice living playing video poker


I dont care what anyone says, that was funny

JohnG's picture

All of these whiner's problems can be solved by following John's Rule #1:




defender's picture


Wait... is that you Mister Yellen?



Reference:  http://money.cnn.com/2017/03/23/news/economy/fed-yellen-income-inequalit...


morongobill's picture

Love that Gary Vee link, subbed. Good article.

sheikurbootie's picture

Most of my friends in their 50's have at least $40,000 in the 401k.  That should last about 6 months in retirement.

cheech_wizard's picture

Well, you do get to thank Alan Greenspan for that.

Standard Disclaimer: Irrational exuberence - those two words killed off any chance of retirement for those in their 50's...



cynicalskeptic's picture

Us baby boomers got hit with inflated housing prices - our first mortgage was at over 8% interest.   We paid a fortune for our kids college - my whole degree was less than one years tuition for my sons.

We saw our pensions turned into 401K's and lost a fortune in the market (and seem to be doomed to do so agaiin - it's the only place to get ANY rate of return and we're still not keeping up with inflation).

I've seen a good number of people who 'did the right things' -

1) kept debt to a minimum or even paid it off

2) paid for kids college

3) paid off house

yet those people are all getting laid off in their 50's just as their incomes have finally started to give them a real cushion.

They're lucky to find ANY job at this age - REAL unemployment is runing at 24% as bad as 1933.

The money we've saved is worth less and less as time passes with real inflation running close to 10%.


Know way too many people who've saved up and NOT been the overconsuming narcicissists others complain about getting screwed this way.   Great people are getting hurt while the psychopaths are the ones that hold on making serious money.

HRClinton's picture

$1000/mo will do just fine, if you know where to live... Outside the US Plantation. 

roddy6667's picture

My wife and I moved to her home city in China when we retired. We have a lot of family here. The two of us live an upper middle class life here with money left over for travel. Our income, for two people, is less than $18,000 US a year. We don't touch our savings. China is not for everybody, but there are many places in this big world where you can do this. 

GunnerySgtHartman's picture

if you know where to live... Outside the US Plantation. 

A chiropractor friend of mine in his early 60s is planning to retire to Costa Rica when he's finally had enough.  He says that he can live like a king - literally, with servants and the whole bit - for around $30k a year.

Offthebeach's picture

Squirrel is pretty good once you get used to it.

I Write Code's picture

Well talk about totally missing the point - if you're high income you don't give a rat's ass about the "shortfall".

And even middle income people may not care much.  BTW does "retirement savings" even include corporate pension plans?  They're mostly history now, but not all.

toady's picture

No such thing as corporate pensions anymore... government pensions, yes, corporate pensions no....

And the article appears to confuse "income" with assets. You work to make "income", you retire on "assets".

cynicalskeptic's picture

Worked for the NYFed a while back.....   saw some astoundingly incompetent people who are now collecting nice pensions AND getting health care.....    prime benefits


Old and Angry's picture

I'm hoping a nuclear holocaust vaporizes me when I run out of money.  Problem solved.

MrSteve's picture

Just take a discount airline to the Netherlands and file for assisted suicide there, while you're mentally and barely physically able. They'll take care of your death wish and then spare us the nuclear holocaust. Thank you very much. You will be vaporized or at least carbonized, same difference.

HRH Feant2's picture

He doesn't need to go to Europe. That shit is legal in Oregon.