Hello? Retirement is for Baby Boomers, government workers and the well-off. Most rank and file workers will never be able to retire, and the sooner we face this fact and plan for it, the better off we will be.

I was amused over the weekend to hear a call-in radio show about retirement in which younger adults — in one case, a college student working as a busboy — were told they need to save more and more and more money for their retirement.


Hello? Retirement is for Baby Boomers, government workers and the well-off. Most rank and file workers will never be able to retire, and the sooner we face this fact and plan for it, the better off we will be.


That doesn’t mean I don’t think people should save their money and do their best; just that, for a lot of people, doing their best is not going to be enough.


The goal for about half of Americans will be, perhaps, to be able to work only part-time in their latter years. That’s what many “retired” folks already do today. They work part-time, or they freelance, or they do temporary work part of the year, such as working retail during the Christmas season.


When the economy was clicking along and the ratio of retired people to younger workers was more in our favor, it was common to see people 60 or younger hang it up. In some cases, 30 years of service was all it took to be able to retire.


Social Security will be around in the future, but it almost certainly will be scaled back. We’re fools if we think we’re going to be able to live on it.


Obviously, not many people can realistically produce enough wealth in three decades of working to sustain seven or eight decades of living, yet that didn’t stop us from thinking retirement — and maybe even early retirement — was within everybody’s reach.


You may have read the news reports last month that quoted the National Bureau of Economic Research, which determined that 50 percent of Americans could not come up with $2,000 within a month. I think it’s fair to assume that if you could not scrape up $2,000 within the next 30 days, you’re not on track to retire anytime soon.


If you’re not making a generous salary, stop dreaming of spending your retirement traveling around. It’s not going to happen. Scale your expectations down a few notches. Plan to keep your house and to only have to work part-time. Hopefully, that will be doable.


Most of the financial experts out there are directing their comments only to their fellow well-off citizens. It makes sense, of course — there isn’t much of a market for financial planning for the poor. Yet, what’s good financial advice for a well-off person isn’t always of much use for people of more modest means.


I haven’t found much advice aimed at those making modest wages, so I’ll throw out some myself:


Do fund your 401(k), especially if you’re lucky enough to get a match from your employer.




Get rid of cable TV and other such money-suckers.

Learn to love beans and rice and seasonal produce.

Never buy a new car. Keep your old car until it falls apart.

Take care of your health as much as you can.

Try not to go into debt for anything but real estate or education.

Learn how to do stuff around the house for yourself instead of hiring to get it done.

Don’t go crazy when you buy a house, and pay a little extra on it when you can.

Don’t treat shopping as recreation.

Marry a tightwad.

Now, if you follow this advice, you still won’t be able to spend your golden years touring Europe. But, with luck, you can cut your hours way down, and you won’t have to move in with your children.


That’s about as golden as it gets these days.


Editor Michelle Teheux may be reached at 309-346-1111, ext. 661, or at mteheux@pekintimes.com.