Time for another kind of bailout

A fellow on the train platform in his mid-50s says he’s going to retire in a few months so he can dedicate himself to the higher pursuits in life like golf, sailing and arguing with his wife.

I figure I’ll be working for another decade or more, depending on the number of weddings I have to pay for. On the other hand, I guess you could say I’ve taken “early retirement” because I already argue with my wife, so all I’m missing is golf clubs and a sailboat.

He’s probably the only human being left on the planet who can retire. According to one poll, 50% of baby boomers — who start to turn 65 on Jan. 1, 2011 — say they expect to work into their 70s (if they can land one of those coveted jobs as a Wal-Mart greeter). However, only 16% of retirees have jobs, and next year, 8,000 boomers a day turn 65 — a total of 36 million over the decade, which means to say the competition for Wal-Mart jobs will be intense.

Back in the 1990s, when we were reaping the rewards of an artificially overheated economy, what we made on our 401(k)s could have paid the annual wine bill for every man, woman, child and household pet in Italy. That’s how good things were.

We even fantasized about retiring on Lake Como, sipping Bellinis with George Clooney and puffing on pricey cigars when we weren’t sailing or eating gelato.

Who would have thought the world would turn upside down and dash our dreams? As a result, we had to make a slight revision in that fantasy and plan to keep working until 80, and THEN retire to Lake Winnipesauke. But now, the prospect of finding jobs has vanished, and if we’re lucky, we might get to retire on Lake Erie (I heard they’ve cleaned up the pollution).

My commuter friend is moving forward with his scheme while the rest of us avoid thinking about retirement.

Those who saved for their senior years lost most of it in the Great Recession, and some experts predict that if the economy doesn’t rebound, almost three out of five baby boomers face running out of money at a time when they’re living into their 80s and 90s and have to deal with senior-care costs.

A study by the Employee Benefit Research Institute says that almost half the people 56 to 62 won’t have enough savings for their expenses and uninsured medical bills.

The irony is I recently read an article that listed the seven secrets to happy retirement, based on a survey conducted by the University of Greenwich. They included necessities like good health, true love, a lot of cash and friends, who presumably can take you in after you lose your health, your house and your money.

For many people, except my fortunate friend, retirement has become a looming nightmare. It’s time for the great minds in Washington to find a solution — something along the lines of a baby boomer bailout.


Joe Pisani may be reached at [email protected]

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