Working Wounded Blog: Retiring as a Wal-Mart Greeter

Recently I've come across a number of articles saying that whatever you have saved for retirement, it won't be enough. So keep that shoulder of yours jammed up against the grindstone, because you've still got a lot of work ahead of you. No matter how much you've saved.

One recent article referred to a newly retired executive who recently sold his business for $4 million. The problem? He would have to cut his lifestyle to survive his remaining days on only $4 million. Forced to survive in "three- and four-bedroom homes and drive mid-priced four-door sedans and minivans." I always thought that minivans were embarrassing, but who knew that they were the new shorthand for just scraping by?

Another article talked about how inflation would reduce your purchasing power. True. But won't your savings also increase over time? A 2 percent inflation rate pales in comparison to the average increase in the stock market of 10 percent. So instead of a 2 percent decline, anyone who doesn't stash their cash in the mattress would be looking at an 8 percent increase in purchasing power.

Most people view retirement as their personal pot of gold at the end of years of drudgery at work. A time when they can travel and do all the things they never had time to do during their time when they were working. That's why these articles are so frustrating to me, because after you read enough of them you can start to believe that you'll never have enough money to retire.

Are we all destined to be 80-year-old greeters at Wal-Mart?

Pardon a brief disclaimer. Many boomers and Gen-Xers are not saving enough for retirement. And unlike our parents, I've yet to meet anyone who believes that Social Security will be the safety net for us that it has been for past generations. A message that seems especially relevant this month, as the baby boomers cash in their Social Security checks for the very first time.

Given the millions of people who won't have enough money to retire, I think these articles create a level of stress that isn't helpful. People need to feel like their efforts can have a positive impact. Sure they got started saving late, but today's sacrifice will pay off in the future.

Another big difference lies in the lack of pensions for most of us. Sure there was a lot of hype in the early days of IRAs that we would all be millionaires when it was time to retire. Hype aside, we all have to accept more responsibility for our futures than any generation has since the advent of Social Security.

Saving is hard. I've got a 4-year-old and a 15-year-old. I know how money can just ooze out of your bank account. Even though I've never been the poster child for deferred gratification, I've learned that without a pension or Social Security as a safety net, I have to create my own.

Ultimately I'm a glass half full kind of guy on the question of whether we'll all have enough money to support us during our retirement. I'd just like to see more stories of real people who are making a better future possible for themselves rather than millionaires whining about second homes and inflation.

Quote of the Week

"A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams." -- John Barrymore

Book Excerpt of the Week

Form "70 The New 50" by William Byham (DDI, 2007)

"When should retirement planning start? Of course, the answer is 'as early as possible' so people can determine how much they must save to enable them to have the lifestyle they want when they retire; then, they need to start saving the money. In a survey conducted by McKinsey, about half of the respondents under the age of 45 reported they had started to formally plan for retirement."

Bob Rosner is a best-selling author, an internationally syndicated columnist, popular speaker and a recent addition to the community of bloggers. He welcomes your comments at bob@workingwounded.com.

This work is the opinion of the columnist, and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.

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