Replacing an Outdated Paradigm for the “Retirement Years,” and Exploring a New Phase of Life
by Erik Strid
Let’s assume that a person born in America, with a college education and good income, is now likely to live well into their 80s. This person’s life can be divided into four segments, averaging approximately 8,000 days, or 22 years, each – Learning, Growing, Maturing, and Exploring.
Your first 22 years of life are spent Learning, primarily attending school. After you graduate from college, around the age of 22, you enter a period when you are Growing. Perhaps you find a spouse and take on a first job. Maybe you buy your first home and start raising young children. Then, right around the time you hit age 44 or so, you reach a period we traditionally call “middle age,” when you are Maturing. Your kids are getting older and probably heading off to college. Your professional capabilities are really growing, as are your financial responsibilities. Finally, right around age 66 comes a time we traditionally call “retirement,” or The Exploration Years. This final phase is what my new book focuses on.
Baby Boomers Are Exploring
Much has been written about the Baby Boom Generation, which may be the most important demographic group in the history of the world. Today, baby boomers are hitting the Exploring stage in massive numbers. For some context, in January 2011, the oldest post-World War II baby boomers began turning 65. Since then, roughly 10,000 boomers have celebrated their 65th birthday every day. By the time the last of this generation approaches retirement age in 2029, it is estimated that a full 18 percent of the U.S. population will be 65 or older, according to Pew Research Center projections.
The Baby Boom Generation is also unique for a second important reason, which is that they are likely to live considerably longer than any previous generation, thanks to unprecedented increases in longevity during their lives. For example, at the birth of the average American male back in the year 1900, life expectancy was 46.2 years. By the time his son was born in the mid-1930’s, his life expectancy was over 62 years. Fast forward to present day, and we find that, using the Social Security Administration’s 2013 Period Life Table, if you are 50 years old, your life expectancy is 83 for a woman and 80 for a man.
As a personal example, when my grandfather Herb Strid was born in 1904, his life expectancy was 46.2 years. Luckily, he outlived that, passing away at 68. Obviously though, his Exploring years were short. After he “retired” at age 65, he died just three years later. By the time my father was born in 1943, his life expectancy was 62.4 years. Today he is 75 and still going strong, with a current life expectancy of over 86 years.
This increase in longevity is causing baby boomers to enter uncharted territory. No generation of humans has ever lived as long as they will, and so they are the first generation on earth who will experience a period of 20 or 30 years in retirement – Exploring.
The other stages of life have well-established blueprints of how to live, handed down through the generations. It is nothing new to experience a time of education and learning in the early years; a period of entry into the workforce and family formation; and then a period of maturing, raising a family, and reaching our most productive working years. There are common milestones along the way to remind you of your progress. However, the Exploring stage of life is a relatively new phenomenon, and there is no established roadmap for navigating the challenges and opportunities of a 20 or 30-year period of retirement. It is now becoming clear that this stage of life is actually a new beginning – a complex, uncertain, but exciting stage of life, during which so much can happen.
In my experience, retirement planning has not yet caught up to the realities of an 8,000-day retirement. My latest book is called, Exploring: Replacing An Outdated Paradigm For The “Retirement Years”, And Exploring a New Phase of Life. I wrote it to help provide a clear vision of the Exploring years, in hopes of helping you to plan and anticipate what is likely to come. This is a must-read for anyone who is approaching this stage of life, or for those who have loved ones who are navigating the complexities of these years. I hope you enjoy it and find it useful.