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The Millennials Are Convinced They'll Retire by Age 59

Ah, the sweet life of a retiree. Sleeping in, traveling, relaxing, playing tennis, watching cable news, and losing track of time until you're eventually eating dinner at 4 p.m. And you've earned every minute of it!

I know this isn't modern retirement for many; I'm simply reminiscing about the retirement years of my WWII-era parents, who did, in fact, eat dinner at 4 p.m. while they watched Crossfire on CNN. Then Mom would retire to her own TV to watch Matlock re-runs while Dad would tell me to sit down and watch The Lawrence Welk Show (trust me, I'd seen every episode) to hear some "good" music for a change. Adios, au revoir, auf wiedersehen, goodnight. Good memories.

That's how life goes when you are 23 and your parents are in their early 70s and giving you gently-used typewriters for graduate school. But that's not why you're reading this post. No, you're reading this post because you can't believe the Millennials actually think they'll retire by age 59!

A new HSBC survey of more than 18,000 people in 16 countries concludes only 1 in 10 Millennials expects to be working past the age of 65. The Millennials think they'll be kicking back in a hammock listening to their Blink 182 music collection much sooner than older generations were able to partake of their hard-earned retirement. From the HSBC press release:

Most Millennials have an unrealistic view of their retirement prospects according to a new report from HSBC.

The latest report in The Future of Retirement series, Shifting sands, finds that on average Millennials expect to retire younger than other working age generations. Millennials expect to retire at 59, two years younger than the working age average of 61.

The survey of over 18,000 people in 16 countries finds that only 10% of Millennials expect to continue working after 65 – even as their generation faces unprecedented financial pressures and state retirement ages continue to rise around the world.

This is despite 59% of Millennials agreeing they will live much longer and will need to support themselves for longer than previous generations.

In some ways, I can see where the Millennials are coming from. They're still young and optimistic, and who wants to think about retirement in their 20s or early 30s? Who plans ahead that far when you're still paying off student loans? Besides, they'll all be multi-millionaires by their 40s (ah, youth) and retirement by their late 50s (or sooner) should be a Bahama breeze.

However, we should keep in mind that it's an international survey. Millennials surveyed in other parts of the world could have a much different perspective on retirement depending on the safety net their society affords them in their old age. In the United States, settling on work that aligns with old age is not something we tend to consider when choosing a career. Current retirement trends, however, should encourage younger generations to think about the types of work they could do well into their 70s and 80s, if necessary.

Do What You Love, and Love What You Do
Millennials and Gen Z, I challenge you to ponder the job could you do at age 80 that would allow you to:

(1) set your own hours;
(2) work at your own pace;
(3) continue to use some (or all) aspects of your skill set;
(4) have fun;
(5) make some money;
(6) feel vital and useful;
(7) adapt the work to your growing list of physical limitations (see your parents and grandparents to glimpse the future);
(8) create a community with other people doing the same work;
(9) keep learning and growing;
(10) mentor others if you would like to do so.

Sure, you may not make as much money as a college professor or a writer or a cabinetmaker, but you can do these jobs part-time well into old age if you love the work! You don't ever have to stop working, because you don't want to stop working, because you love what you do. Your work is ingrained in the fabric of your humanity, it gets you out of bed in the morning at the spry age of 82, and you can't imagine not doing it every day! It keeps your mind active, and your body moving. It puts a bounce in your step, and a twinkle in your eye.

We need to shift our personal retirement paradigms to think very long term. Millennials, think beyond the money and status your could achieve in your 30s to envision yourself going to work in your 80s, and what you would like to be doing at that point in your life! Think of your skill set spanning the course of six or seven decades, or more. How could you adapt your basic skill set to meet your needs 40 or 50 years from now? Because working into our old age isn't simply a risk anymore, it's our reality.


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