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Dead or Alive? You Decide

decisionLike a fairy tale, this story begins “Once upon a time …”

Peter S. Cohan, the “Wall & Main” columnist for newspaper Worcester (Mass.) Telegram, asks “Is retirement dead?” and doles out financial advice:

“As you approach your 50s, if you don’t have enough money saved up on which to retire – you have three options: keep working until you die, inherit enough to retire on, or retire with insufficient money to pay your bills.”


Hold on a second! I’ve spotted a couple of points to dispute:

First, what’s wrong with working instead of retiring? In my experience, many insurance workers (and presumably many other Americans) want to continue to work after the mythical retirement age of 65. However, they want to work in a different place (their home, or closer to it), more flexibly, and using technology to be more productive, commute less and have a less-stressful workday.

Second, don’t wait until your 50s or your 60s to think about financial security. Those in the insurance industry who have made a career of helping clients manage important financial decisions ought to know better. We should lead by example.

The columnist (pointed out by insurance trade editor Andy Stonehouse of offers a stark assessment of retirement. Some of the items he cites are indeed daunting. For instance, Cohan noted that the proportion of Fortune 100 companies that offer defined benefit retirement plans fell from 67 percent to 17 percent from 1998 to 2010.

But this fairy tale also is missing a couple of key aspects:

  • 1)    The American spirit of ingenuity.
  • 2)    The unique benefits (financial and otherwise) of working.


As the American retirement stereotype of golf course-and-shuffleboard fades away, it will be those elements of ingenuity and work that create new models of retirement and financial security.

What do you think? Is retirement itself a fairy tale that no longer exists? Or is it still an achievable goal? Or do you have an entirely different goal that involves a blended or phased retirement?


— Sharon Emek, Ph.D.
Founder and CEO

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