When my kids were young and had already fallen into the expensive habit of eating every day, I came to a sad realization: If people waited until they could afford to have children, the human race would die out.
Now that my kids are grown and have kids of their own, which means I don’t have to feed them anymore, I have come to another sad realization: If people waited until they could afford to retire, most of them would die at their desks.
This, I fear, is the fate that awaits me. My bosses would argue that nobody could tell the difference because I’d be just as effective as I am now. At least they wouldn’t have to pay me anymore.
Still, to get an idea of how long I could survive once I quit my job, or if I’d have to continue working until my kids retired, at which point they could feed me every day, I recently met with Jeff Sena, a regional consultant with Fidelity Investments, a multinational financial services corporation that is based in Boston and does business with the company that, in its limited wisdom, employs me.
“How old are you?” Jeff asked me at the start of the hourlong session.
“Old enough to know better,” I replied.
“Do you?” he wondered.
“No,” I said.
“Then I need to know your age,” he said, “because Social Security won’t accept ‘old enough to know better’ on your paperwork.”
“OK,” I conceded, “I’m 63.”
“You don’t look it,” Jeff said. “And you don’t act it.”
“I’m shockingly immature,” I responded. “It makes me seem younger.”
“I wouldn’t put that on your paperwork, either, or you’d have to work even longer,” said Jeff, who is 65 but doesn’t look or act it himself.
“You’re 65 and you’re not retired?” I said incredulously. “Can’t you afford it?”
“I can, but I love what I do,” said Jeff, who also loves hiking and belongs to the Appalachian Mountain Club.
“You must have clients from all walks of life,” I noted, adding: “People are always telling me to take a hike.”
“You should,” Jeff said with a smile. “But don’t take one now because we have to go over your finances.”
“That shouldn’t take long,” I said, producing the required documents, including bank statements, income information and investment records. “As you can see, I haven’t won Powerball.”
“Neither have I,” said Jeff, who scanned the figures and told me that I have a good RPM.
“My car has a good RPM, too,” I said. “And it will retire before I do.”
“I’m talking about your Retirement Preparedness Measurement,” Jeff said. “But more important than that is your FRA.”
“My car doesn’t have one of those,” I said.
“No,” countered Jeff, “but you do. It stands for Full Retirement Age.
The standard FRA, Jeff said, is 66, though people can draw on Social Security beginning at age 62.
“I can’t draw on anything except my granddaughter’s coloring books,” I said.
“If you were retired, you’d have plenty of time for that,” Jeff said. “But you’d be better off working until you were 70 because Social Security payments go up 8 percent a year until that age.”
Jeff said he could plan a retirement strategy for me until I am 94 and for my wife, Sue, until she is 96. “Women live longer than men,” he noted.
“If it weren’t for my wife,” I said, “I would have been dead long ago.”
Nonetheless, I told Jeff, longevity runs in the family.
“You must have good genes,” he said.
“Of course,” I responded. “My wife does all of my clothes shopping.”
“The question is,” Jeff said at the end of the session, “would your wife want you around all the time if you were both retired?”
“I’d probably drive her crazy,” I said.
“Then you should keep working,” Jeff suggested. “You can drive your bosses crazy instead.”
— Jerry Zezima