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Americans Today Are Rethinking the Notion of What It Means to Be

Americans Today Are Rethinking the Notion of What It Means to Be "Old" and 65 is Out

Published: August 28, 2008


Increased longevity and life expectancy are changing Americans’ perception of what it means to be "old," causing many to reevaluate their retirement plans. A new study, commissioned by Charles Schwab & Co., Inc., gauged the perspectives of four different generations: the Silent Generation (born between 1924 and 1944), Boomers (born between 1945 and 1964), Generation X (born between 1965 and 1976) and Generation Y (born after 1976). The study uncovered a diversity of thoughts, dreams and goals surrounding how many of us have and will approach life’s third act, including interesting findings on how Americans are shifting their perspectives on what it means to be "old." With people now living past 90 and even 100, Americans have begun to completely rethink what their lives after retirement will be like. The ‘Rethinking Retirement’ study revealed an overwhelming consensus among all four generations that old age has been delayed and now begins at 75 or older.

65 is Out, 75 is In

Though the majority of respondents agree that old age does not begin until age 75, most Americans still think people should start receiving Social Security benefits between ages 63 and 65, with Generation Y respondents believing the benefits should begin as early as 61.

New Ideas of Work and Retirement

Despite fears and concerns about outliving their money, Americans appear to be optimistic about retirement. The study found that this new perception of old age is further underscored by a shift toward a more active retirement. Indeed, 71 percent of study respondents say they plan to work while in retirement, and another 60 percent would like to take up a new career altogether. In fact, only seven percent of study respondents view this period as a time to unwind.

"Delaying retirement provides individuals the opportunity to further grow their personal portfolio," said Andy Gill, senior vice president, Investor Services, Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. "Many retirees are entering new part time careers as both a new challenge within the workplace and a source of additional income."

This new outlook on retirement also shows that nearly half (45 percent) of those surveyed see retirement as a time to give back to their family and community. With potentially more than a decade to live in retirement before reaching "old age," many respondents believe that they can maintain a youthful lifestyle by using the time to volunteer.

Not Ready to Retire? Tips for Saving at any Age

"No matter the circumstance, the bear market or a late start, it’s important to look to the future and identify opportunities to increase your next egg–there’s always something you can do," Gill reminds.

   1. Create a savings plan.
   2. Take advantage of all your options.
   3. Invest wisely.

Ten years to go
   1., Start thinking in detail--when you want to retire, where you
       would like to live, and what you want to do. Answering these
       questions will help you figure out how much all of it will
   2. Share your retirement dreams with your spouse.
   3. Increase your savings and reduce your borrowing. Consider if it
       makes sense to accelerate your mortgage payoff.
   4. Review your Social Security benefits. Have an idea of what you
       can expect and be you're your record is up to date.
   5. Think about health care and long-term care insurance. If it
       makes sense for you, don't wait too long to lock in lower
       premiums. According to the Rethinking Retirement study, medical
       expenses not covered by insurance are everyone's top worry
       regarding retirement security.

Two to Five years to go
   1. Continue to refine the "when, where, what and how much." If
       you're not on track, be realistic about your options--you can
       save more now, postpone retirement and/or spend less or work
       part-time in retirement.
   2. Revisit your asset allocation and start thinking about a
       portfolio withdrawal strategy.
   3. Fine-tune your retirement budget. List sources of income and
       expenses in as much details as possible. Separate expenses into
       two categories--discretionary and non-discretionary.
   4. If you plan to move, create a "short list" of desired retirement

Last 12 months
   1. Check up on your Social Security benefits.
   2. Finalize your cash flow budget and your withdrawal strategy.
   3. Review any existing insurance policies to be sure you're not
       paying too much for the wrong kind of coverage.
   4. Give notice to your employer at the appropriate time.
   5. Consider consolidating accounts to help simplify your financial
       life going forward.

In retirement
   1. Review your budget annually and combine your cash flow planning
       with your portfolio rebalancing.
   2. As age 70 1/2 approaches, don't forget you'll need to start
       taking required minimum distributions from your traditional
       IRA. You have until April 1 of the following year to start, but
       that means taking two distributions in the first year.
   3. Continue to monitor your investment performance and, in addition
       to rebalancing annually, think about periodically shifting your
       strategic asset allocation as time goes by.
   4. Be sure to stay well diversified.
   5. Periodically review all the categories of your insurance
   6. Be sure your estate and gifting plan, account titling and
       beneficiary designations are up to date.

For More Information

More information on the study is available at, along with a self comparison tool ( and an ongoing series of cross-generational discussions on retirement.

About the Study

"Rethinking Retirement" was initiated by Schwab in collaboration with

About Charles Schwab

The Charles Schwab Corp,oration (Nasdaq:SCHW) is a leading provider of financial services, with more than 300 offices and 7.3 million client brokerage accounts, 1.3 million corporate retirement plan participants, 367,000 banking accounts, and $1.4 trillion in client assets as of July 31, 2008. Through its operating subsidiaries, the company provides a full range of securities brokerage, banking, money management and financial advisory services to individual investors and independent investment advisors. Its broker-dealer subsidiary, Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. (member SIPC,

About Harris Interactive(R)

Harris Interactive is a global leader in custom market research. With a long and rich history in multimodal research, powered by science and technology, Harris assists clients in achieving business results. Harris Interactive serves clients globally through their North American, European and Asian offices and a network of independent market research firms. For more information, please visit

(C) 2008 Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. All rights reserved. Member SIPC (0808-4837)

Source: The Charles Schwab Corporation