Monday, May 19, 2008

New Thinking About Retirement

I’m a looking to the future kind of gal. As if I don’t have enough to worry about in the present, I like to worry about the future too.

So, I do wonder what retirement is going to look like for us Boomers. I mean, our options, and frankly, our expectations are so much different than our parents that there is no telling how many different ways this will look. There are lots of us without kids, lots of singles, most of us with families scattered all over everywhere, many of us doing phased or ‘not at all’ retirement, and most of us feel strongly we ain’t goin’ to no nursin’ home, at least as many of them exist today. For those of us with no kids and single, we wonder about practical things like who will be checking in on us to make sure we haven’t fallen and can’t get up.

Throw in the mix that if the statistics are to be believed, it seems as though many of us are expecting a champagne retirement on a beer budget. Social security benefits account for 90% of income for 4 out of 10 single retirees, and 2 of 10 married couples. Women’s incomes lag significantly behind men’s too, so we may be more likely to find ourselves in a low retirement income situation. Hmmph.

So what do you suppose all that adds up to?

Scott Burns is a popular personal finance columnist who just wrote an interesting column that may be one answer to this dilemma: economies of shared living. Or, in the vernacular, shacking up with other folks to stretch your dollars.

He says our expectations of a house of our own, our own bedroom, our own car, our own phone/TV/computer, etc. makes living quite expensive. Gulp, what’s he going to say next? Yep, you guessed it.

Just sharing shelter costs with 3 other people dramatically increases your available income. If you think about sharing a car and other major expenses, you’ve begun stretching a meager income significantly.

This may not be for everyone, but I think it is very worth considering not only from the financial aspect, but the social aspects as well. And, I think it goes beyond just retirement thinking and has applications to pursuing a passion, or reinventing your life.

I am currently experimenting with the house sharing thing. Last year, I wanted a big change so I rented out my house and moved in with a relative stranger. It has worked out so much better than I could have hoped. Did I give up some privacy? Yes. Are there perks? YES! Not the least of which is the money I’m saving in living expenses that has allowed me to undertake my midlife women project, WomenBloom, which I LOVE! It has not only stretched my dollars, but it has opened my life up to new friends, new ideas and a richer life.

I mean, I’ve learned how to roast a chicken, compost, raise tomatoes, and make killer soups. My housemate is very wise about money so I’ve learned lots there. And, it’s not a bad place to hang out as you can see from the photos.

Is that worth giving up a little privacy? OH YEA!

Point is, I’m very curious about the different ways, now and 20 years from now, I can make my life as interesting as possible, as cheaply as possible. I think that is going to require some creative thinking outside the box about what we think we need. And perhaps letting go of old thinking about what is necessary for living an interesting, satisfying life.


David said...

Hi Allison,

I knew that had to be a picture (top left) of Austin, TX when I saw the hillside trees (and hillside building sprawl). I love those hills and trees and the creeks that flow through town.

Greetings from Chicago,

Allison said...

What sharp eyes you have, David!

We are pretty lucky here to have so much nature pretty much at our doorstep.

I LOVE Chicago too. Mostly in the summer :)

Thanks for visiting!

Je ne regrette rien said...

Although I've lived alone now for many years, this is something I might consider in future. I'm pretty much a loner so it might be difficult. But one never knows!

Hill Country Hippie said...

You live in Austin? Cool! I'm a big fan of Scott Burns, but somehow missed this one. We live on 4 acres in Wimberley, not far from you. However, if anything ever happened to my husband, not sure I'd want to stay out here by myself. I've been reading for years about the concept of co-housing communities, and thought they were trying to start a couple of them there in Austin. Do you know if they ever got those off the ground?

Allison said...

I do live in Austin!

I have heard of some intentional communities in the area, one in particular out east of here. I think it's called the Rhizome collective. That is as much as I know however.

It is a topic on my list to have my intern research. I think it's a most interesting topic to consider.

Wimeberley, beautiful! said...

That fire inside you mentioned is what at, I call reFIREMENT. whether from choice, inner need or external necessity, we women 50+ will live longer and we must find ways to live creatively and fully and comfortably.

Allison said...


I agree, we have a lot of years left and I for one want to make the most of it! :)

Thanks for visiting!