"80 is the new 65"? Get real!

istockphoto vm

Wells Fargo recently issued a report saying that "80 is the new 65" and reporting that 25 percent of the middle-class Americans they surveyed say they'll need to work until at least age 80 to live comfortably in retirement. While I've long been an advocate of working during your retirement years to make ends meet, this is taking things a little too far. While many Americans should be able to work into their late 60s to mid 70s, I'm afraid by the time most boomers hit their 80s, they'll be physically unable to work due to their unhealthy lifestyles. And most employers won't want them anyway, preferring to employ youngsters in their 40s, 50s and 60s.

I think many people are simply using the "work to death" solution as an excuse to avoid the necessary planning and saving they need to do now in order to have a comfortable retirement later. A much better approach is to take the time needed to plan properly for retirement. Can't find the time? Simply cut out one or two of your least-favorite TV shows each week and use the available time to plan for retirement. You should be able to get the job done in just a few months.

Retirement planning: How to do it right
Four steps to a healthy and prosperous retirement
In your fifties with inadequate retirement savings? Here's your plan
Retirement planning: Who will succeed?

The Wells Fargo study reports other findings that reflect the current state of confusion, uncertainty, and fear among Americans regarding retirement -- call it "retirement schizophrenia." For example, the report notes that 69 percent of middle-class Americans lack a written financial plan, and most of these people say they're "overwhelmed" by the complexities, that it's "pointless," or that they're "too far behind to catch up."

While these feelings are understandable, they're certainly not a reason to give up. It will take resourcefulness, creativity and resilience for boomers to make it in retirement, but it's absolutely possible if you get started right now.

There are also a few realistic responses in the Wells Fargo survey. Three-quarters of survey respondents expect to work during their retirement years, which should be possible through your late sixties to mid seventies, and which may be necessary to make ends meet. A majority of respondents (53 percent) say they plan to significantly cut back on their spending in retirement, and 86 percent say they want to pay off their mortgage by the time they retire. All of these are realistic strategies for success in retirement.

When it comes to retirement planning, ignore Albert Einstein's advice: I never think of the future -- it comes soon enough. You'd be better off heeding a quote from John Richardson, Jr, the prominent futurist: When it comes to the future, there are three kinds of people: those who let it happen, those who make it happen, and those who wonder what happened.

Want a free source of retirement planning strategies? Check out my latest creation -- Money for Life, an innovative online retirement planning guide. In this guide, I've organized a rich collection of more than 150 blog posts, articles, research reports, and video clips on the most important retirement planning decisions you'll have to make regarding money, health and lifestyle.

  • Steve Vernon On Twitter»

    View all articles by Steve Vernon on CBS MoneyWatch»
    Steve Vernon helped large employers design and manage their retirement programs for more than 35 years as a consulting actuary. Now he's a research scholar for the Stanford Center on Longevity, where he helps collect, direct and disseminate research that will improve the financial security of seniors. He's also president of Rest-of-Life Communications, delivers retirement planning workshops and authored Money for Life: Turn Your IRA and 401(k) Into a Lifetime Retirement Paycheck and Recession-Proof Your Retirement Years.