Statistics show the next generation of retirees will work later into their golden years than their parents.
In 2009, the average retirement age was 65.5 for males and 64.8 for females, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The figures for both sexes are the highest since 1987 and 1990, respectively.
Suzanne Brown, financial counselor with Woodmen of the World, said the uptick is the result of poor financial planning.
“The reason they're working longer is because they didn't plan ahead,” she said. “The person that's going to take care of the 65-year-old you is the 35-year-old you.”
For many seniors, however, preparing early is easier said than done.
85-year-old Hawkins resident Norma Wyatt said having four children made saving for retirement at a young age nearly impossible.
“What we planned was to get them all through college, which we did,” she said.
But the inability to financially prepare for retirement has complicated life for Mrs. Wyatt and her husband of 61 years, Norman.
“Our biggest problem since we retired 15 years ago is stretching our budget,” she said. “Our income hasn't gone up, but everything else has.”
Ann Hatfield, licensed clinical social worker at The University of Texas Health Science Center Tyler's Center for Healthy Aging, said seniors' primary expenses are medical and prescription drug costs. It is important, she said, for seniors to afford the care they need, even if it means residence in a nursing home or assisted living facility.
But for many, this isn't an option.
“You're talking anywhere from $10 to $17 an hour to have somebody come into your home,” Ms. Hatfield said. A nursing home or assisted living apartment may cost up to “$400 or $500 a day, depending on the services you're needing.”
With limited incomes and rising medical expenses, many seniors cannot afford this advanced care. Seniors often make sacrifices to make ends meet, Kay Odom, supervisor of the Tyler Senior Citizen Center, said.
“They can't run their air conditioning all day (and) they have to watch their utility bills,” she said.
Nonessential items, including basic entertainment, are also cut.
“If you have to watch your grocery bill, you can't afford to pick up a $5 or $6 magazine,” she said.
Ms. Brown said the best way to prevent this limited lifestyle is to save what you can, as soon as you can.
She encourages young adults to start a savings plan or a cash accumulation life insurance policy. But often, she said, they disregard her advice.
“They look at me like I'm an alien,” she said. “And then they get to be 65 and they have nothing.”
According to the Department of Labor, fewer than half of all Americans have calculated how much they need to save for retirement.
For Americans looking to plan ahead, the DOL offers ten tips for retirement preparation:
1. Start saving, keep saving, and stick to your goals
2. Know your retirement needs
3. Contribute to your employer's retirement savings plan
4. Learn about your employer's pension plan
5. Consider basic investment principles
6. Don't touch your retirement savings
7. Ask your employer to start a plan
8. Put money into an Individual Retirement Account
9. Find out about your Social Security benefits
10. Ask Questions
For the in-depth story with additional details about the highs and lows of retirement, check Sunday's edition of the Tyler Courier-Times Telegraph.