Suze Orman Says We Should Plan to Work Until Age 70

Photo credit: George Parilla, CC BY 2.0.

Today in “personal finance experts,” we need to look at Suze Orman’s newest article in Time’s Money section—which advises us to wait until we’re at least 70 to retire.

Look, I totally get that if you are reading MONEY you’re probably a diligent saver. But it’s always dangerous to assume you’re better off than you really are. You likely have plenty saved up to breeze through 15 years or so of retirement. But, people, if you stop working in your 60s, your retirement stash might need to support you for 30 years, not 15.

That makes sense. Life expectancy is going up, so working until we’re 70 gives us a better chance of not running out of money in retirement. Thanks for the advice, Suze! Anything else we need to know?

Take a look around your office: How many 70-year-olds do you see at your company?

That’s the kind of question we usually ask at The Billfold, so I’m glad you brought it up.

I realize you may be getting annoyed with me right about now. I just told you to keep working until 70, and now I am commiserating with you that it can be very hard to pull that off. Hard—but not impossible.

No, actually, I’m delighted that you’re considering the logistics of your own advice. A lot of personal finance types don’t. What should we be doing to try and keep working until we’re 70?

With the explosion of online education, you can polish existing skills or pick up valuable new ones from the comfort of your home computer. Does free fit your budget? Check out EdX, a consortium of colleges that offer free courses, as well as “MicroMasters” programs for a fraction of the cost of a full-blown on-site master’s. Your local community college can also be an economical way to pick up new skills.

Oh. Um… I don’t mean to be that person, but picking up new skills won’t necessarily correlate with getting or keeping a job. There have to be enough jobs available, there have to be companies that consider 70-year-olds “a good fit,” etc. etc. etc.

I’m not going to suggest that upgrading your skill set is a bad idea, but here’s how I’d reframe your advice:

Look at the people who are a few years older (or a few steps further in their careers) than you. What are they doing? How’d they get there? Which of them have the kinds of lives you want for yourself, and what might you need to do to have that type of life in the future? 

I’ve looked at my career that way more than once, and it’s helped me decide which paths are both realistic and worth pursuing. Right now, for example, I’m thinking about what I might want my life to look like when I turn 40, and I’m quietly observing people who are around 37–42 for inspiration.

But hey, I’m no Suze Orman—and I probably couldn’t even be Suze when I’m her age, because she started her career 30 years ago under a completely different set of social and economic circumstances.

What are you planning to do, in terms of “working until you’re ready to retire?” Have you thought about it, or are you just hoping that it’ll all work out?

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