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Barbara Whelehan writes Boomer Bucks for Bankrate.comRedefining retirement

Baby boomers have a reputation for taking self-inventory, which some people -- mainly nonboomers -- disparagingly called "navel-gazing." But the idea of self-reflection is hardly new. Didn't Socrates say some 2,500 years ago, "An unexamined life is not worth living"?

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So a natural extension of this search for self-knowledge is to take a quiz whenever it might lead to a revelation of sorts. An opportunity to do that came along on Saturday with the arrival, in the mail, of Money Magazine, which features a "sex + money" quiz in the April issue. According to an exclusive survey by the publication, "couples are more than twice as likely to argue about money as about sex." (That conclusion serves the publication's interests well, although the cover lines of other magazines might cause you to draw the opposite conclusion.)

Anyway, I thought the quiz would give me an inkling of whether my husband and I are financially compatible. The first part of the quiz requires the test-taker to answer the questions, plus guess how your spouse would reply. I whizzed through it, fully expecting to know my husband's responses like I'd know his voice in a crowd. But I guessed correctly on only three out of 10 answers. That's an F by most measures.

I don't put a lot of stock in these quizzes. But I did learn that we have polar-opposite perceptions on certain points. For example, when we disagree about money, he thinks I am more likely to prevail while I think he is. Maybe that leads to a quicker resolution, since we both relent at the point when we think we are losing ground, which is usually early in the dispute.

According to the quiz, our goals are the same -- retirement planning is the biggie -- but our philosophies differ. He thinks: "Money, at heart, is really all about security."

"Honey, it's not about security," I said. "It's about freedom."

"No, it's about security," he replied.

"No, it's about freedom," I insisted.

"No, it's about security," he repeated stubbornly. I hate it when we argue like 10-year-olds during recess. Finally I broke the impasse.

"If we had won Saturday's lottery, would you be going into work on Monday?" I asked him.

"Of course not."

"You see," I said triumphantly. "It's about freedom."

Hmm. I guess he's right about me winning more often.

Retirement revolutionized
Of course, to have financial freedom, you have to have a lot of money, right? When you're wedged in the middle class, earning middle-class incomes at middle-class jobs, it's true that money is often more about security.

Freedom seems to elude most boomers. Survey after survey shows we are financially unprepared for certain financial goals, especially retirement. Regardless of whether it's financial security or freedom that we strive for, clearly we are missing the mark.

So what does the financial services industry do when confronted by a generation of boomers who are ill-prepared for retirement? It puts the best possible spin on the situation by claiming that boomers will transform retirement.

 
 
Next: "Why not romanticize our predicament and delude ourselves. ... "
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