Are you old? When do you think you will be old?
I have a picture of my grandma on my desk. She was at least 10 years younger than I am now when that picture was taken -- somewhere in her late 40s or early 50s. She had white hair pulled back in a severe bun, lace-up shoes, and she was wearing a shapeless dress covered by an apron. To me, she looks old -- much older than I look.
This month, Bankers Life and Casualty's research arm, Center for a Secure Retirement, surveyed people ages 55 to 75 who have annual household incomes between $25,000 and $75,000. They asked participants to estimate at what age they gained wisdom and at what age they expect to be old. On average people said they were "wiser" by age 56, but "old age" won't begin for them until age 78.
About 60 percent also said their "best years were ahead of them." I don't think that my grandmother would have said that, but for me -- and many of us boomers, I think -- that will be true.
Prepare now for a prosperous retirement
The Bankers Life study also pointed out that many of us aren't doing a very good job of preparing for a long and good life in retirement. It offered some simple suggestions for getting on track for longevity.
Don't just guess. Get a good estimate of how long you're likely to live by using the SocialSecurity.gov life expectancy calculator.
Estimate when you'll be eligible for full retirement benefits. For people born between 1943 and 1954, that age is 66. For those born between 1955 and 1959, full retirement age increases every two months until it reaches 67 for those born in 1960 and later. More than 80 percent of people in this middle-income category say Social Security will provide more than half of their retirement income. Waiting to claim until you get the full benefit is a wise idea because you'll get so much more money.
Calculate how much money you'll actually get from Social Security. You can set up a secure personal account on SocialSecurity.gov to see what your benefit will be at various retirement ages.
Understand your other income options. Turning your retirement savings account into an income stream isn't a do-it-yourself job for most people. Get help from a retirement planning expert.
Consider working longer. The longer you work, the less dependent you'll be on other sources of retirement income.