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Planning For Getting Older

The American federal government has several programs that assist the elderly, most notably Social Security and Medicare, covered later on in this chapter, but these are safety nets, hardly comparable with the array of services provided to the elderly in many other developed countries. Older people in America are subject to the risks and possibilities of a relatively free market, and also of a variable and changeable culture.

Given America’s youth culture, planning for getting older is not a major priority among the young, who have difficulty grasping the fact that one day they will either grow old, or die before they get to that point. Many Americans start their path to retirement planning by way of their employment, in a way nudged in the direction, finding themselves involved in various types of savings plans. Other are more proactive, starting on their own to take advantage of generous tax advantages for those who put aside money for their later years.

Financial companies advertise their retirement planning services quite heavily, and often evocatively, frequently showing happy couples, who seem to be aging quite well, enjoying the best life has to offer, cooking together, walking hand in hand down a romantic beach, or playing actively with grandchildren. The reality is that these firms can fritter away “nest eggs” as easily as they can enhance them. Financial markets are always treacherous. The most satisfied people of retirement age (a better term than “retirees” since many people continue to work past the age at which they could retire) are those who learn as much as they can about the realities of aging and, as much as possible, take matters into their own hands. For these people, programs like Social Security and Medicare act as nice plusses rather than desperate stopgaps.

Next Section:Financing Retirement

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