I read an article from the Star Tribune (our local Minnesota newspaper) earlier today entitled Aging America: For some blue-collar Americans, retirement is nothing more than elusive dream.
The story follows that sad tail of Tom Edwards, a 53 year old logger, who thinks he will never be able to retire.
And he is not alone, many areas of the economy are still in a slump, many other people have no plans to retire blaming reduced pensions and retirement packages, and lack of jobs. The article goes on to mention other blue collar workers, a fish processing plant worker, a carpenter, and a fisherman who all have their doubts about retirement.
The article quotes an editor for the Oxford Handbook for Retirement stating:
It's a pretty dire article, painting the picture that the American dream is over. Well, I'm here to say that it is most definitely not, and that no matter your job or position in life, you can still retire. Not only that, retire well! BUT, you need a financial plan. Most of the people in this article have just gone about their job for 30 or more years without giving a thought to how they were going to retire. Retirement does not just happen. Social Security will not take care of you beyond basic needs. If you don't want to "work 'till you die" like Mr. Edwards you have to start planning and saving now.
Regarding Social Security, Mr. Edwards is 53 and he doesn't think he will be receiving social security. This is not the case. There has been a lot of media outlets that use fear to either increase ratings or sell a product (think Gold). Social Security will be around for Mr. Edward, it may not be around (or at least not in the same form it is today) for Mr. Edwards children.
Also, Social Security was never meant to provide for a comfortable retirement. It is designed to ensure people are not destitute. Meaning Social Security should only be there to provide for food, clothing, and other basics. Not for travel, leisure, and entertainment. Sadly, this is usually the biggest source of income during retirement. You should supplement (or Social Security should be a supplement to) your investment portfolio.
The point is that whether you are a blue collar or white collar working you can still achieve a successful retirement. It really just comes down to living within your means, saving, and and planning.
The saddest part about Mr. Edwards story is that it is not too late. He still has many years before retiring and only a few small changes could make a world of difference. I wish I could tell him not to give up and that the dream is not dead. Good Luck Mr. Edwards.