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Monitor Board of Contributors: You’ll live to 100, graduates, so plan accordingly

Your parents were brought up on the notion that they should plan for retirement at 65. This was instilled in them by their parents who graduated from high school when the average bread winner, a man at that time, retired at 70 and when the average man in the United States died at 70. This old notion of how long people could expect to live gave your parents the sense that if they retired at 65, they’d have some time to enjoy retirement before they died.

But people your parents’ age are living much longer than 70. The average healthy person at 65 today can expect to live to 90. That’s 25 years of retirement. But your parents were raised on another old idea, that a good pension from your employer, along with Social Security, would be enough to live on regardless of how long you might live. That, too, is becoming a thing of the past and not something that anyone your age should look to your employer to provide.

So saving for your elder years is completely up to you. And I can’t imagine that most of you will be able to save enough money during 40 years of work to provide enough money for a good life for another 40 years of retirement. Instead, plan on doing meaningful, paid work for as long as you are healthy. And that requires a different approach to a long period of paid work.

Most people in your class will live well beyond 100 as healthy, active and creative people interested in exploring, doing and helping. This means that you shouldn’t choose any employer for your total years of employment but look at life as a series of phases, maybe 10 or 20 years each, with a beginning, a middle and a transition to another kind of work. Your health care insurance will no longer be tied to your employer, your savings for retirement will no longer be stuck with any employer and you will be able to choose a career based on your interests and abilities, not which career provides health care or helps you save best for retirement.

You will find that life is enjoyable when you can change careers occasionally, learn new things, accept different types of challenges and meet new colleagues when you are 25, 50 and 75. So get an education that is broad, challenging in a number of different disciplines and introduces you to students of a wide variety of capacities and approaches to work and life. The next 80 years won’t be just work and then retirement. It will be filled with different jobs, different people and different challenges to your amazing, expanding minds and your constantly caring hearts.

(David Woolpert of Henniker heads a three-person investment and financial planning firm in Concord.)

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