It's that time of year when everyone is looking ahead -- but if you're feeling really reflective, you may be looking ahead many years ahead. That is, you may be wondering what your retirement will look like. And why not? Whether you love or hate your career, it's always interesting to contemplate what one's life will be like after you stop working full time.
It can be scary to contemplate as well. Last year, the Employee Benefit Research Institute's 2017 Retirement Confidence Survey, which surveyed 1,671 individuals, found that just six in 10 Americans said they had saved money for retirement and only 40 percent had tried to calculate how much income they'd need each month after leaving work.
Still, if you're looking for some good news and wondering what the future holds, there are a number of things that will likely make your retirement better than the one your grandparents lived.
[See: 10 Ways to Gradually Retire.]
Technological advances. But, of course, technology will make our retirement lives easier, and it's the most fun part of the future to speculate about. Roger Whitney, a certified financial planner and advisor who specializes in retirement -- he has a book coming out in 2018 called "Rock Retirement" and a podcast called "The Retirement Answer Man" -- says that technology will significantly improve people's lives in the future.
"Your smart mattress will personalize your sleep experience and notify loved ones when you get up in the morning. Smart carpet will control lights as you move around, so you don't fall when you get up at night, and notify loved ones if someone falls. Your refrigerator will monitor your groceries and order them automatically," Whitney says.
He adds that even your coffeemaker, if it notices you not drinking your coffee or conducting some odd behavior related to the machine, may well alert family members that there may be a problem.
Driverless cars, he also points out, will allow future retirees mobility like they've never had before.
Of course, all of this technology costs money, and given how carpets and mattresses can run a consumer thousands of dollars today, it's easy to imagine a tomorrow in which future retirees on a fixed income feel as if they can only afford the dumb carpet and dumb mattress instead of the smart ones.
As for driverless cars, there's been little research on what the costs might be, but according to a 2014 study put out by the research company IHS Markit, self-driving cars will be $7,000 to $10,000 more than the average car in 2025. By 2030, a self-driving car will cost $5,000 more than a conventional vehicle, and by 2035, it'll cost about $3,000 more.
In other words, depending on your age, you may not be living your retirement walking around on a smart carpet and being chauffeured in a self-driving car, but your kids or grandkids probably will. Then again, maybe you will, too. The year 2035 is only 17 years away.
You will probably be sought after -- as a contract employee. Art Koff has some good -- and maybe bad -- news for you. Health permitting, you may never stop working. Which is great if you love what you do. Not so great if you don't.
Koff, an 82-year-old Chicago-based consultant who founded RetiredBrains.com in 2003 and works with companies looking to market to seniors, says that employment opportunities will likely be ample for future retirees who want to do more than be a department store greeter. Koff thinks that a lot of people who worked in an office will be able to continue indefinitely in a state of semi-retirement, working part time or as a freelancer doing temporary and project-based jobs.
"Employers will be primarily interested in hiring workers where they do not have to pay benefits," Koff says.
So that's the good news. You will likely remain hireable, if that's what you want. The bad news is that your gig income probably won't be going toward a vacation or a kitchen addition, according to Koff. That's where the irony of your not being paid benefits will come in.
"Retirees will find that the out-of-pocket costs of health care will have skyrocketed to a point where they need additional income," he says.
[See: 10 Retirement Rites of Passage.]
Planning for retirement will change. That is, as a country, we'll likely get smarter in how we save money. Hopefully.
It's inevitable that retirement planning will evolve, according to Robert Johnson, president and CEO of The American College of Financial Services in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.
Because we're all blowing out candles for a much longer time than our grandparents and great-grandparents did, instead of planning a retirement for the average lifespan, we need to start thinking about planning for the longest lifespan, Johnson says.
For instance, Johnson cites a 2014 study by the Employee Benefit Research Institute that estimated a 65-year-old couple should save between $241,000 to $326,000 to cover medical and drug costs.
"That doesn't include long-term care," he adds.
"Retirement savings will have to increase and last longer to reflect this increasing longevity," Johnson says.
Johnson also thinks that it'll soon become more common for retirees to allocate more investments to stocks, as it becomes clear people are going to be sticking around longer and can risk a little more money than they used to. He also thinks that longevity insurance will become increasingly important.
"In essence," he says, "one needs to build an age-100 portfolio."