65 is no longer a magic number

Mike KnaakColumn, Print Sartell - St. Stephen, Print St. Joseph0 Comments

Life’s milestones are measured in different ways.

Births, deaths, weddings, divorces, funerals are markers on life’s timeline.

For the more numerically inclined, there are birthdays.

The numbers that increase with each trip around the sun clearly stamp crucial passages.

A first birthday is always a big deal for a new family member. At 13, the teenage years begin. Sixteen-year-olds look forward to a driver’s license and at 18, it’s time to vote and officially become an adult. Twenty-one-year-olds enjoy a legal drink with friends.

After that though, the years don’t mean much and birthdays slide by, pushed to the side by other more important life events – marriage, children, a new home, a promotion at work.

All of a sudden, you are 65. It used to be a big deal.

Not so much any more.

After years of work, people looked forward to retirement….many leaving the same employer where they started their careers.

Not so much any more.

At 65, it’s time to collect Social Security and Medicare, benefits partially funded through decades of payroll deductions.

Not so much any more.

At 65, it’s time to stop working and enjoy your remaining years. When the Social Security Act became law in 1935, life expectancy was 61. The generous federal government was betting you were gonna die before you collected much.

Not so much any more.

Today’s life expectancy is just shy of 80, although it’s dropped because of a rise in what public-health experts call “deaths of despair” – suicide and opioid addiction.

Today I hit the magic milestone of 65, although it’s no big deal. My wife and I left the full-time workforce more than two years ago and we are enjoying travel, volunteering and part-time jobs that offer intellectual challenges but with considerable flexibility.

We’re not cashing Social Security checks yet. We’re waiting a few years to collect higher benefits and betting we outlive the government’s actuarial tables.

I did receive my Medicare card, which along with a good supplemental plan, will provide me with health benefits many Americans either can’t afford or don’t qualify for.

I haven’t announced my approaching milestone, but the telemarketers and direct mailers certainly have my number.

My mailbox is full of offers for hearing aids, knee braces, health insurance, senior condos, step-in tubs, cell phones with big buttons, stair chairs and financial-planning services.

These folks have missed their mark. While their databases list my age, name and address, they have not zeroed in on my current situation.

My iPhone and my knees work just fine.

I laughed at the step-in tub brochure that arrived in the mail. So the creaky senior user doesn’t have to step over the side of the tub, it has a swinging door. The unit features a special drain that quickly empties the tub so you don’t have to soggily sit waiting to open the door. The tub reminded me of the Mad Tea Party ride at Disneyworld with the cups’ little swinging doors.

A solicitation for financial planning at age 65 is about 40 years too late. Starting a financial plan at 65 really means carefully spending your Social Security check and keeping an eye on the lottery. I was tempted, though, by the free meal that was offered to those who want to hear the pitch.

These mailings go straight to recycling.

I do like taking advantage of “senior” discounts for food, movie tickets and museums. A good financial plan always includes wise purchases.

Age is less about a number but more about your health or how you feel.

Doctors are working on calculations to determine your biological age by using various measurements of your body and its functions.

Dutch TV personality Emile Ratelband, age 69, feels a good deal younger.  He wanted to change his date of birth to 49 to boost his dating prospects. But a court disagreed last week, highlighting that many rights in law are based on a person’s age, and changing it at will could cause many problems.

“Mr Ratelband is at liberty to feel 20 years younger than his real age and to act accordingly,” the court said, but changing his legal documents would have “undesirable legal and societal implications.”

Although I’m not worried about my dating prospects, I will continue to act how old I feel.

Today is just another Dec. 14.

Author: Mike Knaak

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