From the very beginning, baby boomers were set up to fail at the retirement game. Our shear numbers made it difficult for institutions, social security and employers to put enough away for us to retire. We bought into the myth of retirement. But, just because life hasn’t worked out exactly as we planned doesn’t mean we can’t find meaning and create a good life in retirement.

What is the myth of retirement? The myth is you will reach an age, usually between 62 and 65, in which you will receive a gold watch from your long-term employer. From that point, you will have enough money to live the rest of your life, maybe another twenty or thirty years, without a care in the world. That might have been our parents’ retirement, but it will be the reality for few boomers.

We were actually sold a bill of goods. Or we chose to buy into a fantasy that wasn’t ever going to work.

The lifespan of the average American has increased substantially in the last century. When Social Security was enacted in 1933, the lifespan of a white male was 65. The thinking was if you actually survived to that age, the government would give you enough money so you didn’t starve. Social Security was never designed for people to maintain a middle class lifestyle.

Personal retirement savings, in the form of 401K was initiated in 1979 to supplement social security and pensions. As workers in the corporate would have discovered, most companies have replaced a pension/401K combination to a 401K only retirement plan.

At one point, there was a shared responsibility in providing for retirement by the government, employer and individual. Over the last quarter century, we’ve seen a shift occur so the burden of responsibility is on the shoulders of the individual. That may be as it should be, but it’s a bitter pill to swallow. That’s especially true for people who saved on their own, have watched that nest egg crack, and crumble under the current economic strain.

As boomers continue to move through the python, they will find the need to continue to accept more of the responsibility for their retirement. For many, if not most, the fantasy retirement will not exist.

Enter the accordion retirement. Imagine the accordion file or musical instrument that has the ability to expand or contract as needed. The accordion file has different compartments. As adults age, they will need to respond according to what it going on in the world, but also inside themselves.

There will be a few lucky souls who will get to retire to luxurious lifestyle and never have another financial care in the world. (Of course, they will still have to deal with all the other aspects of growing old.) There will be those who will have to work until they can’t any longer.

Most of us will fall somewhere in the middle. Seventy-five percent of baby-boomers report they will continue to work past traditional retirement. For many, it will be because they have to, for others because they want to stay engaged and connected.

Hopefully, you will have the opportunity to explore numerous options. While working full-time is one option, so is part-time, consulting and starting your own business. It doesn’t have to be drudgery.

I met a delightful woman at the Grand Canyon recently. She and her husband live in their RV and travel to national parks where they work in the shops. The day we talked she was ending her time at the Grand Canyon and moving to Yellowstone.

Creating a successful accordion life is not going to be easy. Has anything in your life been easy up until now? Just because life hasn’t worked out exactly as we planned doesn’t mean we can’t find meaning and create a good life in retirement.

Author's Bio: 

Cathy Severson, MS helps you make the most of your retirement. Baby boomers understand this isn't your parents’ retirement. Visit for more information and resources to make the rest of your life the best of your life. Receive your complimentary copy of 7 Ingredients for a Satisfying Retirement at