In their regular weekly tongue and cheek opinion piece in the New York Times, David Brooks and Gail Collins, write about what it means to grow old[1].  Their conversation starts out with a focus on planning for retirement beyond financial matters.  However, as they cover territory from golf through to retirement homes and death it is clear that finances make a difference in the options one has as they grow old.  As pointed out by Collins, those with money have choices including their final demise:

… you only get to choose how you’re going to finish your life story if you have some money to pay for a desirable conclusion.

Too often, retirement is glamorized as a burden free time of leisure.  But it seems that for an increasing number of people retirement is a constant state of worry about health and money.  Although this New York Times opinion piece is light-hearted, financial difficulties in retirement are not.  On-line commenters are not representative of the public.  But individuals commenting on a high quality publication such as the New York Times provide us with a bit of insight that is worth considering.  Many were quick to identify their own personal financial challenges of retirement:

 No financial worries, health care, a satisfying career! It would be more interesting to discuss what old age is like for ordinary mortals who don’t have this holy trinity of circumstances. (C. Taylor, Los Angeles, CA)

 If you’re healthy, you’d better have money.
If you’re not healthy, then (as one comment said) it’s time for a Harold and Maude ending. (Catharine, Philadelphia)

 The newest generation of retirees does not, in general, have a fixed pension to rely on and their average asset accumulation is not going to finance that Florida relocation. If George Bush had managed to do the Social Security overhaul he dreamed about, the younger boomers might have all wound up crawling around the golf courses, trying to find balls they could trade for food.” (Cuddebackville, NY)

 I would challenge David’s assertion that the elderly are the most affluent group. We may appear to have everything but the truth is we’ve just learned to live with a lot less. (Indy, Indianapolis)

 …numerous studies and statistics support the bleak financial outlook for the millions of Americans in future retirement. (Freditor, Madison, NJ)

The final comment and the only one that was even remotely positive on financial matters:

As a recovering Ph.D psychologist, I would say that being engaged with many others and having love in one’s life are infinitely more important than having money. (Wendy, Manhattan, NY)