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Why Can't I Retire?

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Over coffee and a spoonful of whipped cream at the Century Club last week, I heard it again: "I'll never be able to retire."

"What you too?" I said, relieved to be sharing my own dirty little secret.

What used to be sotto voce is now being shared out loud: we are finally admitting we simply can't afford to retire. A recent Harris Poll finds there are 34% of Americans who have no retirement savings and that includes -- surprise, surprise -- 22% of people 65 and older and 22% of B-boomers. Does that mean the $700 I spent on a pair of Louboutin's should have been put in a retirement account instead of on my feet? Ah well, they'll never go out of style...

(I've been fantasizing about using that famous Social Security check but just found out I should wait to collect for tax reasons. Wait, I thought this was free money?)

Just because one turns 65 doesn't mean your appetite for nice things changes nor does the cost of living lessen. In fact, nothing changes except you're 65 and what it used to mean in our parent's generation, no longer holds true.

A handsome 65-ish CEO, who works like a truffle-hound, told me he couldn't retire either. His accountant said retirement might be an option for his 70's. "But then, of course, the bills keep coming" he added, mentioning a gaggle of daughters' weddings and having built a grand retirement home in which he'd never slept. So much for morning hikes among the cacti.

As important is another issue: what would this generation of achievers do with free time? New Yorkers are always over-programmed with 9 - 6 work and God's work (as someone calls the non-profit world), and a 'social life,' where everything comes together under the umbrella of 'fun,' though I'm not sure 'fun' isn't another word for 'work.'

So here we are continuing to huff and puff our way through life. I will tell you that no one in my family ever retires probably because they can't play bridge, don't like golf and think of work as... life. It does keep everyone occupied, minds nimble and bills paid. But, shouldn't we have a hobby? Or is work the new hobby for those of us who never thought about what we'd do in our Restylane-filled years?

In the last few years, I've managed to create a business where I deploy my expertise in various ways always with the hope of having time between projects to hang out. But as with any job, you're either clocking in and paid on a regular basis or you have my schedule with no health benefits, no paid vacations and no weekly paycheck. Pick your poison.

And while I'm happy to join the chorus of worriers, we're still a fortunate group of b-boomers: we do have expertise and we do have work. I recently added on an editorial position and continue to learn "What Sassy Panties to Wear for Valentine's Day" and that it's okay to refer to "breasts" as "boobs" and use the word "sucks." I'm not sure what my young colleagues think as I constantly refer to the genius of Helen Gurley Brown -- and even wonder if they've ever heard of her -- but I keep plowing ahead believing experience and a great database are still a commodity.

But there is one universal truth we have to accept as we age in the work place -- despite the magic of lasers and fillers, we're still going to have the most wrinkles in the room and as much as we hate the word "awesome," it's time to get over it.