NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Bless outlets like U.S. News & World Report. They charge their scribes with the impossible task of taking academic research and summarizing it into popular news. It generally doesn't end well.We saw this in U. S. News' Why You Should Plan to Work Until Age 70, a heavily publicized article that hit on Monday. I walked away from the piece thoroughly depressed. Work out of Boston College claims that just half of households can retire at age 66 and still maintain their current standard of living. If, however, workers delay retirement to age 70, that number jumps to 86%. The U.S. News & World Report article then summarizes the reasons why working until age 70 could make sense: More time to save, more time to let compounding work its magic, bigger social security checks and, the most depressing point of all, you will have fewer years' worth of retirement to finance. I read the report, available at the Boston College Center for Retirement Research Web site, but found scant details on methodology. In a study like this, I would want to control for a litany of factors, including education, employment status and attitudes toward spending, saving and retirement. Technical issues aside, if the result remained work until you turn 70, I would have still been depressed. At the moment, I have the privilege of loving my job. Other than the boring commute (about 2.5 steps from my side of the bed to my desk), it's the best gig I could ever ask for. Sure, as a self-employed person, I now understand why so many people loathe the IRS, but that's a #firstworldproblem as the cool set says on Twitter. I also understand why anyone who lives above the poverty line should hold his or her nose and vote Republican. With that in mind, there's no way in H-E-double hockey sticks I am working until 70 years of age. In fact, if I have to work past 50, I'll be dismayed. (I turn 37 one week from today.) Now, mind you, I am probably the type of person who will write or do something until people are praying (or cursing) over me, but it better be by choice.
For example, the great hockey writer from Buffalo, NY, Jim Kelley, filed his last column just hours before succumbing to cancer. Talk about an inspiration. But, Kelley did not have to work. He kept on keeping on by choice. That's how I want it to go down for me. In fact, if you told me I could live until 90 if I, out of necessity, worked until 70, I would accept another offer. How about work till 48 and die at 70 with 22 relatively care-free and work-free years to enjoy? That's the ticket. We require an all-around attitude adjustment, not just society en masse, but researchers as well. They include implicit assumptions in their research. And that's not a good thing. The Boston College research assumes that the popular goal is to live as long as one can. There's likely other research out there that confirms this, but once you bring in the notion of working into your upper 60s, the game changes -- at least for me. The researchers make several value judgments when they frame their main research theme -- we must be willing to sacrifice ours 50s and 60s just so we can live well in our 70s and 80s. When you consider that I could drop dead tomorrow, I simply cannot roll with that. Instead of a focus on maintaining your current lifestyle in retirement, how about the seemingly unpopular notion of scaling back your lifestyle today -- maybe even drastically -- to support a higher quality standard of living in an early and long retirement? Isn't this what the best individual investors do? The research shows that high-income households have a better retirement outlook than lower-income households. Intuition tells us that this is because they have more money. To a certain extent, I buy into this. Having more money during your working years gives you options that simply do not exist for the less affluent. But, again, this leaves out important controls such as education, investment knowledge and behaviors vis-à-vis spending and saving.
I pay a premium to live where I live, however, in terms of real estate, I live below my means. There's a great apartment for rent nearby. It has two fireplaces and three levels, including a rooftop deck. Right now, and for the foreseeable future, we could afford it. However, it would raise the rent we pay by exactly 150%. I have seen plenty of people around me over the years live at or beyond their means to have a fancy apartment today, but what will that mean for their tomorrow? By contrast, a good friend of mine owns a business in my hometown of Niagara Falls, NY. As a kid, I wondered why he wore the same clothes every day, drove a used car and rarely seemed to spend any of the cash I knew he was raking in each month. Fast forward 20 years -- he's in his 50s and spends more time in Key West than he does in Western New York. That 150% premium I refuse to pay for a nicer, but unnecessary apartment, gets invested in stocks each month. In fact, before I touch my money, the IRS gets XX% of it, a regular savings account gets XX% of it, IRAs get XX% of it, taxable investments get XX% and the rest goes toward expenses, fun and more saving and investing. I am banking on companies such as T. Rowe Price ( TROW), Time Warner ( TWX), Intel ( INTC) and BCE ( BCE) to fund my retirement, even though I will likely never work a day in my life for any of them. Now more than ever, our connected, on-demand society requires patience. The ability to distinguish between wants and needs could also help quite a bit. The generic skip the morning latte advice might be the best generic advice popular summaries of research studies provide. Throw in a muffin and that's five bucks a day, seven days a week. That's $140 a month that you're paying Starbucks ( SBUX) when it should be paying you. Sounds idealistic to some, but it's a heck of a lot more empowering than throwing your hands up and extending your work life any longer than you want to. After all, you have a better chance of enjoying whatever money you have when you're in your 50s and 60s than you do in your 70s and 80s. Follow @RoccoPendola At the time of publication, the author was long BCE, INTC and TWX. This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.