According to the American Cancer Society’s 2019 Cancer Facts and Figures, “Cancer usually develops in older people. 80% of all cancers in the United States are diagnosed in people 55 years of age or older.” That’s a disturbing statistic about Boomers and cancer.
The report goes on to say, “In the US, approximately 39 out of 100 men and 38 out of 100 women will develop cancer during their lifetime.”
Looking at Table 6, on page 14 of the report, you can see that men have a 13% probability of developing an invasive cancer between ages 60 and 69.
And, there is a 10% probability for women of the same age. Once you reach 70 and older, there is a 32% chance for men and a 26% chance for women to develop some form of nasty cancer.
Who knew that the odds where that high for Boomers and cancer to meet? That’s about 40% of us likely to get some form of cancer as part of our retirement plan. Doesn’t that seem like an outrageous number? Frankly, I’m quite stunned. Yet, I probably shouldn’t be.
When I think about just my small circle of friends and family, relative to the US population of 327 million, it is astounding to realize all who are battling cancer, or are survivors, or who have lost a courageous fight. It’s way more than I can count on my fingers and toes.
But this blog post isn’t only about Boomers and cancer. There is so much more…
A Chance Meeting
A woman waltzes into my office one bright morning. The door was open. Turns out, she’s wanted to meet me, and check out my office for some time.
“So, when are you moving?” she asks.
“What are you talking about?” I reply.
“My company is moving into that big space. They are working on next to you, and we’ll be taking over this office, too,” she informs me.
“Hmmm. Nobody has talked to me about this, and my lease runs for another two years,” I say.
“By the way, who are you?” I ask.
Jade had stopped by my office a few times, but I had been traveling. She was curious what my retirement company was about. Did I specifically help individuals with their retirement plans? I explained that while I don’t provide financial planning to individuals, I do know a great deal about retirement, Social Security and Medicare.
She was happy to hear I knew something about Social Security. Could she confirm her situation with me? She was divorced and wanted to make sure she had her facts straight. Jade thought she some extra money coming her way, and was pretty excited about it if it were true.
So, we set up a time to meet.
Confident, Smart, and Capable Skills from Dad…
Jade came to our meeting on time and with her facts and figures organized and outlined. My first impression was that she was a hot ticket. She’s a bundle of good energy, exuded a ton of confidence, and was just as nice as can be. According to her, some of that comes from her ancestry – she’s half Chinese on her dad’s side and half Canadian French along with some Irish from Mom. Plus, she brings more from her military kid upbringing.
She moved all around the world as her dad served in the US Air Force. She learned how to be resilient and how to make friends from every new place she landed.
Jade wanted to confirm if she understood the Restricted Application concept in Social Security. Since she and her ex had been married for 24 years, she thought she could claim an ex-spouse benefit when she turned 66 and then wait until 70 to claim her own, higher benefit. She was spot on. Since she fell into the right birth year, she could indeed get half of his benefit amount until she turns 70, then switch to her own maximum benefit. She was delighted!
…Financial Know-How and Missteps from Mom
Jade’s mother was a confident and capable woman. She was the baby of 13 children, and now, at age 92, continues to do quite well. She got married at 16 ½ and was married to Jade’s dad for 44 years. After her divorce, she rekindled a romance with a long-ago boyfriend. They ended up at the altar.
Ten years ago, Jade’s mom suffered a stroke. Jade needed to take three months off to help her out in Oklahoma. She spent those months cleaning out the house that was loaded with “lots of collections” as Jade calls her mother’s stuff. The house had simply become too big for Mom, and Jade had to manage the sale. Her mom recovered well and moved into a smaller house.
Jade knew her mom was self-taught about finances. She had learned to be a good saver and investor. Her mom had amassed quite a sizeable nest egg, so everyone thought she would be financially fine in retirement. But she also loved to shop. As she aged, she got hooked on QVC and made mistakes with credit cards and financial transactions. Jade has spent the last half-dozen years helping her mother deal with “financial glitches” and then more serious mistakes. From 1,500 miles away.
It has been a challenge trying to help an older person process the information in our fast-paced financial world today. Jade is nothing short of capable and smart when it comes to understanding the power and value of a dollar. She got that training from her mother.
Passing Financial Knowledge Along
Jade lights up when she talks about her daughter. You can just tell how proud she is of this young woman and the adult she has become. Jade knew it was important to help her daughter start out on strong financial footing. She taught her daughter about finances during her growing up years. Jade made sure her daughter understood how credit and credit cards work both for and against you. Saving for a future retirement was also a critical lesson.
It helped that Jade was going through financial issues with her own mother. It gave Jade the kind of real-life examples that could help her and her own daughter get on and stay on a disciplined financial path. Reaching retirement with enough saved is one thing, but you also have to plan for spending that money wisely.
Another important lesson Jade taught her daughter was to live below her income so she could also travel and enjoy some of the wonderful places around the globe. A nod to her traveling upbringing, the two of them plan an annual get away. Jade and her daughter love to vacation together on Sanibel Island, Florida each year for two weeks. This is Jade’s “little slice of heaven.” She wasn’t sure she would get there this year.
The Cancer Diagnosis
I did indeed have to relocate my office from one side of the building to the other as Jade informed me the first day we met. Jade still pops by from time to time to say hello and talk about her pending retirement. She isn’t sure exactly when she’s going to give her notice at her job, but maybe as soon as year-end. Getting a paycheck is a good thing. The job isn’t that challenging, but she has friends in the small company as well as around the office park. It keeps her busy and she won’t have to tap her own savings as long as she’s working.
I hadn’t seen Jade for a couple of months, then ran into her in the hall just a few weeks ago.
“How are you? How has your summer been?” I greeted her with a big smile.
She just shook her head. “I’ve was just diagnosed last week with an aggressive cancer.”
Well hell. Not another Boomer and cancer.
“I’m going on leave in two weeks. Chemo starts right away to stem the growth. Then surgery. Then more chemo. The prognosis is good, so I’m hopeful,” Jade shares with me.
I’m so sorry to hear this news from Jade.
Boomers and Cancer On the Cusp of Retirement
Jade is literally on the cusp of retirement when she got this news. Boomers and cancer. We’re not talking about a bunch of statistics now, but real people with real families, and real plans for a wonderful second act. And an upcoming trip to Sanibel Island.
Jade had agreed to talk to me for my blog long before the cancer diagnosis. We were going to talk about her plans for retirement. She is such an “energizer bunny” and was making plans for her new-found time. It wasn’t a surprise to hear her talk about entering what she calls the “Keep Busy, Give Back” era of her life. She plans to do charity work, in many different forms. She’ll explore the different outreach groups near her home and keep adding new things to do as she uncovers them.
Based on her experience moving around as a military kid, I get the idea that Jade looks at retirement as another move to another new and exciting location. It will be filled with adventures and interesting people to meet.
First, she’ll have to adjust to dealing with cancer and the treatment regimen that will become her new routine. Clearly, this was never part of her retirement plan.
She’ll think more about what retirement will mean for her in the days and weeks ahead. There is much to reconsider and reprioritize. But, right now, she has to call the clinic to schedule her first chemo treatment. And, get packing for that special vacation to Sanibel Island with her daughter.
Ending on a Positive Note
Not only is Jade very positive about her outlook, there is also much progress to acknowledge about the advances in cancer survivability.
Death rates from cancer have plummeted 27% in the last 25 years. Truly a remarkable accomplishment from medical researchers with new drug and therapy developments. And, critical advances in early detection efforts. You can read more about the 25-year improvements in this summary recently released from cancer.org.
The American Cancer Society has done a remarkable job keeping the focus on a topic that no one wants to deal with. Yet, so many Boomers face a cancer diagnosis at the point of retirement.
Our Support Matters
A dear friend of mine and my husband, Dan, died from a rare cancer 12 years ago. One of my closest friends, his wife, is a co-chair for one of the local Relay-for-Life walks. His younger daughter participates in the Walk every year and his older daughter is participating on a team for the annual Jimmy Fund walk.
We make contributions to their efforts. It’s a small gesture, but one I can feel good about. When combined with many others who make contributions in amounts great and small, we do help make progress. Wouldn’t it be grand if Boomers and cancer become a distant memory and we just focused on the adventure called “retirement”?
Wishing you well, Jade. Come back and tell us about all the wonderful things you are doing in retirement!
For Information about Boomers and Cancer and How You Might Help
Relay-for-Life celebrates its 35th Anniversary. There are some 5,000 local and regional walks all around the US and in 20 countries around the globe.
The Jimmy Fund is a 70-year-old grassroots organization in the Boston area and around the country raising funds for the Dana-Farber Cancer Research Center. It is an official charity of the Boston Red Sox.