Everyone who reads these blogs knows that I have been imploring people from 50 to 75 to seriously reconsider, prepare, and plan incrementally, for their futures right now. Why? Because a monolithic “retirement” is no longer an achievable or even desirable life stage or end point for many of us. In the days when one retired at 65 with a full pension and died at 75, “retirement” made perfect sense. In today’s world when we might retire at 68 without a pension and live until 98, including remaining active and being able to pay for all those additional years, it’s a whole new ball game. One size fits all no longer applies. For some of us traditional retirement remains a good choice. For many possible variations are better and so is never retiring.
Yet for many of us the retirement train continues, unabated, to charge forward down the rails. The push “Retirement” is often fueled by:
individual notions of what that should mean and look like.
the promises about our later lives made to us since were young
well intended financial advisors
our own clinging to entitlement/relief from burden after many years of hard work
advertisements galore imploring us to save even though it may be way too late
seductive, word/picture advertising images of what it can look like when we’re finally “there”, arrived permanently, and living a life of significant leisure with our nearby pals
I recently interviewed three men in their early 60s. All of them planned to retire at 66. None of them had the financial resources to totally stop working. “It’s really simple.”, they all agreed. “We have savings, Social Security, and ability to work part time for years to come. Of course, we’d want to not work for a year or two to decompress. Then we’d simply go back to work part time for income, health care coverage, and a sense of purpose. We can worry about it when the time comes.”
All three of these men graduated from high school in the early to mid 1970s. All went directly to college and then entered the workplace around 1980. Two of them went to work for major corporations and have had only 3 employers across their careers. One went into his uncle’s retail appliance business, eventually taking it over and running it successfully. He has never worked anywhere that he wasn’t either in charge or related to the person who was. All of them are experts at working with continuous change and opportunity. They consider themselves consummate problem solvers with enough life experience to anticipate and work with whatever comes down the road in the future.
Although all of them remark upon the “chaos” they are seeing in their industries and in the news, not one of them has given a minute’s thought to disruptive change and opportunity or what it could mean in their own lives. “Of course, we will be able to go back to work! We’ve always been able to work and always will.”
One of my journalistic heroes, Rich Eisenberg, has just put it out there, effectively challenging the notion that we will be employable, part of full time, in retirement or later life. He is Senior Web Editor of the Money & Security and Work & Purpose channels of Next Avenue and Managing Editor for www.nextavenue.com, a PBS’ important and informative website for baby boomers.
Why is Rich one of my journalistic heroes?
He finds the important topics we should be thinking about but aren’t.
He does description and explanation in eminently understandable ways.
He conducts great, supportive research.
He writes in ways that can disrupt a lot of how we think about ourselves and our futures.
I recommend you read him regularly beginning with: http://www.nextavenue.org/working-retirement-wishful-thinking/
As a journalist, myself, you can believe me that this isn’t easy to do, especially with deadlines and the demands for new material land approaches. I think all of us should be seeking out and reading Rich and other writers who consistently pull off 1-4 above with aplomb.
Of the many recommendations I make to you in my new book, How Do I Get There From Here, Planning For Retirement When The Old Rules No Longer Apply, here are two from Chapter 4 that belong in this blog:
When planning, begin with where you really are, not with where you want to be.
When taking inventory of your assets, consider all of them and not just the financial ones.
The three men I interviewed don’t know what they don’t know. They are accustomed to 1. Being told what they don’t know and learning it or 2. Figuring it out quickly from their past experience and slipping rapidly into problem solving mode so that they can be happy about their accomplishment and move on to the next problem to be solved.
Why is this a dangerous choice? Because they are using the familiar tools of continuous change and problem solving without considering the possibility that they know almost nothing about disruptive change and opportunity, much less the different tools and expertise required. It wasn’t my job to tell them what to do. It is my job to write a blog for you that illustrates their dilemma and the implications of “I’ll worry about it when I get there.”
What are you doing to understand and plan your future in disruptive times? How does it differ from what you might have done 15 years ago?
Let me know, please, and I’ll write about it for the benefit of all of us.