Thursday, April 1, 2010

Yikes! Retirement!

For us Baby Boomers, retirement can last 30 or more years - one-third of our lives. Now, there's an exciting (uh, scary) thought.

As someone in the midst of reinventing herself - or, at least, trying to figure out what's next - I must admit that it ain't easy. I realize some Baby Boomers can't wait to break the chains of an unsatisfying full-time job that has stymied their happiness and self-worth for decades. Just the thought of doing "nothing" - well, maybe playing some golf or tennis or hanging out at the local coffee shop - keeps them slogging toward the "finish line." On the other hand, others like myself have managed to craft a career that has offered a lot of freedom and independence (but rarely a regular paycheck).

Ah, but hold your horses. The Recession from which we are slowly recovering and the go-get-em' spirit of Boomers have prompted a majority (8 in 10 according to an AARP analysis) to plan to work at least part-time or start their own business instead of settling for a lawn chair in Florida. A staggering half of households headed by 50-to-59-year-olds have $10,000 or less in their 401(k) accounts, making holding down some kind of job more attractive than scrimping and saving. The National Council on the Aging estimates that by 2015 20% of the work force will be over 55.

Remember staring at the old guy or gal bagging groceries at your local supermarket and feeling blessed that you'd never have to do that! Hmmmm . . . . To avoid such a fate, millions of us are scrambling, trying to figure out how we're going to maintain something of the lifestyle to which we've become accustomed. And just when no one is hiring younger folks, let alone old farts.

Career coaches and therapists are quick to underscore the possibilities of following our bliss. Perhaps for the first time since we were young kids, we won't have to listen to what parents, peers, or society in general expect of us. We have a blank slate in front of us and can go to town joyously filling it in with piano or painting lessons, worldwide travel, volunteering for all those causes to which we've been donating all these years. Holy Cow! The possibilities are endless.

Or are they? What if no longer having a title (say an engineer or teacher or CEO of a corporation) makes you feel as if you're one big nothing? What if you don't have enough money to take off for Timbuktu? What if you're tired after some 40 plus years of working and you just don't have the energy to start from scratch? What if your mind goes numb with all the possibilities and renders you paralyzed?

I suppose we could all sign up for counseling. Or read a bunch of self-help books. Or we can plod our way through this delicate life marker event, making our share of boo boos along the way. In the meantime, I'll share whatever I figure out as I go along.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very interesting. I'll be following along with your story. Such times as these will, if nothing else, keep the brain working and the creative faculties at play.