What Musical Instrument Resembles the New Retirement?
Retirement, historically was an event. One day you were working, earning a living, and the next day you weren’t. When Social Security was enacted in 1933, the lifespan of a white male was 65 years old. If you lived long enough to reach retirement, then you were most likely ready to enter a new phase. We’re now looking at a new retirement.
The idea of retirement has shifted over the last seventy-five years. The original concept of sitting on the front porch watching the world go by was replaced by the ‘golden years’ of fun in the sun.
Baby boomers are rewriting the concept of retirement once again. Based on the increased lifespan, higher costs and diminished resources in Social Security, pension funds and private savings, the idea of stopping work at one moment in time is being replaced by an accordion of choices.
There is a small group of people who will stop work, find their clubs, hit the links and never look back. They are becoming an increasingly rare bird. This is occurring for two reasons. First, many people will not have the financial resources to live twenty or thirty years without working. Others are finding a life without work is a life without meaning and are looking for other options.
The accordion is an interesting metaphor for the new retirement. Whether the musical instrument or the filing system, accordions conjure an image of motion. There is a fluidity of movement that goes in and out. The accordion file offers certain compartments where we can imagine a retirement that contains times of not working, returning to work part or full time, volunteering, traveling and learning based on the interaction of outside forces, such as the economy versus inside desires or needs.
Some people will struggle with this new model. For others, it will provide the occasion for personal growth and expression. A recent report by AARP found seniors who change careers in their fifties and sixties are often happier, even if they were forced out of their old positions. Even with less pay and diminished benefits, they relished the decrease in stress and flexibility that came from their new work.
We all know of people who have been affected by the recent economic situation. In fact, your personal expectations may have changed. What options have arisen that you hadn’t anticipated for the new retirement? You may have to look for them, but like the little girl said, “Under all this sh*t, there’s got to be a pony.”
Written by Cathy Severson, MS