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The Fallacy of the Boomer

I recently read yet another article about how Baby Boomers are changing retirement.

Each time I see a story like that, I cringe.

How likely is it that the situation and needs of someone born in 1946 are similar to someone born in 1964?

We are actually a diverse bunch.  Take, for example, a recent party my wife and I threw at our house.  There were 20 guests, covering an age range of about 15 years.   Jewish to Druid to Buddhist to Agnostic to Shinto to those who will get around to it someday.  Most still working, at least part-time.  Many self-employed, having left their full-time jobs behind.  Some are back in school.  One, at 58, discovered he retired too soon and is going back to Silicon Valley to begin anew.  Three are writing books. One has just been diagnosed with advanced leukemia.  Five are taking golf lessons.  Two have recently gotten tattooed in highly private places. The oddball fellow only talks about three things: his golf game, what he can and cannot digest, and his health.  I always know when he’s arrived because of the crush of people fleeing to the opposite end of the room.

If I were to take a vote, we would all be indignant at being lumped together. Yet we keep using the term Baby Boomers as if it meant something useful. It’s my opinion that the expression “Baby Boomers” only works for sales and marketing purposes. Other than that, it’s a nearly meaningless demographic category, nothing more.

Which brings me to dealing with the word retirement, a term that also deserves to be interred as soon as possible.  The word, and the concept behind it, has been a part of our mental landscape as long as some of us can remember.  Yet, in many (maybe most) cases we are an un-retiring bunch.

One friend started, built, and sold a magazine after retiring from a traditional career.  Another launched a boat charter business.  One is planning an online nature-photography card company.  One left elected office and went to work running a local retail business that belongs to someone else.  The fellow who starts the stampede across my living room is going to write his memoir, and something tells me it will be more than readable.  For myself, I want my “five ponies on the track,” five part-time businesses that keep me challenged, profitable, and growing for the next 25 years.  Heaven spare me from a single job that owns me.  My days of being owned by one big thing are over.

The point is this: Lots of us cannot afford nor want to enter traditional retirement.  We need a name for the emerging, transitional period that marks the end of a traditional full-time career and marks the beginning of an array of choices and combinations that are neither monolithic nor permanent.

What would you like that word to be?  If we keep talking about retirement the odds are we’ll be unable to move into more interesting possibilities.

Any suggestions out there?

8 responses to “The Fallacy of the Boomer”

  1. Gary Belenke says:

    Reimagining.

    • Rachelle Pachtman says:

      George, I could not agree more. As an almost 68 year old, instead of retiring like respectable people my age, I am back in school for my certificate in Animal Assisted Interventions. In June, I will be deciding whether to go back for a second Masters in counseling, social work, or psychology. I understand that there is no blueprint for where we are today, and that all of us are creating it right now. What I love about you is that you don’t use that word “reinvention” or yell at people to “snap out of it and get a job at McDonalds.” As long as we wake up every morning and ask ourselves, “What is true for me today and what should I be doing,” we will figure it out. Thanks for getting us to lead ourselves firmly but gently to where we are meant to be.

  2. Steve Spring says:

    Retire – Does that mean that we are taking the old street (stuck in commute) tires off and putting the off-road (road less taken) tires on?

  3. Jari Searns says:

    Hi George!

    What an appealing topic you have chosen. I find myself so torn right now as my Husband continues to work (and we had worked together in business for over 50 years) and I can tell, he is NOT happy with my choice of retirement.

    There are subjects that have always fascinated me but which I rarely explored further ’cause “I just didn’t have the time when I was working full time; now I am truly excited about the multitude of choices facing me…I can paint more…much more than I could when I was working… and I love to do paint! I want to explore courses in on-line learning about subjects from the Roman and Geeek

  4. Jari Searns says:

    Hi George!

    What an appealing topic you have chosen. I find myself so torn right now as my Husband continues to work (and we had worked together in business for over 50 years) and I can tell, he is NOT happy with my choice of retirement.

    There are subjects that have always fascinated me but which I rarely explored further ’cause “I just didn’t have the time when I was working full time; now I am truly excited about the multitude of choices facing me…I can paint more…much more than I could when I was working… and I love to do paint! I want to explore courses in on-line learning about subjects from Greek and Roman history as well as far Eastern religions.

    Yet I’m concerned because the subjects that have always bound My Husband and me together no longer hold the fascination they did And I feel like I am letting him down.

    Am I growing or shrinking….

  5. Moira Allan says:

    Hi George,
    We are all searching and I’m sure the much needed new language is emerging. How does “Novescence – starting up, not shutting down” sit with you? I came across it in a fascinating in-depth article by Cathy Carmody and Gwen McCauley at http://www.cathycarmody.com/novescence/

  6. Carol Buchanan says:

    George how about the term “reinventure” rather than retirement. Carol

  7. […] thing, only to find that the rules aren't relevant any more." (See "The Fallacy of the Boomer" here.) "Adjusted for inflation, the stock market is worth only a little bit more than it was 20 years […]

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