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?