Tag Archives: Work

Taking Stock: Time

“The right combination of structure and flexibility, productivity and relaxation.” My retirement goal as well.

Stepping Into The Future

Clock Clip ArtAs my second year of retirement begins, I am taking stock of how things are going. My last post (Taking Stock: Finances) focused on how I am doing financially; this one focuses on how I am using my time. While finances tend to be the biggest worry about retirement and something people think about and plan for well in advance, time is both the great lure of retirement and its great unknown. I probably wasn’t unusual in spending years thinking about how I would finance my retirement before it occurred to me to consider how I would spend my time in retirement.

I have always had a strong relationship with time. As a child, I made long complicated time schedules to structure my summer days. Recently, an old college roommate reminded me about the hourly schedule that hung over my desk in our dormitory room. I didn’t always…

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AARP Says More Work And Less Retirement Is Good News

Remember when AARP was an organization for retired persons? Remember when the American Dream included a decent job, a house and yard, and retirement?

The acronym AARP was shorthand for “American Association of Retired Persons.” But the organization decided to change its brand. The spelled-out moniker was dropped in favor of just plain AARP.

The capital letters AARP became the full, official name. The letters don’t stand for anything. I’m beginning to wonder what AARP, the organization, stands for.

Did the organization that advocated for retired persons change its identity — and its mission — along with its brand? Has AARP decided that retirement is no longer cool? It almost seems as if they’ve  decided to support WORK and give up on RETIREMENT.

The cover story for the September issue of AARP Bulletin proclaims:

“Good News for Older Workers: Keep, Change or Improve Your Job After 50.”

The “RP” in AARP now stands for “Real Possibilities.” I’m not making this up.

“Tens of millions of older Americans are working today at ages when their parents and grandparents had retired.

Nearly a quarter-century ago, in 1991, only about 1 worker in 10 planned to stay in the workforce beyond age 65. Today, that number has risen to almost 4 in 10.

In 1991, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, some 30 percent of Americans age 55 or older were working. By 2013, the workforce participation rate for those 55-plus had passed 40 percent, and it’s rising steadily. The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says the current era marks the first time in U.S. history when four generations — pre-boomers, boomers, Generation X and millennials — are engaged in the workforce at the same time.”

The above quote is from the article, “The Value of Older Workers: Experience makes them better problem solvers and more reliable,” by R.R. Reid in the September 2015 issue of AARP Bulletin. The September issue is not yet up on the website, but AARP Bulletin Today includes many related articles.

The hard copy of the September issue cites excellent sources for the claim that millions of older Americans who would have been enjoying their hard-earned retirement in the late 20th Century remain hard at work in the brave, new 21st Century. So it must be true. People of my baby boomer cohort are less likely to be retired — and more likely to still be working — than were our parents and grandparents, who were probably retired at our age.

300px-SocialSecurityposter2I’m constantly reading or hearing about the difficulties of retirement. Many people say they can’t afford to retire; some say they expect to work until they die. They believe they have little choice. For many, the cost of living outstrips retirement income based on Social Security, pensions, and savings. See the results of AARP’s latest survey of workers aged 55-64.

Retirement income is usually fixed income. The amount of our monthly income from Social Security, pensions, and savings is not likely to go up. Monthly income is more likely to go down, as a retiree burns through savings. Even the annual Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) is not guaranteed. See the earlier blog post.

Many people fear that their Social Security benefit will, in the not-too-distant future, be reduced to 75 percent of the present benefit. That fear is based on a drumbeat of negative news. (I personally believe that we can and will find a way to preserve full Social Security benefits, and also ensure that Social Security remains viable for our children and grandchildren. Call me an optimist.)

AARP views the trend to less retirement and more work through rose-colored glasses. But I’m wondering if the American Dream of retirement for nearly everyone has ended. Workers in the 1930s to 1970s era were likely to have pensions and to own houses with paid-up mortgages. But since about the mid-1970s, the trend has been away from guaranteed pensions. In the later decades of the last century, many workers began to rely on home equity loans. People refinanced their homes repeatedly, and never paid off the mortgage.

Only in recent years have many baby boomers started to wake up and smell the burned coffee. The new reality is retirement without adequate pensions and savings. And meanwhile, you’re still paying the monthly mortgage. Is the American Dream of retirement about to become a nightmare?

I can hardly wait to see how Robert De Niro plays a 70-year-old intern working for a much younger boss (Anne Hathaway). Watch the trailer. Is it a comedy or a horror movie?

Retirement Offers Freedom, If We Can Seize It

Talk about serendipity! I’ve recently started a blog called “Retirement Made Simple,” and suddenly, today, I stumble upon the best definition of retirement I’ve ever read.

“We don’t have to be who we were yesterday. We don’t have to live on auto-pilot anymore. You have permission to let go, spread your wings, and be who your heart is telling you to be.”

This is what my work life felt like, more often than not

This is what my work life felt like, more often than not

Isn’t that what the first day of retirement ought to feel like? We truly have the opportunity, if we can seize it, to make a clean break from yesterday. We are free of the perpetual rat race of work, commute, dress for success, bow down before the corporation, sacrificing our individuality — and maybe our health — on the altar of profit. We can, perhaps for the first time, live as the person we really are, or really want to be.

The above quote is from a blog post titled “You Have Permission,” over at a new blog called “Hippy.ish.”  What an awesome blog! It’s written by a young woman who doesn’t fit the traditional image of a retired person. In fact, she’s not retired at all. She has a young child. She’s a person who is, as she says, “Chasing A Life of More Based On Less.” Her way of life and goals are not necessarily shared by most retired people. I think she has a lot of wisdom about “minimalism” to share with all people, retired and otherwise. The point is, we have freedom!

A clean break from yesterday. Daunting words, frightening or at least unsettling words, for those of us living life in a rut. Not ideal words, but the best I can come up with. Note that a clean break, taken literally or to the extreme, is not necessary, and not necessarily in our best interests. Change is always stressful, often frightening. For most of us, a measured transition, a gradual letting go, might be the better way to implement change.

Retirement might look more like a serene waterfall.

Retirement might look more like a serene waterfall.

A clean break does not imply a complete break. We can keep active the friendships we had at work. We can remain an interested observer in a lifelong profession, if we wish. But we aren’t required to do so. We are free!

Or rather, we have the opportunity of freedom, if we are able to seize it. Many of us, if we’re brought to the very edge of freedom, might choose not to fly. That could be a good thing or a bad thing. Not for others to judge.

Some of us are among the fortunate few who’ve been flying all along, as real as can be. We might already have responsibilities to fulfill outside the realm of paid work. Or promises to keep. Taking care of family members or friends comes to mind. We might have satisfying roles at church or in the community that we intend to continue. We might already reside in our dream house! We wouldn’t change the status quo at all, except for not setting the alarm clock and going to our accustomed job every day.

I don’t count myself in that group. I’ve rarely had work I enjoyed. The job was mostly a grind, something I must do to earn a living, not something I would choose to do. In later years, full-time work consumed most of my time and energy. I didn’t get a lunch hour, or a lunch half-hour. I needed the weekend to recuperate and pull myself together for another week of drudgery. I suspect that’s pretty much the standard experience of the working person.

To be sure, retirement will bring new challenges. Mountains to climb, or maybe only rocks to scramble over. We will have some freedom to choose our mountains. But life never offers total freedom. (Photos by John Hayden)

To be sure, retirement will bring new challenges. Mountains to climb, or maybe only rocks to scramble over. We will have some freedom to choose our mountains. But life never offers total freedom. (Photos by John Hayden)

However, even if my life has NOT been satisfying or fulfilling, the prospect of seizing freedom is problematic. Do I even know how to fly? Do I have the courage to walk out the prison door when it opens? Now that I have freedom at last, what is it that I want or need to do?

We can expect barriers. Simple inertia. Laziness. Apathy. Poverty. Sickness. Fear.

We have choices. Some retirees, especially men, might sit down in the recliner and watch television until they die.

Family and friends will be uncomfortable with change. But most of all, I will be uncomfortable. Do I even have a clue what I want to do? I’ll press the issue one step farther.

Do I know what I’m called to do with the rest of my life? Sorry. The rest of my life is the wrong question.

How long is the rest of my life, anyway? None of us knows. Rarely can we see years ahead. The most I can reasonably expect is light for the next step. Those words are not original with me. “Light for the next step.” I picked up the concept at a weekend conference years ago. I’ve kept my eyes open for light ever since, but rarely have I seen it. Usually, I feel my way along cautiously in something like a fog.

We’ve come to the crux of the matter now. At every crossroads in life, what we need is discernment.

Retirement is no different. That’s a good stopping point for tonight. Discernment.