Baby Boomers – Don’t Let a Calendar Dictate Your Lives

One thing that distinguishes our generation from all generations that came before us is, we don’t let the calendar dictate our lives. And as Liz Kitchens writes, there are solid ways to ensure that.

Since I’m a boomer who is trying her hand at various creative entrepreneurial endeavors, I read with interest an article in a Sunday New York Times written by Harvard economist Edward Glaeser. The article was entitled, Goodbye Golden Years, a title sure to elicit fear in those of us hoping to retire at some point during the next ten years or so.

Liz Kitchens

And, Glaeser did not disappoint. His piece was filled with statements and statistics such as the following: “Retirement seems out of the question for increasing numbers of Americans who are saddled with debt and whose savings evaporated during the recent bust.” And, “Many older workers keep working because they feel they can’t afford not to. Nearly 40% of 55-64 year olds don’t have retirement accounts. The median net worth of this age group is now $254,000. Americans save less than 4% of their income; thrifty Germans save 10%. A nation that prefers spending to saving is going to find it difficult to enjoy a comfortable retirement.”

He goes on to talk about our parent’s generations, The Silent Generation and the GI Generation. According to Glaeser, 47% of 65-plusers were in the labor force in 1949; by 1993 that number had shrunk to 16%. Our parents enjoyed a retirement scenario unprecedented in our history, and one that may not be available to us. Potentially depressing thoughts, I agree, but don’t despair; did we ever really envision ourselves just playing golf or bridge five days a week? Okay, so maybe one or two days a week. But not fulltime; we are the Baby Boom generation! We strive for meaning in our lives, whether that meaning takes the form of career opportunities or social causes.

I can’t imagine not being productive, not contributing, not making my own money. Glaeser suggests America needs more entrepreneurship and we are at a juncture in our lives to provide it. West Palm Beach, Florida, a retiree haven, has the highest self-employment rate of any metropolitan area in the nation, consistent with other areas in the country attracting older Americans. Self-employment makes sense because it allows for more control over working hours and conditions. And our generation loves control.

Some of us have spent years waking up at 6:00 AM to be at a job we found depleting. If we are to work for years to come, let’s make it work on our terms. Here are a few suggestions.

  • If you want to enjoy a high quality of life from now until you’re 90, exercise, because it is a critical component. If you have not already done so, it’s time to develop an exercise plan; join a YMCA or other gym; walk or ride a bike. Rather than having to fit your exercise schedule into your work schedule, allow your work to accommodate your exercise so you don’t have to be going to the gym at 5:30 in the morning.
  • Choose an enterprise that fits your circadian rhythm (internal clock), one that allows you to arise and go to bed at a time best suited for you.
  • Delve into your psyche through journaling or quiet reflections; explore what you have a passion for. You may want to undergo a personality assessment to discover a field that suits you.
  • As important as anything, make it fun. We are the generation that invented rock and roll. We like to have fun. Now is your chance.

Happy planning.

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  1. Hi Liz;

    I’m amazed at the number of entrepreneurs in West Palm Beach! So, even Boomers who can afford to do nothing choose to do something. Good example, I think?

    “I can’t imagine not being productive, not contributing” – and I believe that’s what motivates many of us to become self-employed, so thanks for mentioning that.

    Altogether Liz, I love this article – it gives great credibility to our interpretation of retirement.


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