Preview of Your Coming Attractions

When I retired after 40 years of writing columns for the San Jose Mercury News, I figured I'd said about all I could say. Wrong. I've realized that at age 76, I'm about 10 years older than the oldest baby boomers, who are now turning 66. My very average body has had a lot of experiences in those 10 years. I've learned a lot that could be helpful to people just starting on that same path -- what to do, what to avoid, what to keep an eye on.. Consider me your canary-in-the-coalmine for the boomer generation. Tune in regularly for the heads-up advice.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

No Time To Retire

     Baby Boomers as a group have seldom been thought of as shy and retiring. And now, retiring isn’t a word many of them will be using under any circumstances, shy nor not.
     A recent survey by Associated Press reports that 78 million of them are approaching age 65 at a time when “stock market crashes diminished their 401(k) nest eggs, companies began eliminating defined-benefit pensions in record numbers and previously unimagined technological advances have all but eliminated entire job descriptions from travel agent to telephone operator.”
     In short, if you have a job, you’d best hold onto it. How long? As long as it takes to keep food on your table and a roof over your head. The old standard of working 40 years for a company, taking your retirement pension at age 65 and riding off into the Golden Years is pretty much gone.
     That’s a shame. It’s bad. But it may not be all bad.
     Granted, I’m saying this from the perspective of one who’s already stepped away from my principal life’s work as a newspaper columnist. I’ve previously been urging people to retire as soon as they could, noting that retirement life can be pretty darn good. It is, but today you have to be willing to accept a few caveats.
     One, I worked full-time until I was 70. I’d been having fun, until technology began making newspapers shrink. But postponing retirement age as long as possible can also help maximize your Social Security benefits. They’re less if you retire at 62 than they are at 65, and so on up. Social Security never will let you live in the lap of luxury, but it helps to have those checks coming in nonetheless, and the larger the better. It does bug me, though, to hear politicians talk scornfully about Social Security as an entitlement. As though that’s a bad thing. I paid into Social Security for more than 50 years. I’m damn well entitled to get some of that back.
     Two, you wouldn’t want to step away from the old job and just play golf all day anyway That gets old quite quickly, and makes you older in the process. Keeping busy at something meaningful helps keep you alive, whether it’s a regular job, volunteering to help others in your community or finally pursuing that hobby that you’re so passionate about. That hobby could turn into a new paying job for you. Who knows?
     I’m only semi-retired. I write this blog, as well as articles for whatever publications I can. I volunteer on non-profit boards such as the American Cancer Society and the Stroke Awareness Foundation, both of which have a personally physical connection for me. I tell people I haven’t completely retired, just changed jobs.
     Not retiring at all may well become the new norm. If you have to hang in there on the time clock, make the best of it. I’m selfish. I need all the people still paying into my Social Security that I can get.
     We’ve worried about making things better for the next generation, but apparently that doesn’t apply to the Baby Boomers. The Great Recession, among other things, has seen to that. And all my generation, the Silent Generation, can do is stand by and shrug. Sorry.

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