Saturday, June 15, 2013

Encore My Ass

I’m getting awfully tired of all these articles about aging boomers reinventing their lives and starting “encore” careers. Everyone from life coaches to financial advisors has advice on what boomers should do with the rest of their lives.

How about nothing? Does that work for you? How about we sleep late, do the crossword puzzle, surf the internet, make lunch, take a nap, go out for dinner, watch a movie and go to bed early? Is that so wrong?

Why must we have a Second Act? You never heard of one-act plays? This concept of reinvention implies that we were no good the first time around so it’s incumbent upon us to do something better now that we’re ready to retire. I think it’s great that the banker now wants to be a teacher. In fact, I wish he was never a banker in the first place, but that’s another story. Good on you if you’ve decided to start a new, small business after 40 years of working for someone else’s business.

Let’s just keep in mind that it’s a choice, not a requirement. No one should think less of you if you just loll around the house all day eating Oreos, instead of caring for orphans, feeding the homeless, and finally learning to play the guitar (and play in a boomer band).

I’m trying to understand what’s driving this whole self-improvement, second act phenomenon. At first glance, it looks like baby boomers doing what they always do (at least according to sociologists). We’re so self-centered we need to find the next chapter in our amazing journey through boomerdom. We are supposed to be the “me generation” (although every generation after us has earned that label as well), so it’s all about us figuring out what do next with our lives.

Or maybe it’s just the fact that an 800 pound generational gorilla attracts a lot of attention from people who want to make money off of us. 76+ million boomers is a great target if you have something to sell. Perhaps it’s all about getting us to volunteer at the soup kitchen, drive the school bus, and launch a start-up business that needs a lawyer and an accountant.

Are there many boomers out there who want to reinvent themselves but have to keep working so that have adequate savings for retirement? A MetLife report that surveyed boomers born in 1946 finds that 21% are still employed full-time. Most of them plan to retire at age 69 or 70.

I’m not feeling a particularly strong drive to reinvent myself. It’s more about what I don’t want to be…and that’s easy – a Walmart greeter.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

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