For years I have been kinda perplexed with this idea that the goal in life is the pursuit of “living the good life”. I am not sure how that is defined, to be quite honest. Generally speaking the phrase is used to make retirement all the more attractive to us Boomers. I mean, all those ads showing happy older folks (I’m still in denial of using that to describe my own position in society) in some form of geriatric ecstacy for moving into a retirement community somehow don’t titillate me.
You see all those images of agile older folks in active pursuits like riding bikes, jogging, playing golf, boating…
…and then relaxing on the beach. The beach is apparently the focus of living the good life; the icon of everything a healthy retirement couple would want out of life. Beach images galore; walking older people… no limping gaits, no wheelchairs, no mobility carts outfitted for sand use, no cares in the world.
l am guessing that there are people like this that do exist in the world, given all the billions that live on this rock. But are they the average reality in life? I think not. If nothing else, just drive through a retirement community a see for yourself the hobbling about that goes on there and myriad models of mobility scooters scootering about (and those are the folks you can see that are able to go outside). I dunno about you, but I am of the vast wasteland of Boomers that have done little toward saving for my retirement years. I opted for using the money when it made a difference while I was still young to enjoy it with my family. But I am here to also tell you that having the money nestegg to retire is only a part of the picture. There are two other major considerations… health and attitude.
Health is a huge issue with Boomers, as it has been with aging folks since the beginning of time. The last couple years my own health has begun to change; Type II is beginning to take effect in my feet… there’s some arthritis also in my feet and now becoming a part of my knees, forcing me to limp more to shake off the affects. In spite of my average oral hygiene attempts over the years, my teeth need a load of attention as they are no longer the pride of my smile that my mother loved when her and dad paid for those orthodontic braces back when I was 14. Things need pulling, filling, cleaning… and what’s left after all the spewing saliva settles will likely be nothing left for chewing. At that point wondering about some sort of living the good life will be overshadowed by wondering how I will pay for being able to chew food properly. I am sure if there are any Boomers reading this you can insert your own health concerns and maladies that might tend to question your ability to “live the good life” in your future as well.
The other major consideration not reflected in all that “living the good life”… crap… is mental attitude toward retirement. I am not trying to genderize or be sexist here… but culture being what it is, most wives tend to look forward toward retirement; being able to spend more time with hubby, the kids and grandkids. Very true, many women who have actively worked, especially with a career, will find some mental adjustments difficult to accept as us guys do. Take a look at those photos above showing the happpy couples. How many older folks do you know who even dress that way? To me those are “country club” styles of dress. Those people depicted in the photos are all slender… no obesity in their lives (makes me wonder why they even have grey hair; why not just color it to make themselves look younger).
Let’s presume those men in the photos who look the part of having been in career management in some form or another, actually were. I personally know of NO management professional that looks longingly toward retirement. A successful manager got to be just that because it is in his (or her’s) blood. Working long hours as an entrepreneur or CEO or COO is part and parcel to living. In fact… with many of “us” (I include me), “living the good life” was when we were the most productive… walking the halls of power, commanding respect in our own little worlds, and showing the fruits of our management prowess and labors. Do you honestly think retirement will be a substitute for all that? So right off the bat there’s some attitude adjustment needed before someone like that begins to look like the guys in the pictures in this post.
On the other hand… there are also guys who enjoyed working at their own level in other careers who would find the somewhat bland and unstimulating life of retirement to also be just as unfullfilling. Craftsmen and tradesmen who worked with their hands creating the world in which we live.. don’t readily accept becoming idle either. Yes.. there are many guys who truly look forward toward retirement for various reasons. My ex-father-in-law retired from the United Steel Workers in the Chicago area having looked forward toward retirement for literally decades (as I recalled his dream stories about what he was going to do over the years). Two years after he retired he died. In the other vein… an uncle of mine (who was the icon for what I wanted to be in business), retired and moved into a retirement community into his own condo in Florida, and became a member of the local condo association. He would often lament about the conflict of egos being so great at the meetings because all the people there were retired executives who never usually got challenged in their former fiefdoms, whose decisions were usually final, who commanded respect, and who were living in the past regarding their authority. Reaching an agreement was very difficult. Likely all these fellows were not totally happy in retirement, and that’s my point.
Personally, I don’t see retirement as any sort of a “good thing”. It’s just there and we have to deal with it. Even if I won the lottery tomorrow, while I might have no monetary worries, that will not assure I would be happy and most assuredly it will not make me any more or less healthy as that will always remain an unknown. Being retired might give me some time to conjure up a bucket list but I am no where near wanting to make a bucket list motivated by a “before I die” attitude. To me, if I haven’t already done it then maybe it wasn’t important enough for me to do to begin with.
If “living the good life” is some measure of stating one’s own financial independence then I am likely to finish life not having lived that good life. On the other hand, if “living the good life” means just that… well, maybe I have already…. and as long as I can still breath I am still living it. Retirement is just another bump in the road and not a means to an end.
As I am writing this CNN is reporting that as of right now 49% of Americans are not saving for retirement… and 56% of 18-34 year olds are not saving. Financial gurus are spouting doom & gloom when these folks reach retirement age unless they change their ways. Money is only one third of the problem. Maybe sink the national resources into making us live longer.. and stay in the workplace longer… to produce longer. Since I’ve crossed the 60 years old mark getting a job is next to impossible. How about changing that.