Friday, January 4

Retirement? Why?

I met with a financial advisor the other day and we talked about retirement. He was asking for financial planning reasons, of course, but I'd been thinking about the whys and wherefores of retirement even before I saw this article in The Guardian.

My mom retired around 65, when people are "supposed" to retire. Her husband was already retired and they'd had plans to travel. I'm not sure exactly where things went haywire, but they did and my personal and non-medical opinion is that their lack of engagement in the world around them led to their mental declines. Other than the fact that my stepdad was already retired, I wasn't really sure why Mom chose to retire because she liked her work and she was good at it.

I have a friend who retired early. He could and so he did, though part of his motivation had to do with the potential future status of his pension. He's younger than I by several years and he now spends most of his time putzing. He and a friend bought a cottage and he goes to the cottage every now and then; he helps people around the neighborhood. But he also spends a lot of time alone. 

I have another friend who is countdown mode for her retirement, but I also know how active she and her family are and how active they're likely to continue to be. I'm guessing she'll find plenty of things to keep her occupied.

We know the Boomer population is big and we know the leading edge of Boomers is beginning retirement, and we know that many of them are without sufficient retirement funds which could be part of the reason we keep on working.

We know that work place bias against older folks exists and most of us understand the thinking behind that bias. Even though plenty of us are digital pioneers, those who were also part of the leading edge of creating the ever-expanding digital phenomena of our time, there are far too many who think old people don't know how to use technology or are unable or unwilling to learn. Good grief! Stop that already.

I remember teaching a BOCES class years (and years!) ago to a large group of senior citizens. They had signed up to learn how to use a computer and the basics of word processing, back when Microsoft Word was about the only game in town. The lab was packed and they were all anxiously willing to give this technology thing a go. I will never forget that, or their joy when they figured out how to do something. 

The point is that many older folks can and are willing to learn if someone will be patient enough to help them learn or point them in the right direction. Employers will do well to remember that taking advantage of organizational, industry and/or field experience and knowledge can be powerful. In fact, those who are willing to learn, may be willing to teach though they may have to be coached on how to coach.

I think there could be amazing opportunities for employers with far-reaching and entrepreneurial perspectives of how to improve the work they do and how they do it. It won't be just benefits they'll have to think about adjusting, but how they recruit, hire, onboard, train, retrain, and provide opportunities for growth and transition. Each generation could use a little insight into what seems to be most important to that generation, but we have to be wary of too many generalizations because those just get us into trouble. Like suggesting that people over 65 aren't equipped to use technology or can't adjust to change. Huh.

As for me, well, I like what I do. I could retire in several years, but I don't really see the point if I can continue to do what I do and do it well. Or until I win the lottery, which I rarely play, so it's a safe bet that won't be an option. Like so many, I believe I have more to offer and more to do. And I'm not yet done learning either and there are a few gazillion books I've yet to read. Which reminds me I have to go check on some other online courses and schedule time to finish my chatbot course.