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Generational Baggage

08/29/2012

It’s hard not to think of particular individuals when reading a book about people.  I’ve been reading The New Retirementality by Mitch Anthony, and it is a “must-read” for Baby-Boomers.  It reminds me of the many, many Baby-Boomers I have talked with, who are bitter and disappointed that they will not enjoy the retirement their parents did.  Their parents were usually more frugal but still spent enough to enjoy life.  More importantly, their parents benefited from the times they lived in.  Baby-Boomers feel they have failed personally, when they were really just misled by The Greatest Generation, who lead them to believe a good retirement comes to those who work hard.

For most of mankind’s history, we just got old and died.  Hopefully, we worked to pull our weight until the date of death.  In the early 1900s, sociologists and business academics began writing that workers over the age of  40 (yes, forty) were actual burdens on productivity and could slow down the production lines.  Age discrimination became commonplace, and workers were routinely fired if the production line slowed.

Fortunately, America was a young, growing nation of profitable companies who learned they could attract more-talented workers if they promised to treat the workers better when they got old.  For the rest of the workforce, the less-talented workers, they got what became known as Social Security.

Pension plans became commonplace, especially following World War II, which means they have been commonplace for only 70-75 years in the history of mankind.  Indeed, pension plans became more commonplace for The Greatest Generation but less commonplace for the Baby-Boomers.  Having lost the need for desperate frugality as children of The Greatest Generation, Baby-Boomers are painfully surprised to learn how important frugality was and how corrupted they have been by advertisements to consume.

The book goes on to build a solid case for changing a person’s work skills so they can remain financially productive and useful throughout life.  I strongly recommend it to all Baby-Boomers!

But, throughout the book, I kept thinking about a particular lifelong friend, who is part of The Greatest Generation.  The ONLY thing he ever wanted to do in life was to NOT work.  Apparently, work is bad for people??  Fortunately, he got a job with the Federal government and retired at the tender age of 55.  He is now 89 and making more in retirement than he ever made when he was working.  He has been retired more years than he worked.  I would expect he would pat himself on the back for “beating the system” or getting a sweet deal.

Instead, he feels like a victim . . . because he worked at all.  Maybe, he remembers early sociologists who said a worker was “over-the-hill” at an early age.  Maybe, he remembers World War II, even though he never saw combat.  Maybe, he believed all the assumptions of Tom Brokaw’s The Greatest Generation.  Or, maybe, he just had a depressive personality-type.  I don’t know, but it is sad to see a person live so long with such good fortune and still feel sorry for himself.  As a boy, I was taught that “idle hands are the Devil’s tools.”  So is idle time, and I strongly believe that is a huge problem in retirement.

Read The New Retirementality, stop feeling like a failure, get off your butt, and make a plan!

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