Telling Lies: During the 1980’s when conspicuous consumption was the flavour of the decade, an insidious marketing slogan saturated our spongy boomer-brains like a pop-culture virus. It promised us freedom from life’s miseries when we arrived at the magic age of fifty-five. We aspired to live like the advertisements and longed to become the beautiful retirees lounging in oceanfront hot-tubs and roaming the golfing green pastures of everlasting fun in the sun. But life is full of Mrs. Cleaver’s sweater-sets and pearls until one day reality comes of age and bites you on your assets.
Reality Check: Now we find ourselves in an ongoing economic downturn where many people are ‘fretting 55’ instead of planning their escape route into nirvana. Like programmed humanoids, we continue to think that if we aren’t rich and free by middle-age, we have failed in our life’s mission to hurry up and do nothing. Get real folks!
Easy Money: In the 1970’s, financial institutions came out of their cash-closets and made it easy for people to borrow money. Since then, credit has been increasingly used to supplement income so we could all buy now and pay later. Years later! And even today, boomers still hold the biggest bag of debt.
Time to Pay: So what are we going to do about it? Stop whining for starters. Stop spending and start living a life we can afford…especially as we age. Debt makes the lenders rich, not the customers. So it’s up to boomers to cut the crap and the plastic.
Empty promises: Exacerbating the whole credit issue is the repository of bare bones left buried in so many savings portfolios. With the downturn in the economy and interest rates, much of our anticipated nest eggs have been cracked open and left to rot in dried up investment pools. If I hear, “You have to think long term,” one more time, I‘ll barf up my worthless stock certificates. It’s the standard line used by investment hounds to keep your hard earned pennies from escaping into the nearest woolen sock.
Taking Charge: So how do we know when it’s time to relax a bit and switch gears? Sometimes we make a conscious choice and sometimes it whacks us up the side of the head. In today’s climate, most people need or want to work after 55. And with the future of our government pension plans up for grabs, and more companies opting out of cushy pension perks, there should be honour in working at whatever we want to for as long as we can.
Arriving Naked: But starting over and exploring new options after decades in the workforce – whether by choice or not – is a scary thing to do. Who are we without our retired job titles, our network of contacts and our social grids? It’s like being reborn at mid-life and arriving naked without a business card. I left the raw-bone stresses of my corporate job for health reasons when I was in my fifties. It wasn’t an easy thing to do, but I plunged into my post-corporate life and reinvented myself to become a writer. I let go and never looked back.
Digging Deep: Finding new ways to live and work can be a daunting experience as we age. But every one of us is standing on a mountain of life experiences. Whether it’s setting out to find a passion we want to follow, or doing an about-face into a new career or volunteer position – it’s all good. We just have to go deep and be fearless.
Anything Goes: Many seniors are taking on jobs in retail and service industries, after years in a professional workforce. Some need the money and some simply need a place to go each day. Either way, if that means slinging java at a coffee shop, becoming a neighborhood crossing guard or doing the meet-and-greet thing at a department store, why the hell not? There’s less stress, simple hours, and at some places – a cool uniform.
Freedom to Choose: Each one of us should have the courage to choose when the time is right to arrive at our various destinations in life – naked or not. Freedom is about living life to the fullest; the good and the bad of it and on our own terms. It’s about choosing our lifestyles wisely and having the courage to simplify when we have to. And it’s about not thinking too hard if we have to back-up to go forward.
Bottom Line: So is there freedom after fifty-five you ask? Damn right there is! It’s all in our head!
See you between the lines and on Twitter @PatSkene
Check out my children’s books at www.pressheretostartpublishing.com