If your son or daughter, your neighbor, your work mates, your best friend or your spouse kept spending your hard earned cash without your permission, I would bet that you would be more than a little ticked off!
And, if you found out that their out-of-control spending spree had put you $50,000 in debt, I would bet that the phrase ticked off would not even come close to describing your mood.
The question in its most direct form is simply, So, what are you doing since you retired? The assumption here is that once you hit a certain age you are supposed to be kicking back, or riding quietly into the sunset out of sight!
The question drives me crazy.
It is not 1958 anymore. There are no gold watches. Doctors do not make house calls. Gasoline does not cost 18 cents a gallon. My aging automobile in the driveway, when new, cost twice as much as my first house. Life costs a lot!
Who can really retire anymore...at least in the traditional mind set? Retirement does not mean what it used to mean. In fact, I am voting to delete retirement from the dictionary.
Retirement, it seems, is an out of date concept in this hyper spending, fast talking, age of online shopping, web based banking, virtual realities and worlds, unlimited cable television, staggering national debt, $40,000 cars, and airport scanners. Who can possibly use retirement and carefree living in the same sentence?
Today, retirement more often means finding creative ways to re-invent yourself to earn enough money to pay the heating and cooling bills, put a little gas in the tank, cook a burger or two, and keep the Medicare supplemental health insurance current.
Seems that most folks who ask me the question expect me to say something more smiley though. They expect me to focus on something fun like golfing...world traveling...or gardening at the second home.
Here is a flash. I do not golf. Tried it when I was a lot younger and could not understand the attraction to hitting a little ball down a cow pasture then going to fetch it and hit it again...and again....and again...until it finally settles into a little plastic lined hole in the ground. And, doing all that for hours and hours...in a hot summer sun! Nope, golf does not do it for me. I do not have time for it either. I am too busy working.
And, when it comes to travel, think goodness for cut rate airlines, senior discounts and a tolerance for long auto rides. The days of exotic vacations are long gone in our current economy.
And, what about gardening? Well, I hate cutting the grass let alone growing something exotic that will fade soon after it finally looks good! What is the point? I do not have a second home anyway.
If not golf, travel, or gardening, then a lot of the questioners expect me to say that I have parlayed my 45 years in business into a cushy part time gig greeting folks at WalMart....or showing some other clueless male (count me in this club) the newest line of metric sized drill bits at Home Depot. Nope, I do not do that either, although several of my friends do. I would not last a day. I usually guess when it comes to drill bit sizes. Drives my wife crazy when I tackle a project!
Others expect another media appropriate response. If I wanted to be politically correct, then I should say spending more time with the family...you know the grandkids. Not to be a jerk, but my wife and I have done our share of babysitting, diaper changing, teenager wrangling and other assorted tasks along the way. The gig belongs to someone else now. Think our kids are reading this?
Okay, what do I say in response to the question?
Simple, I tell it like it is. I tell them that I am still doing my thing to earn a buck. I remind them that retirement today is not pretty for most senior Americans. Most have returned to the job force in some manner. Most of us need the money to make ends meet. A lot of my friends are doing part time jobs they do not want to do simply because of the shrinking dollar, rising health care costs, and $4 a gallon gasoline.
I am just like them...with one exception. I am lucky enough to be doing something I love to do...and should have done a lot more when I was younger. My wife feels the same way.
I tell those who ask me the question that we are out touring the country playing music for thousands of music loving folks (of all ages) that also love to go to minor league baseball games, community events, and other family friendly affairs. Our retirement is full because we do it the old fashioned way. We take the time to learn the material. We tote the equipment. We perform live without computers and racks of special equipment, and we do it day after day...sometimes seven days a week in the season. We love it....and get paid for it! Music has defined our retirement and what we do to make a dollar.
That makes me wonder why I waited so long to retire!
The expression I get when I give my answer to the retirement question is usually priceless...a cross between shock, bewilderment, disbelief, and a bit of envy. I can almost predict with certainly that this response is coming.
Then I usually explain that retirement to me means doing what you love without having to climb a corporate ladder, attend a whole lot of unneeded meetings, or wear a smock and say welcome to... a thousand times a day. Retirement to me means enjoying life the way that it should be enjoyed while still being productive enough to make enough money to keep the wolf from the door. It means living each day.
Folks usually pause, look away, and then respond with something like, I wish I could do that. I tell them to chart their course. Retirement will get here sooner than they think.
It may not be the same as it was in our parents day, but retirement truly can mean the best time of life. Find your own answer to the question.
Growing up in the 1950's and '60's gave over 60 million Americans a unique perspective...on life, family, expectations, achievement, overcoming, work ethic, respect, politics and just getting along. The viewpoint published in this blog is my personal viewpoint.
I will take a hard look at the way things are today compared to the way things were "back in the day." My opinion may upset some folks along the way, but I promise to tell it like I see it and let the chips fall where they may.
After all, I've been around for over six decades and it is time to share my viewpoint.
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