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The messages we get from society are loud and clear. At your age you should not try to run a marathon. You should use a walker, drive a tiny car or take the seniors’ bus. Maybe you should just stay home and get Senior Meals. Why are you working at your age? Don’t you know young people need that job?
A lot of the ideas about what we ought to do at our age comes from old data. Back in the early grades we learned from Dick and Jane, who had white-haired grandparents on a farm. Back then people in their fifties and sixties looked older than we do, as a group.
They generally did more physical work than we did. Thus the cracks about needing walkers and canes–if you’d worked in heavy industry for 40 years, likely your back would be shot too. And various other workplace hazards that got fixed for us left our grandparents worse off in other ways, so maybe they did stay home more and do less in retirement for medical reasons.
They also weren’t expected to live as long as we will. They retired at 65 with a full pension that only had to carry the longer-lived ones twenty years or so.
Now we are expected to be wise enough to not only save but also invest well to fund our own retirements. And we might have to cover 30 years or more. That’s preposterous. They started up IRAs and all those things only after I started adulting.
Maybe that worked out for those of you who decided wisely to become stockbrokers. But for a lot of us, this was a losing proposition. I for one had no more clue than a cocker spaniel about how to manage an IRA. So I did my best and got slow growth for years.
Part of the problem was that this was new, and employers didn’t know any more than we employees did. One employer set up a 403(b) for us that invested only in an annuity. Another money loser. Finally the CEO’s secretary quit doing human resources on the side and we got a real plan with mutual funds.
Of course, wages weren’t growing and lots of us had kids going to college and homes to pay for. So borrowing on the retirement plans happened. That shut down growth even more for those who did. We won’t even talk about the Great Recession.
So maybe most of us don’t look like financial geniuses. Maybe all of us aren’t going to retire on a cool million. At our age we can truly say we did the best we could. Our grandparents made it look easy back when. It isn’t any more.
Our lifestyle getting here
Our careers were not as muscle-dependent as those of our forebears. More of us worked in offices. Those who didn’t had more regulations and technology to ease the physical burden of work to some extent. Fewer workplace injuries and better rehabilitation had an effect.
For many, the lack of physical labor left energy to spend getting fit. The rest of us fought the Battle of the Bulge, sometimes over and over. But whatever, we were well vaccinated, well fed, and our medical care kept improving. Even with more people afflicted with Type II diabetes, our generation can expect to include a record number of centenarians.
At your age
So at your age you have your health, you have whatever wealth you’ve amassed, and you still have dreams.
You may dream of going to space. Why not? John Glenn did in his seventies. All it seems to take is money. Or you might settle for parachuting in Zephyrhills, Florida. You might try flying in a glider instead. Or take a helicopter or balloon ride. The sky’s the limit at your age.
At your age you could start a business, or maybe a nonprofit to fix a problem in your community. You might take up the ministry. If you would rather volunteer, you could join the Peace Corps or stay close to home working in a thrift store.
Some of us need an income and will work. But at your age you may only need a part time job to pad out the budget. And anyway, a job gives you a place to go and people to see. Something you need anyway.
Location, location, location
Speaking of places to go, some will travel. Perhaps you’ll buy an RV and see the USA by road. Maybe you’ll jet off to Rio or Paris or Penang to have fabulous times in foreign places. A select few will get a boat and sail around the globe. At your age there’s a lot of world still to see.
Still others will choose to live in a new place, one they’ve dreamed of. What about a place on or near a beach? A nice little place with palm trees and sunsets over the water and no snow. Why not a log cabin in the woods instead? A condo near the grandchildren has its merits. At your age you have a pretty good idea of where you want to be.
Because at your age you have been through over half a century of life. You’ve learned a great deal, and you’ve dreamed a great deal too. In retirement, you’ll have choices your grandparents never thought of when they were your age. Some fun, others not, but here you are, and at your age, you have tons of possibilities.
What can you do, at your age?