The word retirement means “confusion” to me. The first thought I had when I realized I am retired was, “What do I do now?” You see, I didn’t pick a date and then retire on that date. My retirement came to me as a process.
I had my 60th birthday without much fanfare. Of course, I had cake and ice cream because that is the best reason to have a birthday. I was working as a Clinical Social Worker in an Outpatient Mental Health Clinic. A very good Mental Health Clinic which focused on what the client’s needs were to live the best life that they could. Most of the clients had long term mental illness, the very worst kind, so day to day life was a challenge without many joys. We tried to give the clients a few laughs and joyful moments as well as good medical care. I continued to work with this agency for two more years before I had to leave.
My husband received word that the company he worked for, and still does, was bought by another company. You know, big fish eats little fish. We were being transferred to
We were very happy to be here in
I called the office of the Secretary of State to make an appointment with the Board of Commissioners for Social Work. I gathered all of my documents and headed on down to
I was taken downstairs to an office without any furnishings except for long grey tables and folding chairs. Sure enough, two members of the Board were eating from brown bags. I explained my case. The part these Board members didn’t understand or ask about earlier was: how did I received my Bachelor’s Degree in 1996 and Masters in 1997 (both with honors) and take my exam for a license to be a Clinical Social Worker in 1998? After all, you are a lot older than most of our applicants. The answer is I returned to college when I was in my late 40’s early 50’s. I was 56 years old when I received my Clinical License. Ohhhhh, we see! This response was followed by, “You know we get so many strange applications we just have to be careful.”
Two months later I received my license to practice Clinical Social Work in
Every job offer had a “But” attached. Some jobs were in offices that didn’t have all the trained staff they were supposed to have. I would be hired as the person with the credentials to do the work they were doing with a less expensive staff. The insurance companies and federal government rarely check to see if all the staff being paid is properly trained to do the job they are being paid to do.
Then there is the religious connection. I totally believe a faith in some supreme being is part of good mental health. I don’t believe the supreme being you worship is punishing you for your sins by giving you mental illness.
Another “But” was the group who was forming a federally funded mental health group to help the poor, and those lacking insurance coverage. I was told my goal should be to see at least 60 clients each week to keep the bottom line strong enough to pay my salary and keep the project in the black. Seeing 60 clients in a week is a rare event for a therapist. I asked the interviewer how he thought that could be accomplished. His response was, “Just go to a nursing home or something like that; one that receives federal funds.” “Go down the halls and pop your head into the door and ask how the person is doing.” “If the person says anything to you, charge the facility for the visit.”
For two years I went to interviews like the above just waiting for the “But” and yet hoping this time I wouldn’t hear an idea of how to bend or break the laws or behave in an unethical manner. Then one day I realized that I was retired. Like it or not, I wasn’t working in social work. I was a part time substitute teacher for the schools in my County and earned only enough money to pay for the gas to get to the schools.
My husband is still working for the company that transferred him down here. He would like to retire but we had planned that our house would be paid off with the help of my income. I am 69 years old now and I haven’t had an income to amount to anything since 2004. I did take my Social Security after living here for a couple of years. I didn’t like
the idea because I felt I was giving up.
Then the financial meltdown came beginning in 2008. The investments we had were going down the toilet, especially the banks we had invested in. The banks were bailed out but we as individuals weren’t. The outcome from the game Wall Street played with our money has increased our confusion. How long will my husband have to work to try to regain some of what was lost? Plan B was going to be pay our house off with investment money. Not a great idea now!
Retirement is confusing. What are the rules? Were there rules? Did I miss this chapter in Gail Sheehy’s PASSAGES? Who do you go to for honest answers to the questions we have? Is that person trying to improve his bottom line or is he/she giving us good advice or information? Gee, I can’t say I even trust making funeral plans right now. I’m not planning on dying anytime soon, but remember, I didn’t plan on retiring either. The death part is a certainty in this picture but I missed the rules on that item too. What about our Congress? Do they think we should all just dry up and blow away rather than solve some of our problems? Maybe they are confused too because they are acting like it was a surprise when all of us started to retire. AARP thinks we should get “Everything we deserve.” What does that mean?
I didn’t take a job that would require me to cheat or lie. I don’t want government handouts that I would have to cheat or lie to get. I want honesty to return to the picture. Have a good bottom line in your business but earn it honestly. Take care of the elderly who need help and the young who are ill but do it with honesty. Advertise your new products with gusto. Just be honest, and don’t create another problem with your new product (do you hear me plastic water bottles manufacturers?)
If we read our history, hubris and greed have always been the downfall of a society. I have to say I have reached the age of retirement and I have been cheated, lied to, stolen from, and mismanaged in so many ways, big and little I am stunned when I look back at the pattern.
Perhaps retirement is a large group of people who go out with class. I mean, we show our society that we still have ethics we can be proud of, we don’t suffer liars gladly, we demand honesty and integrity in everything that touches our lives. We hold up our heads and speak out for honesty when we are out in our world. We show respect for people and their property. Just maybe the rest of society will catch on before they get so caught up in their greed and hubris that they self destruct. At that point, if there is a rule book about retirement, the book gets thrown out. Nothing will help the next large group of retiring individuals.