How to Navigate the Not-So-Golden Years

Many of us spent years waking up at 6 a.m. to be at a job we found depleting. If we are to work for years to come, let's make it work on our terms.

by Liz Kitchens • More.com Member { View Profile }
Photograph: iStock

Since I'm a Boomer who is trying her hat at various creative entrepreneurial endeavors, I read with interest an article in Sunday's New York Times written by Harvard economist Edward Glaeser. The article was entitled “Goodbye Golden Years,” a title sure to elicit fear in those of us hoping to retire at some point during the next 10 years or so. And Glaeser did not disappoint. The article was filled with statements and statistics such as the following: "Retirement seems out of the question for increasing numbers of Americans who are saddled with debt and whose savings evaporated during the recent bust." And: "Many older workers keep working because they feel they can't afford not to. Nearly 40 percent of 55- to 64-year-olds don't have retirement accounts. The median net worth of this age group is now $254,000.  Americans save less than 4 percent of their income; thrifty Germans save 10 percent. A nation that prefers spending to saving is going to find it difficult to enjoy a comfortable retirement."

He goes on to talk about our parent's generation — the silent generation (those born during the great depression and WWII) and the GI Generation. According to Glaeser, 47 percent of +65ers were in the labor force in 1949; by 1993 that number had shrunk to 16 percent. Our parents enjoyed a retirement scenario unprecedented in our history, and one that may not be available to us. Potentially depressing thoughts, I would agree, but don't despair. Did we ever really envision ourselves just playing golf or bridge four days a week? O.K., so maybe one or two days a week. We are the Baby Boom Generation! We strive for meaning in our lives, whether that meaning takes the form of career opportunities or social causes. 

I can't imagine not being productive, not contributing, not making my own money.  Glaeser suggests America needs more entrepreneurship, and we are at a juncture in our lives to provide it. West Palm beach, a retiree haven, has the highest self-employment rate of any metropolitan area in the nation; consistent with other areas in the country attracting older Americans. Self-employment makes sense because it allows for more control over working hours and conditions. And our generation loves control.

Many of us have spent years waking up at 6 a.m. to be at a job we found depleting. If we are to work for years to come, let's make it work on our terms. Here are a few suggestions.

— If we want to enjoy a high quality of life from now until 90, exercise is a critical component. If you have not already done so, it's time to develop an exercise plan; join a YMCA or other gym; walk or ride a bike. Rather than having to fit your exercise schedule into your work schedule; however, allow your work endeavors to accommodate your exercise schedule so you don't have to be going to the gym at 5:30 in the morning.

— Choose an enterprise that fits your circadian rhythm (internal clock) and one that allows you to rise and go to bed at a time best suited for you.

— Delve into your psyche through journaling or quiet reflections; explore what you have a passion for. You may want to undergo a personality assessment to discover a field that suits you.

— Make it fun. We are the generation who invented rock and roll. We like to have fun. Now is your chance. Happy planning!

What’s your reaction?