Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Geezers keep on chugging along

I just did a quick mental inventory of my same-age friends (mid late-sixties), and I find that most of them are retired. A number that just increased by one when a friend whose career was in high-end retail decided to start cashing in the kabillion frequent flyer miles she acquired jetting off to NY-Paris-Milan fashion weeks all these years. Those still working are generally, like me, working part-time: a retired judge is working at her husband’s law firm; a retired medical social worker is now teaching college. The two friends who come to mind that I know are still full-time full-time are a partner in a big Boston law firm, and someone who is in business with her husband.

Most of my geezer buddies are just chillaxing: volunteering, traveling, playing with the grandkids, reading, writing, coloring, hanging loose…

I go back and forth on when to really and truly retire. It will probably be when people stop asking me to do projects for them. I’ve never marketed myself or my services, and I’m not about to start now, thank you. If they keep asking, I’m sure I’ll keep saying ‘yes.’ It gives me something to do, and keeps my hands out of the 401K cookie jar. (Maybe if I’d been shrewd enough to ever work any place that had a pension, I might feel differently…) Mostly, though, my work is interesting and entertaining, and I have wonderful clients. So why not keep working? (Of course, if and when I stop working, I guess I’ll have to start getting serious about what I’m going to with my life, something I’ve been successfully dodging for 60+ years.)

Turns out that, when it comes to working, there are plenty of us out there. And – get this – some companies are actually instituting plans to keep near-retirees working part time as they transition to retirement. At Steelcase out in Michigan, an electrician named David Warsen, who – when he hits 65 in February, will be among 10,000 fellow-boomers to do so that day -  has eased out of six-day-a-week work schedule and into 30 hours over four days.

“It’s a win-win because he has vast experience and skills we’re short on and need to teach younger workers, and he doesn’t have to go cold turkey into retirement,” says Steve Kempker, manager of skilled trades at the plant, where a quarter of the 800 workers will be eligible to retire over the next three to five years. “This gives me an opportunity to slow down from a very intense work schedule,” says Warsen, who’s spending more time golfing and biking, “so I can get used to my next chapter.” (Source: Bloomberg)

Steelcase is just one of the fourteen percent of US companies offering some sort of phased retirement program.

Part of it is the fact that the boomers do have some expertise and experience:

“There’s a need for more companies to do this if they want to preserve their best practices, innovations, and customer relations,” says Paul Irving, chairman of the Milken Institute Center for the Future of Aging. “And there’s receptivity among older workers, a majority of whom want to stay engaged and keep working, but in new ways.”

Glad to see that some people and companies – oh, I forgot: companies are people, too – still appreciate us geezers. Most of what I read w.r.t. my generation is vituperative nonsense spewed out in troll-ish online comments. You know, the comments in which we’re blamed for ruining the world, selfishly hogging all the resources, brutally sucking out all the oxygen out of every room we enter, ruining the world, etc. (Unfortunately, when I look at the three boomer presidents – Bill Clinton, George W, and Voldemort – we really don’t have a ton to point to with pride now, do we? And what little we have had will shrivel up completely once the Narcissist in Chief takes over come January. I really don’t mind that Bill and W are part of my generation – them I both get – but I really do wish The Coming had been born in 1945…)

Anyway, this geezer is happy to just keep chugging along – at least for the time being. I know that I’m fortunate. I do have some friends who would like to be working, but haven’t been able to find work. (High tech marketing isn’t exactly a garden of earthly delights for those who hope to be productively and gracefully aging.)

But when it comes to keeping on keeping on, it looks like I’ll have plenty of company, thanks to the enlightened – if that’s the right word – practices at some US companies who recognize a good thing when they see it.

Now this geezer has to chug off to work: couple of things due today and tomorrow…


Frederick Wright said...

Granted, I am only fifty so my perspective is a little different, but I really don't look forward to 'retirement' in the conventional sense. My work has been one of the most satisfying aspects of my life since I was fourteen years old, writing advanced database code while finishing my second year of college. It's not like I'm mining coal. I get to be surrounded by smart, funny, warm, confident guys all the time. The younger ones stimulate me to stay active and current, and the older ones help me pace myself. I'd be miserable if I were forced to hang out at home all day, and my spouse would probably be even more miserable!

Maureen Rogers said...

Frederick - I feel much the same way. One of the reasons I do like continuing to work is being around "smart, funy, warm" people - even though, as a freelancer, I'm not spending my day with them. Last week, I went to the holiday event held by a local client. We went to one of those "escape from jai" places, which was surprisingly fun, then out for drinks and a Yankee Swap.

As you say, it's as if we're mining coal! So why not keep at it?