The language around the wave of retiring boomers seems to become ever more alarmist. I’ve written before about the ‘silver tsunami’ and I won’t be surprised if we are soon described as hordes rather than as the particular age cohort we happen to be.
A recent spate of news stories talks about the fact that there will be fewer young people in the work force as more boomers retire, because of course there are fewer of them. I can see there might be a concern on the part of governments that their tax base is shrinking.
What I can’t stomach is the fact that this is being touted as though these young folks are going to be solely responsible for paying the tab for their aging elders.
What? Did we never pay taxes? As a cohort did we not pay monumental amounts of taxes into government coffers for 40 or more years? Is all that tax money gone?
Did nobody think that the boomer cohort was an anomaly due to a particular set of historic circumstances and that once we left the work force the tax base would shrink to a more realistic size? Does nobody think ahead?
To now constantly put before already overburdened young folk the supposed fact that they will be ‘paying’ for their elders is a disastrous recipe for generational conflict. It’s not true in the first place. In the second place, in whose interest is it to keep pounding away at this false story. What is each generation being set up for?
I don’t have any answers to these questions that I like the look of.
It is something we all need to discuss–to make the facts clear and make certain we do not fall into the trap of generational conflict, because then we’ll all lose.
Recently I was asked how I was enjoying retirement. I looked at the woman asking the question like she had two heads. What? Me? Retired? No way. I’m not nearly ready to retire, nor, in my head am I old enough.
And then there’s: what do I retire from? Can I retire from underemployment or unemployment? Does that qualify?
I have never had retirement as a goal. The things I do that are not job related are things I have no intention of retiring from. Why would I retire from reading? Or spinning wool, or cooking, or knitting baby gifts? Shall I retire from going for coffee with friends? From being a summer tourist in several charming local towns?
I see the concept of retirement as one where a wage slave is finally released from the daily grind after 40 some years of relentless work. Retirement means in that context that you are now able to do all the things you wished you’d had time or energy to do during your working life.
My working life is creative and includes writing, speaking gigs, artisan weaver, spinner, knitter and watercolour painter. These are not the sort of things one needs to retire from. I have rarely been a wage slave, and also true, I’ve earned very little money over the course of my adult life. If anything, I’m retiring to–to a guaranteed annual income, however tiny it will be.
One of things I natter on to older adults about is that we all need to have things to retire to–it doesn’t matter what that is as long as you are passionate about it. I strongly recommend that it involve handwork of some sort.
Don’t wait until you are 70 to engage in a new interest or handcraft–start well before you retire from. You may need to buy tools and supplies while you are still working. I bought a spinning wheel in my fifties and have a lovely fleece stash. There’s the last of my looms waiting and a not so shabby knitting yarn stash as well as a nice supply of watercolour papers.
So, what will you retire to?