Isn’t it interesting how childhood experiences color our lives? For decades I thought that retirement would mean not only slowing down, but also relinquishing my lifestyle. Mostly, I feared that I would lose the ability to laugh.
When I was a child, my grandparents came to live with our family on the farm in eastern Washington. My parents, aunts, and uncles banded together to build a comfortable bungalow for Grandma and Grandpa. It was the family expectation that as my grandparents aged and advanced to retirement years that they would live with us.
Once the new home was readied, they left their homestead on the plains of North Dakota, saying goodbye to all their lifelong friends and community ties. Grandma and Grandpa quickly placed tap roots into our community. Grandpa worked daily around the farmyard, raising chickens and tending the flower garden. Grandma knitted, baked scones and cookies daily, served afternoon tea to anyone interested, and read the bible in her rocking chair. Every Sunday they dressed up in their very best and we all went to church, taking up a whole family pew. To a young child, the routine and special attention from my grandparents was ideal.
In my youth and naivety, I believed they were perfectly happy. And yet, I clearly remember: Grandpa David and Grandma Jessie never laughed out loud. Never.
And so my expectation was that as I aged, my life would change. My roots would be pulled up, I would leave my friends, and would spend the golden years tending a garden, knitting, reading….
Ha! What a pleasant realization it was that the retirement model of former generations has changed. Now there are more choices. Retirement can be as active or as quiet as you choose. For those of us more free-spirited types, we can keep working or stay active in any number of creative ways.
Of course, every situation is different, and the caveat for this scenario is that we stay healthy and capable of being independent. Surveys indicate that Baby Boomers expect to stay active and work longer than former generations. The line defining retirement has become blurred.
What if we decide, driven by creative choice or financial necessity, to stay in the work force? There are many options to consider, among them: Stay with current job; change career; schedule flexible hours/days; work substitute and temp jobs.
Stay with current job:
There can be comfort working in a job that is familiar. If it is enjoyable, satisfying, and has good benefits (including lots of vacation days), there is good reason to stay with the program.
A friend of mine was sitting in the middle of freeway gridlock, when he decided, at the age of 51, that he was going to change careers. Sold his house, packed up his family, and moved to the coast. Bought a small business that he knew nothing about. Business went bust; they started another business. Ten years later, with the support of his wife, they now are earning enough to live on, ride their bicycles to work, and would never consider returning to the big city and freeway gridlock.
Schedule flexible work hours/days:
This requires a little research to find the right opportunity. Sometimes job sharing will be advertised in the newspapers and on-line job websites. More frequently, it is a matter of networking and asking employers if they are interested in hiring someone with a wealth of experience in return for negotiating the work schedule.
Also, current – and wise – employers often do not want to lose a good experienced employee, and are willing to restructure a schedule in order for the employee to ease into retirement.
Work substitute and temp jobs:
A high school classmate of mine always wanted to be a teacher. She and her husband started teaching jobs at the same high school straight out of college. They planned their retirement for years. When they finally did, they both immediately signed up as substitute teachers with the same school district. Now they choose their work schedule and still have plenty of time for traveling.
Temp agencies are always looking for reliable, qualified employees to send out as temps. As a temp, jobs can be worked into personal plans, and fully active temps can earn benefits and pick their work sites. Often, an employer will hire from the temp pool, which is perfect opportunity to scout employers when looking for a more permanent work situation.
There are many options to consider, ranging from full-time labor to part-time volunteer work. The point is that, as a group, Baby Boomers are unique. There are many decisions, choices and responsibilities for us to face as we march into our retirement years. Important among the questions of our lives is determining whether to work or not to work. Just being able to put that on my plate fills me with laughter and happiness.