In the beginning, whatever you believe the beginning was, there was no retirement. Whether we are talking about cave man, who scientists say only lived for an average of 20 years, or biblical man, men and women worked and served in their community until they died. In 1883 a German Chancellor named Otto Von Bismark essentially invented retirement. In order to fight off Marxists from influencing his country, he decided to pay anyone over the age of 65 a pension. This not only worked to starve off Marxism, it set a precedent for the age and government subsidy of retirement. In 1935, a generous California business man needed to pay off older workers to get them out of the factories in order to increase production, in response to this President Roosevelt proposed the Social Security Act and the concept and affordability of retirement swept the nation.
When will you retire? The contemplation really bothers me. Maybe because at 44 I do not think that I will ever be financially prepared. After all there is a whole industry who tells me I better get it in gear and give them my money to invest. The biggest reason I am not fondly anticipating retirement is that I will lose the ability to positively influence peoples lives on a daily basis. I realize I do not need a job to do that, but it is convenient to have people around you all day if you like to influence them. Why would anyone stay working after 65 if they did not have to? At 30, these people were in the way of my advancement; c’mon, retire already so I can move up. At 40, as long as they don’t get in my way, I would leverage them to try and glean some wisdom. The notion of retirement has been hitting me recently as something that is inevitable. I am starting to look at the 60 something generation and find myself wanting to know more about them. When they were young kids, there were black and white tv’s, now these same people are face-timing their grandchildren; what amazing change management skills they have had to display in their lives. Has any other single generation in the history of the world been exposed to so much radical technology change?
Being born between 1944 and 1954 this generation had to grow up in a very challenging time in the history of America. When they were entering the workforce, America was facing a social problem that shook the nation to its core. Forget having to read a conference room when you walk in, they had to read a nation. Every time they got on the bus or used a public restroom the issue smacked them in the face. This forced a generation to have an extremely high level of emotional intelligence. This was the last generation to face a draft. The generation of today, the GenX and GenY workforce, while bravely fighting in the middle east, myself included, did not have to face a draft. I volunteered to join the Navy because my life was stuck and I could get some technical training. I didn’t join to fight a war, but in 1990, I knew what was happening in the world and I joined anyway. If you got drafted and were forced to fight, how would you respond? I am not sure how I would respond but I think it would take an exceptional level of courage and fortitude to stand on the line when you didn’t sign up for it but your country asked you anyway.
There is a lot of focus and attention given to the Millennial generation as they start to invade corporate America and change the face of how business is done. I would like to suggest that corporate America make every effort to best take advantage of the 60 somethings and understand that just by living life, they have vast experience with change management, a high level of emotional intelligence, and courage to stand in the gap when they are needed.
I suppose I will retire at some point. I hope I go straight to some awesome volunteer work either at a church or at a hospital or someplace where I can keep displaying the skills I gained in my lifetime. Until then, I am going to pay more attention to a generation that was not raised on XBOX to keep learning how to lead a generation who was.