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.


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  1. Norm | Reply

    Retirement – Some Personal Thoughts

    I intend to live a long life (“the power of positive thinking”), and though I expect my lifestyle to become more frugal during retirement, the longer I work, the better my financial situation in retirement should be. Right now, I am still considering working until 70.

    The Child is Father to the Man: The First TV Generation.

    I was born in January 1951. I grew up somewhat in parallel with TV. “The Lone Ranger”, “The Three Stooges” and “Burns and Allen” are some of my earliest memories. These TV shows helped form who I am today.

    “The Lone Ranger” set the example of doing good and not hanging around to be thanked (which is possibly why I don’t seek out or greatly value public “thank-you’s”). “The Three Stooges” gave me an appreciation for the absurd, and “Burns and Allen” provided a model for stepping out of the moment to reflect on events – “the examined life”.

    Generational membership is a very broad brush which colors unevenly but does seem to leave a tint on many of those it touches. My most formative decade was the sixties: a time of civil unrest, assassinations, an unpopular and morally questionable war, and an emerging counter culture. Many established social conventions seemed ill-advised or outright wrong. Among a large number of young people of that time common refrains were “question authority” and “drop out”.

    I believe this attitude helped rekindle a belief in and appreciation of the well-rooted American traits of self-reliance and individualism. Many of us, in our youthful and naive arrogance, considered our generation would be the one to break with history and usher in a new age of enlightenment, understanding, and compassion. As might have been expected, time proved that transcendent change rarely occurs as a lightning bolt. Instead change, although it sometimes can be dramatic and quick, most often occurs gradually like a river grinding its course through a rocky outcrop.

    I am proud to be a member of the “Sixties” generation, and as I settle into “old-man” status, I welcome opportunities to relate the history I have seen and share the opinions I’ve formed.

    Here are a few thoughts that I attempt to convey as I try to guide and mentor those younger than I.

    Rarely is something truly a crisis. There may be an urgent need to address an issue, but we are always best served if we can take time to consider our actions.

    People are emotional beings, and emotion often holds sway over reasoned, considered thought. Respect emotions; they are real.

    We are all less than perfect. We need to be generous and forgive others and ourselves for occasional transgressions, but do not allow others to take repeated advantage of us.

    Uniqueness in a fundamental sense is not a common occurrence. Uniqueness is most often limited to details which do not greatly impact the nature of a solution. The problems we encounter on a daily basis, almost without exception, have great commonality with other problems we have or will encounter.


    Though it is true that my generation has seen a great deal of change, I doubt that the pace of change will dramatically decrease anytime soon; innovation has a tendency to spur additional innovation. Coping with change seems to me to be a skill that grows in importance with each passing decade.

    One downside of rapid change is that everything becomes imbued with a sense of transience – nothing seems permanent. It is hard to stay grounded when everything is constantly shifting. Assigning value and attributing worth becomes challenging. I think more recent generations are experiencing this much more than my generation.

    It is easy to romanticize the past, to look back at what is no more – “those were the days”. I believe every generation has done this and will continue to do this. But there was no magic in the past, no periods of idyllic paradise. Every generation suffers, agonizes, and hopes.

    I reject the notion that generational differences are in any way fundamental. It is true that times are different and specific concerns have changed, but I believe emotional response to family, work, life in general has not changed in any significant way. It is a mistake to view different generations as the “other”.

    Age often does bring a developed sense of how things should be. Young leaders are often rash, and sometimes that does win the day, but many times not. Mature leaders, of any age, have a degree of confidence in their ability to handle situations – they have seen something similar before. Based on their experience, they can say of most nearly any event, “this too shall pass”. This seems to me the true wisdom of age.


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