Approximately 78 million Americans comprise the Baby Boomer demographic. If you are one of the many born after World War II, then you were likely brought up as I was … believing that you had to make sacrifices to get ahead and earn a respectable living.
Our generation was taught from a tender age to place the highest value in family, friends, and community as well as hold honesty, integrity and ethics in high esteem. Those of us who “live the dream” according to Boomer standards consider ourselves ambitious, disciplined, willing to sacrifice and able to conform (if and when we have to). We maintain loyalty to our commitments — often willingly bearing the financial responsibilities of those who came before us and those who come after. We grow concerned as the next generation shapes their own set of values which sometimes appear to contradict that which we’ve been taught.
The values and beliefs of the Baby Boomer generation were handed down to us from our parents, many of whom survived the post-war era and Great Depression. The underlying message became loud and clear, and formed a blueprint for life: If I just work hard enough and long enough, my life will turn out just fine — eventually — and it will all be worth it in the end.
Additionally, for many of us approaching what most would have considered retirement age ten or fifteen years ago, the finish line is nowhere in sight. According to a 2004 survey conducted by AARP, “79 percent of Boomers plan to work in some capacity during their retirement years.” And for good reason — first, because Americans are enjoying longer, healthier lives — seniors are more active than ever before. Second, because the pension pan of the future is reward-based — the longer you can hang in there, the bigger the payout. And third, those of us born after 1960 won’t be entitled to full Social Security benefits until after we turn 67.
You may have your own reasons for choosing to extend your working years. It’s different for each individual but no matter what the situation, clearly Baby Boomers aren’t ready to call it quits just yet. But now the question looms: how to continue experiencing happiness and fulfillment in your personal and professional life well into the Golden Years?
Tips for Boomer Entrepreneurs: enjoy a vibrant second half of your life – and still get your fill of work and play along the way, with these tips:
Start living for the now
Think about this: if we keep sacrificing today in anticipation of some expected gain in the future, we really haven’t started living life at all.
In my case, I dreamed of one day not needing to work and having lots of money when I retired. In other words, I was working hard today with the notion of giving up work in the future. But as I trudged home from the office at 8:00 or 9:00 p.m., I wasn’t really putting too high a value on the future. I was thinking about how things weren’t so great in the now.
I realized that my true vision was to have time to enjoy the things that are most important to me — family, friends, and community. Many Baby Boomers like me have since abandoned the tireless work ethic carried over from their post-WWI parents, recognizing that times and priorities have changed. There is no guarantee as to what the future will hold. Best to take a proactive position and begin living for the present.
Cash flow your life
Initially, retirement was designed for those who reach a point in life at where a person is unable to earn a wage. Somewhere along the way the word ‘early’ became attached to it. Early retirement became a symbol of wealth, power and status. If you are anything like I am, you likely hope to stay healthy enough to have 20, 25, or more working years left in you. Maybe you even feel that in this day and age, you have more energy, ideas, and optimism, as well as experience, maturity, and patience, than at any other time in your life. And in support of that ideal, never before have we faced so many exciting opportunities to do and be what we have always dreamed of for ourselves and our lives.
My current mission, as should be yours, is to cash flow my life so that I can do what’s important to me. I plan to derive continuing happiness and fulfillment in both my personal life – in my relationships with family and friends — and in my professional life — utterly inspired by the people I meet along the way. Such an approach can carry you on through the ‘retirement’ years and grows from learning how to make mindful, conscious decisions about how you invest your money and time.
From there, you can keep your eyes open for opportunities that may mean more financial gain. Using knowledge, experience, and social influence to your advantage, you can even devise creative means of alternate income (example: become an entrepreneur) that may not have been a possibility in your younger years.
Once you master cashflow management, you pretty much have your pick of pursuits. Open your mind to a new course of study … give back in the form of volunteer work or charitable donations … spend more time with family and friends … take on the challenge of starting a business … travel the world over and immerse yourself in other cultures and ways of life. The notion that Boomers are retiring later may falsely convey a sense of impending doom … but for many of us, myself included, the next fifty years are ripe with the promise of adventure, excitement, balance, relaxation, learning, quality relationships, personal growth, and the realization of our dreams.
Stay up to date with technology
Take a computer class … or five. The 2007 season of NBC’s The Office pokes fun at what is actually a pretty major concern in the working world today — young, motivated, recent college grads moving in for the higher-paying positions and rendering the old generation obsolete due to their inability or unwillingness to adapt to modern technology. But the fact is, technology has evolved to a point where four-year olds know that whatever they could possibly want is within grabbing distance of the mouse.
As soon as the Boomers manage to get over their fear of computers, we’ll realize that in terms of technology there’s nothing we can’t master — and we’ve still got the kids beat when it comes to experience. Request a tech training course from your employer. Use the Internet. Get the latest programs onto your home computer and start using them. You won’t believe how many more opportunities can be leveraged with technology on your side.
Maintain your health
There is a ton of information available to those concerned with living longer, healthier lives — and the ways and means to keep yourself feeling young and spry well into the seventies. Things like a good healthcare plan and trusted physician, prescriptions, vitamins, nutritional advice and support, and exercise programs can keep your heart pumping, your bones strong, and your organs in good shape for as many as 15 or 20 years longer than our parents’ generation, who were not privy to the information and didn’t know any better.
And the best part is: being healthy and fit just feels better. It means being able to tackle all the sights, sounds, scents and tastes on that to-do list of Things You Want to Experience in this lifetime. It means keeping up with the young folk and not breaking a sweat. A healthy body also means a fit and able mind. And with all of this working, playing, thinking, feeling and living ahead of us, can we afford to NOT be on High Mental Alert?
Last time I checked, “retire” was another word for ‘withdraw’ or ‘remove from use.’ And I don’t know about you, but at age 47, I’m nowhere near my expiration date.
How are you blending life and work?
* * * * *
About the Author: Husband, Father, Friend, Lifestyle Coach, Author, Educator, and Entrepreneur, David B. Bohl is the creator of Slow Down FAST. For more info go to Slow Down Fast and visit his blog at Slow Down Fast blog.