Stretching across my hammock I’m reminded of the importance of perception. That the U.S. until recently enjoyed unquestioned global dominance. Rivers can provide us answers to our questions. All too often rivers prompt us to ask better questions. Do we need to re-think retirement?
Turning on my side I ask my question directly to the river. What’s changed that I now need to prepare emotionally for retirement? A loud flock of Canadian honkers pass overhead. Hummingbirds fly close to the water, heading upriver. A warm breeze floods the river valley. Many would argue retirement has not really changed, it is not necessary to prepare emotionally just financially.
I disagree. Emotional fronts facing future and current retirees in retirement can at times appear bewildering. Challenging long-held perceptions, economic uncertainty, aging issues, boredom, and caregiving responsibilities are but a few of the many emotional challenges facing retirees at different times in their retirement years.
Many Boomers understand rapidly changing economic paradigms are impacting families all around them. Boomers can’t quite put a finger on it but change has changed. It feels like a different kind of change. Strong emotions race into every phase of life. The baffling rate of change is accelerating. Some Boomers are scared to death of what’s next. Often times they wish they had been born in a different time.
I love being a Baby Boomer. From my perspective there is no better time to have been born. Compared to the depression of 1930’s to World War II in the 1940’s we Boomers have it made in the shade. Being born in the greatest nation in the history of the earth is a stroke of luck.
Of course we don’t know better. Raised in a period of U.S. economic global dominance we see the world a certain way. We expect things to be this one way as our birth right. Boomers benefited greatly from sacrifices made by our parents in World War II. My father was in the Army but rarely told war stories. War was not cool was his message. However because of war America developed an awesome industrial base responsible for incredible prosperity for a very large number of people.
Battles are won with courage, sacrifice and love of country. Wars are won with planning and supplies. Thanks to 24 hour manufacturing shifts here at home and American women entering the workforce the tide turned in our favor.
Our global competitors were digging out of ruble and desperately needed U.S. products to rebuild their war-torn countries. We had natural resources and inexpensive energy. Our war efforts produced advanced technology; we had an excellent transportation infrastructure and educational system.
Anybody could get a job. Hollywood produced a series of films aimed at our collective psyche. The American Dream was a box office hit per the White House. Huge waves of immigrants hit our shores boosting American worker productivity even higher. Increasing the cost of our goods was easy when we were the only game in town. This raised the standard of living in the U.S. dramatically. We were really exceptionally good at making stuff.
Not until the 1970’s did a subtle but significant economic shift occur. Role reversal began. We began buying inexpensive high quality products from our competitors Japan, Germany, and China. Our competitors had rebuilt their economies and begun to turn the tables on us. They worked long and hard to produce high quality products. With access to inexpensive oil and a motivated workforce they became really good at making stuff, lots of it!
We have really only pictured it one way. It’s tough to challenge one’s long held beliefs. The assumptions we grow up with shape our perception. Perception is everything when it comes to emotional well-being. This is the perfect time to re-think and reshape our perception of retirement. It is the perfect time to get some new goals.
Staring intently into crystal clear, braided pocket water, I smile, recalling how yesterday I was getting lost in what I love doing. Tomorrow I will awaken excitedly to the prospect of creatively filling one of my 6,000 blank pages. I understand its human nature to avoid confrontation or change in favor of something more immediately gratifying. Please remember; just as the song says, time keeps on slipping, slipping into the future.