I have friends counting the months till retirement, and others who cringe at the word. The former group have lists of projects put off till this day, the latter love what they do so want to keep at it, or need to augment or replace savings.
Others were laid off and are now involuntarily retired as jobs remain few for the post-60 woman.
A post by the theologian and writer Matthew Fox explores the opportunity that comes at this point in life; playing with changing "retirement" to "refirement". The full post is here. Though aimed at retirees, many of his questions are also relevant for those in late career.
Fox's questions address contribution and engagement. Some I could answer readily, others I'm sitting with.
1. What is getting you angry and stirring you up? Is it education? Ecology? Homelessness? Low voter turnout? Organize or join others in the struggle.
2. What do you most cherish in life? How can you get another generation excited about that and involved?
3. What fire do you sense in the young people you know? How can
you join forces and contribute to their passion and concern?
4. What books do you read or speakers do you listen to who stir
some fire inside you? How can you share that fire with others?
5. Some fire is cool (blue) and some fire is hot (orange, red). What are the cool fires burning in you? How can you stoke them to a
fuller heat and involve others in your interest?
6. Creativity is a fire. How are you being creative? What art forms are you expressing yourself through these days?
7. What are your talents and what is your experience in life that might be
valuable to others, especially the young? How can you take this to them and
join them in their journey of self discovery and community building?
8. In what ways are you an elder and not just a ‘retired person’?
9. Have you found a young person (or persons) to mentor lately? Go for it!
The wedding photo of my in-laws, who just celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary at a buoyant family party, reminds me of Fox's list.
They have been models of giving to their family and to the town in which they've spent all those years: the uncountable hours of volunteer work, the devoted attention to family (including a family friend who was an "adopted daughter"), a home filled with art and good cooking, books and late-night talks. Now in their 80s, they can look back on a life of service, love and prudent decisions, and plenty of fun.
They also represent a life many now say is a closed chapter: a hardworking father and stay-at-home mother, a rock-solid, defined government pension after decades of service with one employer.
The new reality is outlined in a straight-shooting article by Jeff Sommer in the New York Times; he advises those with a million bucks in savings that they might want to keep working, because they could well outlive that nest egg.
To anyone except the firmly well-off, Sommers delivers crisp advice: save as much as you can, prepare to work longer, and question how much you really need. I'd add, since the two biggest expense categories for seniors are housing and transportation, put those in your sights and resolve to get down to one or no car and a smaller space to maintain.
Fox is speaking to the heart, Sommers to the head. We need to heed both, as individuals and in community.
What I'd like want to see most for my American family members is universal health insurance, and for me, living in Québec, the passage of the end-of-life bill.