[EDITORIAL NOTE: While I am away speaking at the Gnomedex conference in Seattle and then off to Oregon for a few days vacation, several excellent elderbloggers agreed to fill in for me as guest bloggers.
It has become tradition over several years and trips now that Frank Paynter of listics always contributes. Today his story is titled I Could Be Handy Mending a Fuse…. Please make him welcome with lots of comments and visit his blog too.]
The older I get the more people ask me about "retirement," and the less satisfactory seems my glib answer that "I took an early retirement in the sixties and now I'll have to work until I die."
Right now I'm winding down a long term contract with a customer who had begun to seem like an employer instead of a client. The parting is a good thing for me. I was less and less engaged doing things that interested me there. But as has always been the case over the last ten years of my consulting practice, I'm faced with the question, "What will I do next?"
I'm sixty-two and Beth is not much younger. Right now, with both of us working we're not rich but we're comfortable. If we can count on our savings not being incinerated in a massive inflation and also count on a Social Security benefit that includes medical coverage, we should be able to do okay when we actually do retire at the age of 65 or 66 or later.
I have three or four projects in front of me, but I'm trying to figure out how to monetize any of them. There's the children's book about the disappearing cat. When I've finished writing it and Christine has illustrated it we may have a few bucks to split between us. Coffee money.
There's my little tech service start-up idea that might turn into a decent business if I can sell the service. There's the book on bloggers that has practically written itself and is now just waiting for me to pull it together and submit it to an agent or two. Also I've been thinking about selling stuff on eBay. (Insert smiley face here; I know how vocationally challenged I sound).
I have started hunting for paying work, casting a wide net to find an engagement as a project manager or a planning consultant. I've also started doing some ab curls each morning. One of the cruelest tricks of aging is how my outside appearance has diverged over time from my self-image.
Winston remarked the other day on how as we get older our friends start to look older than us. He had his tongue in his cheek on that one, and I know what he meant. No matter how we joke though, to find work when you look as old and overweight as I do is not often easy.
Add to that the fact that I have some high expectations regarding autonomy and responsibility and compensation, and that I'm competing for work with younger people and it looks even more daunting.
The U.S. has a law against Age Discrimination. Employers can't discriminate against you just because you're over forty. FORTY? Forty is the full bloom of youth. And a lot of employers discriminate against you if you're 62, if only subconsciously.
If your friends wonder about your retirement plans, so does an employer; and, if she's looking for someone for the long haul, well - how much longer can she expect you to haul it?
I think I'm being realistic about my prospects right now. It won't be easy finding the next right thing. But I'm optimistic anyway. There are over six billion people on the planet and we all have needs. Finding a rewarding way to help fill those needs is my next challenge, and that challenge sure beats what I've been doing for a living for the last several months.
[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mike Rubbo retells a famous old story that has resonated with him through the decades, titled An Occurrence at Owl Creek.]