Most of us Baby Boomers have been living a path of “what do you want to be when you grow up”? Our parents, part of the Greatest Generation, lived through the Great Depression when there never was a need to ask this question. They quit school and got any job they could to all pitch in and help the family survive. When they became adults, World War II impacted their lives. As young adults, there was no question again as to what they would be doing. They would be involved in a World War, whether they went to war or helped at home. As the country was young and thrown into a global war, everyone had to do whatever they could to help the country ramp up for war. So, most of our parents lived the first two or three decades of their lives being forced to do whatever was required for survival.
When World War II ended, there was such a feeling of pride and glory of defeating the evils of the world. This combined with the war’s need for industry to discover new methods of production now enabled the country to have its moment of economic growth that it had never known before. Think about the feeling of our parent’s generation going through an economic disaster, then a global war, getting through all of that with a huge feeling of pride and success! Now, it was time to celebrate and enjoy the fruits of their labor and sacrifice. This success was their legacy to their children, the Baby Boomers. This beginning of growth and pride of the United States of America brought jobs, new homes, better wages and babies.
Baby Boomers were born to a generation of people who came to the United States for freedom and opportunity and after World War II, and who began to realize these dreams. As children, now receiving the benefits of this American prosperity, Boomers didn’t need to be rich to feel rich and happy. Our world was made of television, toys, better education opportunities, even college and a generation that did not possess a fear of everything going away. Our’s was the age of the birth of “middle class”. Baby Boomers have never had the fear of failure of this country. As an obvious side note, there is never a time when life is prosperous for everyone, nor did every person have a glorious time as a Baby Boomer. That being said, the majority of Boomers lived in a time when their parents began seeing this as the great country they had always hoped it could be and they wanted their children to never have that fear in them. Boomers have not, until possibly the last few years, as we have seen and felt our retirement savings melt away during our economic crisis, felt that same fear.
Now that Baby Boomers are in an age of maturity and realizing their mortality, they are looking at life with perhaps, for the first time, the kind of fear that our parents felt when they were young. Boomers now have felt the fear of "how do we survive, especially with longer life expectancies?" The vision of living a life of retirement of the same model as their parents, Boomers wonder if their income during retirement will be enough. Due to the crisis of 2008, retirement is taking on a completely different aspect.
The generation that was asked, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” can find the key to the new retirement model by finally answering this question. As countless people in our country are all facing hard economic times, rather than looking at what retirement was “supposed” be, they need to find what they have always wanted to do, but never did as they chose careers based on amount of jobs and salaries, instead of pursuing their dreams as entrepreneurs, as their parents and grandparents did when they came to this country. When Boomers graduated from high school in the 1960’s, they were given advise on what jobs would be available and how much they paid. They were not asked, “what do you want to do” or “what can you do well”? We began our migration to living life as a means to and end, rather than look for how to use our true passions for our career choices.
When you do something you love and are good at, success and income become by-products and there is not the same reason to stop doing it and retire. The Baby Boomer Generation looked at retirement as an end of doing something that provided things and security. These career choices were most likely something that we looked forward to retiring from, as our reward for doing something we didn’t like doing most of our lives.
Now is the time for Boomers to get it right, find what they love and have a talent or expert knowledge of and then find a way to do it and earn some income from it. Income is no longer the focus, but a side effect that will provide for that “non-retirement, retirement”.