Retirement: The new dirty word

Today’s 50- and 60-year-olds are rebelling against their parents version of retirement, transforming it into new careers and daredevil adventures.

By Suzanne McGee
April 29, 2008

If all the word retirement conjures up in your mind is endless golf games and blue-plate specials for the blue-haired crowd, prepare for a shock. You might find the next generation of retirees hang gliding in the Rockies, running aid programs in Africa or establishing theatre festivals. It’s a generational thing, experts say. As millions of baby boomers approach the time when they step back from their careers and start to focus on their pastimes and passions — the phase of life we have come over the past century to refer to as retirement — they want to do it their way.

The life stage that is retirement and the baby-boom generation are about to collide, and they are going to transform each other, says Ken Dychtwald, a psychologist and the founder of Age Wave, a San Francisco consulting and analytical company, who has spent his professional life studying the aging process.

A boomer himself, Dychtwald, 58, knows his peers are less likely than their parents to shuffle off to Florida or Arizona to await the grim reaper in a comfy RV. That whole idea is so terrifying to many boomers that even their financial advisers tread lightly when urging their clients to save for a life after work.

Retirement’ is a dirty word, says Brad Levin, an Encino, Calif., financial adviser. Some just don’t want to think that there will come a time when they will no longer be of value to the world — and to them, that’s what retirement means.

Confronted with a convention they find unacceptable, baby boomers are doing what they have done throughout their lives: transforming it.

Born into post-World War II prosperity, this generation was raised in a period of unprecedented stability and affluence. Supremely confident, boomers went on to shake up and remake everything from the education system and the workplace to gender roles, race relations and child rearing. They went to Woodstock. Now they intend to grow old rebelliously.

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