crackerjacksRetirement: Reward or Obligation

If you’ve started to think about retirement, or at least some status that comes after working full time, has it occurred to you that you will either reap some reward or fulfill some obligation? Is retirement the prize at the bottom of the Cracker Jacks box or is it the time to do some things that need to be done?

Some retirees just want to golf every day (what’s up with that) or travel, because they have worked hard for many years and now it’s time to play. Maybe it's a couch potato thing, but who can say they are not entitled. Although, the question that comes to my mind is how many days in a row can you golf? Or how long do you want to be away from home traveling?

If you have spent any time visiting someone in a nursing home or assisted living facility, you must know by now that in the latter stages of life, we will have plenty of time to stare off into space, spend countless hours watching the idiot box, or try to remember what we had for lunch. So the real question is can we do anything useful and rewarding (in the non-Cracker Jacks sense) with that block of time between active employment and assisted living?

I think we can do a lot with the time and be rewarded (in the best sense of the word) for our behavior. Because I also believe I deserve to relax, watch as many sunrises and sunsets as I can, and see lots of places I’ve never seen before, I have come up with what I call the Hybrid Retirement Plan (HRP). The first tenet of the HRP is don’t completely give up your day job. If you keep doing some of the same things you did on the job all those years, your mind won’t go to mush quite as quickly. The second tenet of the HRP is to think about someone other than yourself. The volunteer opportunities in this country are both endless and varied. You handinhandhave programs for mentoring, literacy, English language, meal delivery, mental health, trail maintenance, healthcare, homeless, museums, libraries, and on and on and on. With a Hybrid Retirement Plan, you can take a trip to some place you’ve always wanted to see on Monday and Tuesday, and be back in time to be a math tutor on Wednesday afternoon. There are thousands of non-profit organizations that can hardly wait for the boomers to retire and become volunteers. We have valuable skills that remain current, so why not keep the brain moving while giving a helping hand to a non-profit with their PR, fundraising, legal needs, or financial management.

Baby boomers have been erroneously and egregiously stereotyped as self-centered dilettantes for a few decades now. Wouldn’t it be something if as a group we go down in history as the most selfless generation? Okay, maybe we obsessed about a lot of things and we sure liked to let the good times roll, but after successful careers, we are ready to give an awful lot back to others who need our help. That’s a real-world tribute to the idealism our generation made famous back in the sixties. Not a bad legacy, all things considered.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

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