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Tag Archives: Social Security

Why You Don’t Want to Retire

When I joined the Space Shuttle Main Engine program at what was then Rockwell International’s Rocketdyne division, I had never heard the men in my life use the word “retirement.” The reason; they were mostly small businessmen who expected to work until they dropped dead. And that’s exactly what happened to every one of them.

At Rocketdyne, however, it seemed everyone I worked with talked incessantly about retirement. They also talked a lot about what they’d do if they won the lottery, but that’s another story.

A year later, I secured a position as a regular employee (I had been a temp; what they called a “job shopper”) and had to make decisions regarding my future retirement. Most notable of those decisions was whether or not to participate in the company’s 401K program. At the time, the decision was a no-brainer. The company matched employee contributions dollar for dollar, up to 8% of one’s gross income. It was a way to save up a fair amount of money as a nest egg.

Even so, I never saw myself as retiring; I felt I needed to work at something until I either died or was so infirm or incapacitated I wouldn’t be capable of anything useful. I fully expected to work at Rocketdyne until I was at least eighty, despite the fact I had little reason to believe I would live that long.

I ended up leaving what by that time was United Technologies’ Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne division. That was over seven years ago and I’m still not retired. I don’t expect I ever will retire and, frankly, the concept still means little to me. I do, however, enjoy some retirement income from that original 401K, as well as a small pension and social security. It’s not enough for me to stop working, but I really don’t want to stop. Here’s why.

Yesterday, Jeremiah Owyang posted a graphic on Facebook that caught my eye. It depicts a Japanese concept called Ikigai, which the people who live in Okinawa, Japan live — and live long — by. The concept translates roughly into “the reason you get out of bed in the morning.” It makes an interesting Venn diagram, as you can see below.

Ikigai

The “Sweet Spot” Most All of us Would Like to Achieve

I shared his post with the following comment:

I believe I’ve hit this sweet spot a couple of times in my life, most notably when I worked on the Space Shuttle Main Engine program. I’m pretty close to it now as well, working with Quantellia and machine learning. How about you?

A few of my former colleagues chimed in and one of them actually found the original article in which the graphic had appeared. It’s short and not that old. The title is “Why North Americans should consider dumping age-old retirement.” You can find it here if you’d care to read it.

This is what I think we should all strive for. This is the kind of balance that brings peace of mind and contentment. I’m lucky to have experienced Ikigai in much of my work life. In explanation of how I felt I was working on “What the world needs,” I later commented:

I should point out, especially, I believe we need to establish not merely a scientific outpost off-planet, but a cultural outpost as well. I have no doubt Earth will experience an ELE someday and we need to get established elsewhere, if for no other reason than to repopulate the Earth after such an event, and have a leg up recalling all that we’d accomplished until that unfortunate event. Perhaps we’ll be able to divert any asteroids or comets we discover heading our way, and such a place won’t be necessary, but there’s no way to be completely sure of our ability to avoid catastrophe. I, therefore, felt it was somewhat of a sacred duty to play whatever small role I could to get humans into space. It’s why the cancellation of the Shuttle program – when there was nothing in the pipeline to replace it – was so disconcerting to me. It was a big reason I accepted an early severance package offered to all employees over 60 (I was almost 63 when they made it).

Now, over seven years since my “retirement”, I’m still fortunate to be working on something I believe the world needs (though there’s considerable dispute over whether it will destroy us in the long run). The only place I fall short is in the area of doing what I’m good at. This is because I’m not a data scientist or a designer or programmer. I am, however, a reasonably good salesman and have other skills I’m bringing to bear on my work with Quantellia. I expect my studies and experiences will fill up this hole reasonably soon.

I do believe everyone should be able to approach Ikigai. There is much the world needs and, despite the predicted crisis expected when the machines take over the world and millions of jobs disappear, there will still be lots we can do to lead fulfilling lives. I am a supporter of universal basic income (UBI) and find Jeremiah’s closing words from his Facebook post instructive:

Soon, automation will disrupt Ikigai, in the looming Autonomous World, and we’ll need to reset what our “reason for being” is.

I’m betting that we’ll accept the imperfect arts, humanities, and engage in wellness and fitness for longevity.

I happen to go along with those who believe UBI will unleash creativity and entrepreneurship, though I recognize the pitfalls it may present as well. Regardless, there is a looming crisis and, frankly, my current efforts in selling machine learning services and products, is accelerating it. I doubt we can step back from the cliff, so it may be time to give everyone a kind of “golden parachute”; at least one sufficient to allow them a soft landing when that crisis arrives.

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The Debates: S/S & Medicare Off The Table?

Social Security Cards

Truly a Lifesaver for My Family

I am 65 years old. An old fart. A geezer. An alta cocker. Two years ago I accepted an early severance package from the company I was working for, in part because of my eligibility to receive Social Security and Medicare. They played a big role in my decision to accept the package, which wasn’t mandatory. There were other reasons, but I did the math and decided not to pass it up.

I have worked since I was sixteen years old (I’m one of those whose first job was at a McDonald’s) and, save for a couple of years I spent screwing around, I’ve been putting money into both these retirement programs most of my life. How, and in what manner, they get screwed with by either Mitt Romney or Barack Obama is of paramount importance to me, not just because of how my family and I will be affected, but how it will affect those who come after me.

I just learned that the questions to be asked in the first debate have been announced and neither of these programs are currently planned to be discussed. WTF? Virtually everyone in the country will be affected by any changes to them. Whether it’s making what those of us currently receive more difficult to obtain or diminished in value or changing the entire structure for those who have yet to reach a certain age, it’s important to know what the candidates plan on doing.

My concern is with both candidates. We all know what Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan want to do. However, The Huffington Post three days ago ran an article entitled “Obama May Do Social Security Reform During Lame Duck Session, Senate Democrats Worry

Well, you can make a difference by telling Jim Lehrer to include Medicare and Social Security in the debates. Thanks to AARP, all you have to do is Go Here and fill out the form. You’re a leftie. You know the drill. I did it. I also tweeted about it, posted about it on FB, and sent an email message to about 50 of my closest friends, a half dozen of whom have already done the same.

This is an exceptionally important issue for all of us, even those Tea Bagging dipshits who don’t know which side of their toast the butter’s on. Do you want your retirement to be left to the vagaries of the market, especially when you know it’s crooked as hell and likely will steal much of your savings from you? Maybe we can fix it in the next decade, but I sure as hell wouldn’t be holding my breath. Hell, before I was 30 (that’s more than three and a half decades ago) I thought there was going to be a revolution in this country. Actually, there kind of was, but it went in the opposite direction from where I thought it would.

Think about it; then do something about it. Send a message. We want Romney and Obama to talk about how they plan to deal with Medicare and Social Security. Act like your future depended on it. Until we achieve a more just economy (hint: Socialism), this is the best thing we’ve got. Here’s the link again. Take it from me. These two programs are extremely valuable and important.


Heaven Is Where You Find It?

Where Would You Rather Be?

I just got an email from an organization asking me two questions designed to get my interest in their activities on behalf of preventing any cuts to Social Security. The questions are:

  • Do you want to work until you die?
  • Do you want to eat cat food in your old age?

I pretty much have a strong opinion on the latter question, though the prescription diet one of our cats requires does smell somewhat inviting at times. I’m afraid, though, the lack of variety would disappoint me.

As far as the first question goes, I don’t have quite as clear cut an answer. I’ve always assumed I would work until I dropped. After all, that’s what all the men in my family did; at least all the real men. I managed to disabuse myself of the notion that was a good thing a long time ago. However, I also retained (and continue to retain) a vestige of whatever work ethic I was raised with.

Here’s the thing. I don’t want to “work” work, that is be forced to report to a job I dislike, working with people I don’t care for, and working for people I don’t respect. That would indeed be Hell-on-Earth. At the same time, I want to be engaged, challenged, and – above all else – relevant until my last breath. I can’t imagine doing otherwise. But that involves doing, which is – strictly speaking – working.

So I guess my answer to the first question is “Yes. I do want to work until I die”. I also want my Social Security to be there for me, so maybe he should have asked the question differently. Then again, maybe there aren’t a lot of people out there who see work the same way I do. How about it?

ADDENDUM (as of 27 February 2012)

It’s been over 15 months since I wrote this, and 21 months since my retirement from PWR. I’ve been looking for work and also looking for interesting things to get involved in. I have yet to be terribly successful at the former, but I can’t honestly say I’ve tried as hard as I could. That’s in part due to my desire to spend as much time as I can being a good father to my two young children. I don’t think there are too many people my age who have young children to raise. All of my friends have been grandparents for at least a decade or so.

To hear some people tell it, you would think organizations should be beating down my door to get someone of my age, with my experience, to help them deal with social business transitions and the imminent retirement of the generation (Baby Boomers) I’m in the vanguard of, age-wise. I’m not convinced. I think our cultural affection for youth is still pretty strong and I have my doubts that HR departments or Management in general are all that anxious to hire someone who will soon be 65 years old.

I do believe I have a great deal to offer the right organizations and intend on getting a lot more aggressive about seeking out consulting or contract gigs, and I’m in it for the long haul. After all, my kids are only 10 and 8. Nevertheless, I think it’s going to take a while to break through the prejudice against us old folk. In the meantime, I’m pleased with the progression my writing is taking and I’m grateful for those of you who take the time to read what I have to say.

I assume mine is a bit different than many blogs. According to sysomos, as of June 2010 bloggers over the age of 51 make up only 7.1% of the blogging population. Less than half are male and slightly less than one-third originate in the United States. Without putting too fine a point on it, I figure that means there are likely about 5 other bloggers in my demographic group . . . if that. Since my readership is continuously growing, and no one has yet called me a damn fool, I guess I’ll continue in the direction I’ve been heading; which means an eclectic blend of personal and professional musings. I may have a few surprises in store as well. Just to see if anyone’s really paying attention.


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