Deep Thoughts: a simple two-part plan to save our society and our economy, courtesy of my husband

I married a smart man. It’s kinda fabulous. That having been said, I’m about to attempt to type out a coherent rundown of the weighty conversation he and I shared last night. Here it goes:

Baby Boomers:

Have you maxed out your retirement plan? Maxed out your employer’s contributions? Maxed out whatever pension plan? Have you reached a point in your career, job or field where there is no possibility of further advancement? Have you reached the point that you’re just going through the motions at your job and the monotony of having done it for years has led to your output/performance slowly slipping? Have you discussed retiring with others but you keep working because you think you’ll just get bored being retired and you simply don’t know what you would do with yourself? Then this blog post is for you!

We’ve heard this from all sorts of different directions. From our parents we hear about their coworkers who stay on past retirement age causing all manner of complications and difficulties for those other employees who must take up the slack as that one person’s productivity drops and age and apathy creep slowly on.

At my husband’s work, he sees the daily difference between the guy who should have retired a few years ago and his coworkers who are merely in their forties or fifties – the difference in productivity in his specialized-degree-blue-collar job between these employees is marked when he considers the oldest guy there weighed against any other person in the shop. He’s slower, he’s lazier, he’s less productive and does worse work.

What I’m getting at is that as people get close to retirement and then pass that mark and continue working instead of retiring, several specific things happen.

  • Their productivity diminishes
  • Their motivation, inner drive, and enthusiasm for the job diminishes
  • Their results slowly drop – whether it be a teacher in his seventies who’s simply no longer an effective teacher, or a diesel tech in his seventies whose jobs take far longer to complete than any other tech in the shop, their productivity simply isn’t there anymore.
  • They’re taking up a job instead of using the retirement they’ve earned, leaving someone else in our society unemployed

Now ask yourself if you’ve worked alongside someone like this. How frustrating has that been for you, to watch them going through the motions, doing the bare minimum, and yet; because of seniority or experience or what have you, they’re earning more than you, yet doing less? Why can’t they just let go?

Here’s why:

Go do a Google search for articles about how people in the USA take fewer vacations than workers in any other developed western nation. Read articles discussing our workaholic nature, how as a society we can’t seem to value ourselves outside our job, can’t take a siesta, don’t take enough time off when we have a new baby in the house or when we’re sick or when we have accrued vacation time that we are required to use or loose; nine times out of ten you’ll find us Americans at work instead of anywhere else. We can’t seem to just stop working and go and do something else. We simply can’t imagine or conceive of what we’re going to do with ourselves post retirement.

Now I’m not talking about those individuals who financially need to work – there are plenty of baby boomers out there with no retirement savings and no way to support themselves except to work and of course those people need that job. Of course you should be doing what you’re doing in that case. I’m not addressing this post to those people in any possible way. I’m specifically discussing those people who have a long and solid career history enough so that they have a pension plan or retirement account where their employer’s contributions are maxed out and staying at their jobs isn’t earning them any further benefit really.

Here’s what that person would accomplish if they retired:

First of all, it would provide a job opening for someone else. You can retire, start using your retirement and pension and whatnot, and let someone who needs a job come and get that job you’ve opened up for them. Because of your seniority, because of your union, because of whatever, your employer is letting you stay as long as you choose to stay, and there are lots of other people who could potentially benefit from you opening up that position.

Your wealth of knowledge really isn’t all that essential in this day and age. Yes, there was once a time when a craft was passed from a skilled, experienced worker to an apprentice the old fashioned way; but this was long ago and we have the technology to train and recruit and bring up someone to do what you do and fill your place with great speed and very little hassle, depending upon your particular field. Do you really think your place of business couldn’t function without you? If that’s the case, just alert them a few months before you intend to retire and they’ll have time to go hunting for a new recruit.

You’ll help the economy. Specifically, by taking the one person who’s the oldest and lowest producing into retirement, and then filling that position with a new hire, productivity and output and results increase markedly for that business. In many instances, a company can afford to employ two new hires’ salaries for the cost of what that one person was taking home each year. And if they just hire one guy, the amount they’re saving goes to help improve their quarterly numbers, improve the company’s share value, improve their bottom line, and get spent however the company needs to spend it. These outcomes all fuel our economy in ways that our country desperately needs right now.

You’ll help your children’s generation. My husband and I can look at the people we went to college with and we see the significantly large percentage of them who are unemployed or underemployed. We’ve watched them get college degrees, then be unable to find work, and they end up moving back in with their parents – your generation. Think of how many people in your kid’s generation could step up to fill your position and thereby move out of your house, support their family themselves, and actually provide a decent future for your grandkids.

If just one percent of the people who are maxed out right now opted for retirement, across our country we’d see a huge surge in new hires, a huge drop in unemployment, a huge boom in the housing market as all these younger families suddenly become financially stable and start buying houses, and a huge boom in business; all as you gracefully transition into retirement like you should have five years ago. Because the unemployed and the underemployed need your job; and their kids need their parents to have your job. Because without your job, that younger man and his family are going to stay poor and his kids are going to grow up poor and we know that in our society, the likelihood really is that if kids are growing up below the poverty line they’re most likely going to stay below the poverty line throughout their lives.

But what will I do with myself once I’m retired?!?

Look at the state of our schools. Look at the state of our libraries. Look at the state of our homeless shelters and animal shelters and the very desperate need that exists in all these places for volunteers. At my sons school, you don’t have to be the parent of a student to volunteer. Just fill out the forms to let them make sure you’re not a pedophile and you can go help kindergarteners learn their letters or work in the library helping kids pick books or whatever it is that you know how to do – even speaking about volunteering in general, I bet there’s some place somewhere near you that desperately needs you to come and provide whatever skills or knowledge you have. Just look around and you’ll find something you care about where you’re willing to give your time.

Because your grandkids’ schools need help if those kids are going to grow up to be the kinds of people you hope they can be. Because our library system needs the help if they’re going to keep their doors open. Because the soup kitchen and the homeless shelter and the battered women’s home need your help.

So you’re retired. Make yourself a schedule. Go arrange some volunteer time at a few places that you choose or that you think deserve the help the most. Then go do the hours for a few months just like you used to do your job. Then take a break and go travel or vacation for a few weeks. Then come back and get back into volunteering again.

Open up your old job to someone new – someone younger, perhaps; but at least someone who’s chomping at the bit to get that job they need so badly. Even if someone your same age comes along to fill the job behind you, guaranteed they’re taking the job because they don’t have retirement saved up, and if they don’t take that job they won’t have the means to live. So make way! USE your retirement you worked so hard to accrue.

Our society will be grateful that you did.

Got something to say about this? Leave me a comment or contact to rant about this.


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