The Power Years': Make Your 40s the Best Years Yet

Reinventing Retirement

The majority of our parents worked for one company all their lives. When their careers ended at age sixty-five, the norm was that they got a nice party and a gold watch and happily hopped on board a slow cruise into the sunset. Forty years of toil behind and the kids now grown, both Dad and Mom were done. They floated over the horizon, eagerly retreating to a life of leisure.

For their employers, it was a great deal. They got to bring in younger, more energetic, and less expensive labor.

For a lot of reasons, many of us won't have the same options that our parents had. For one thing, government and employee-sponsored entitlements have questionable futures, and the idea of early retirement, or even for many of us the idea of retirement at sixty-five, took a quantum leap backward when the global stock market bubble burst in 2000, eroding much of our savings and more than a few of our dreams.

Demographic trends threaten to foist an unprecedented labor shortage on the world economy. Companies of all sizes and shapes are going to want us to stick around longer and will be willing to provide us with a great deal more flexibility to do so. Meanwhile, our careers have been far more mobile. We've bounced among three, four, five, or more employers, often in as many cities, and we won't have been with any one of them long enough for a gold watch, much less the pension and wall-to-wall retirement health coverage that our parents might have been blessed with.

The slow, lazy cruise that our fathers and mothers eagerly signed up for turned out to be a little too slow and lazy. Look hard enough and you'll see that many of our parents have begun to rebel against the idea that they should fade away; they're going back to school and back to work, taking up writing or painting and otherwise reengaging with a society they had dropped out of. Throughout this book we will lean on the experiences of what we call Ageless Explorers, the growing number of leading-edge adults of our parents' generation and some from even farther back, to illustrate the changing nature of the power years. Our hope is that you'll find these anecdotes inspirational and that the glimmers they provide will meld into a beam of light that helps you navigate to -- and through -- your power years.

These years present a unique opportunity for us. The notion of staying in the game longer, of not having to step aside at a set age, will liberate us, setting us free to lead the lives we want to lead by staying engaged, vital, and youthful as long as we like. Opening before us is a whole new stage of life squeezed between our primary career years and a steadily retreating old age. Just as we moved from adolescence into adulthood three or four decades ago, we are now pushing into a whole new period of discovery and personal growth -- what we call middlescence -- as more and more of us make the most of the many fruitful decades that lie ahead.

Our generation is coming to realize that we will have numerous decades to live past the age commonly thought to be the time to stop working. What we do with that time will set us apart from all previous generations.

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