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Baby Boomers Are Asking Themselves, "What The Hell Am I Doing Here?"

I'm at the tail end of the Baby Boom and am ineligible for retirement under my retirement system.  I've had to sit back and watch those at the head of the Baby Boom make the decision whether to continue working or retire.  Sometimes that decision comes down to finances, sometimes it comes down to health.  For those who have the finances to retire and the health to enjoy it, I am increasingly seeing them ask themselves this question about their workplace:

What the hell am I doing here?

From what I've observed, this question is triggered in older Baby Boomers when workplace conditions become more onerous (like a bad boss), the pay becomes less (like furloughs), or they see someone in their age cohort with the same number or fewer years of service retire.  It's as if they see a proverbial clock of their lifespan on the wall inching toward midnight, and parts of their lives outside the workplace become a powerful counterweight against remaining in the workplace.

Like grandchildren.  Or a retired spouse.  Or an ailing parent.  Or just longing to do something more meaningful.

I've mentioned before that I have two siblings who are retiring this year.  One will have 40 years' worth of state civil service, the other over 30.  One is planning on going back to school and becoming a travel agent.  The other is weighing his options, I think.

I can't retire, but I, too, feel the tug of other countervailing considerations in my life.  We all go through different life stages, and different things matter more to us at different stages of our lives. Whereas most people my age have children who are leaving or have left the nest, I'm preparing to begin parenthood.  I now realize that I don't want to spend a boatload of time at the office.  I don't want to be the "go-to" person.  I don't want to bring work home and I don't want to discuss work at home when I have my family in place.  I want to be able to come home in time to fix dinner and sit down with my family and eat.  Yes, fix family dinners.  Feminists fix dinner, too.  I totally get the "What the hell am I doing here?" question that older Baby Boomers are asking themselves.

Once the "What the hell am I doing here?" question is asked by older Baby Boomers, their spirits demand an answer.  I've seen older Baby Boomers start to do the math -- figuring out how much they will draw in retirement, how much they can live on, the amount of Social Security they will get at 62 versus 65, whether they can downsize their home or if they will be doing something else after retirement to supplement their incomes.  When all the right factors align to give them the answer they want or can live with, they pull the retirement ripcord and parachute out of the workplace.  I am in awe of each and every one of them, especially those who slogged through soul-sucking jobs for years on end.  I'm in awe not because they retired, but because they had the courage to ask themselves, "What the hell am I doing here?".

Rock on, Baby Boomer retirees.  Rock on.


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