The great Boomer exodus
Apparently, that’s a common question for us Baby Boomers. At least according to Marc Freedman, who’s written a book called “Encore: Finding Work That Matters in the Second Half of Life.” It’s aimed at us Baby Boomers, who are retiring at a rate of 10,000 per day and will continue to maintain that pace for the next 14 years, according to the Pew Research Center. The research also says that we Boomers tend to feel younger than our chronological age and are less inclined to stop working altogether than to start doing something altogether new.
Freedman’s theme is that aging Baby Boomers don’t retire, they just plan “encore careers” and defer decisions about actual retirement until they reach 75 or older. In addition to having written several books on this subject, Freedman founded an organization called Encore.org based on the notion that the accumulated skills, experience, wisdom and talent of Baby Boomers can be harnessed to tackle some of society’s most pressing problems, like poverty, poor education, and caring for sick people, disadvantaged children and the growing elderly population.
Inner voices speak up
“Encore” tells the stories of several Boomers who, despite successful corporate careers, grew frustrated trying to change things from the inside and disillusioned with their companies’ bottom-line-obsessed decision-making. They listened to their inner voices and started over at midlife or later, navigating their own paths to doing, as one of them put it, “what I’m supposed to be doing.”
In my own case, having worked for more than three decades in a profession I love – communications – at a healthcare company whose purpose is to save and improve people’s lives – I’ve been pretty satisfied, all things considered. So why not just kick back and enjoy myself?
Maybe for the same reasons that haunt the encore-career-seeking Baby Boomers in Freedman’s book: the desire to contribute to the greater good, or the distant cry of a calling perhaps not completely fulfilled. “I remember speaking to a spiritual counselor,” recalls one of Freedman’s case studies, a former insurance agent now working for HUD. “I told her, ‘I feel like I’m standing at the edge of a chasm.’ And she said, ‘Spread your wings and fly.’”
I know that feeling. Maybe you do, too. Maybe I got as close as I could to my calling during my corporate communications career, but the need to make a living blocked my path just a turn or two away from my true destiny. Maybe I was actually closer to it in the singer-songwriter/freelance journalist days of my youth.
The promise of finding one’s true calling is an enticing one. For me, it would mean finally circling back to immerse myself in the writing and music I loved but left behind when I turned 30, along with some teaching to fulfill my “greater good” requirement, and some consulting to support the lifestyle to which my wife and I have become accustomed. She’s a lawyer and wants to work with the elderly, making sure they have proper housing and services.
All I can tell you is that we’re both as excited as kids getting ready to open our Christmas presents, not knowing what will be inside but pretty sure it’s gonna be great. I promise to keep you posted.