Millennials and the retirement

“When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant, I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”

 Mark Twain

I should know something about millennials. I have four of them in my immediate family. Each one is different. Even the twins are different. And I am recently retired. I don’t consider myself an expert, but I have an opinion. Or two.

First, your retirement is closer than you think. You blink, and your coworkers start asking you how much longer you will be showing up at the office. Not too many people see the retirement coming.

I talk to my peers and often ask them why do they still work. Often they say, “I love my work”. That’s the best answer, and I can commend them on that. But the next common is “I need the money” and that’s no good. Can you imagine working all your life and not being able to support yourself in the retirement? Depressing. The beauty of living in this country is that you can survive quite well even on the modest amount of money. You just have to make proper adjustments, and the earlier you make them, the better. And it’s doable.

Health can be, and quite often is, a problem. But I am impressed by how millennials, and their friends, are knowledgeable, and frankly conscientious, about their lifestyles. The knowledge about proper diets, the effects of physical exercise, and the danger of excesses is much more advanced now than when we were growing up. The kids know what to do, but it’s still up to them to implement the simple rules. In Chapel Hill, we live in a large, mixed age community, and it is heartening to see all these young people with their budding families live the lives not attainable anywhere else in the world.

But do you know what I see as the biggest problem preventing older people from achieving age-earned fulfillment in their third trimesters of life? It’s the lack of interests. After a few days in retirement, a man is confronted by his wife, who says, “I married you for better or worse, but not for lunch!” These are the “Velcro husbands”. There are not too many surgeons, who want to die in the operating room. Although a few tried. You remember me questioning my friends about them still working in the older age? The third most common answer was, “I don’t know what else to do!” The only thing they knew was how to do surgery. That’s great, but you are not designed to be a surgeon for life. And the life is, or should be, more than just cutting and sewing. There are places to see, things to do, and people to meet. And the stories to write. The internet, in my opinion, the greatest discovery of the 20th century, like the invention of the printing press, it is an enormous equalizer. You can literally have all the world’s knowledge at your fingertips. It’s up to you to decide how to use it. And when.

I encourage my millennials to travel and see how do the people in other countries live. And then come to the United States to appreciate how good do we have it here. They all traveled, and, so far, they all still live in the old, good USA.

There was a conference in Duke titled “How to talk to millennials”. I think that we should speak with them the same as we talk to each other. Millennials are normal people. They just don’t know it yet, but they are still learning.

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