I’m Retiring

The time has come for me to face facts. Retirement, as we’ve come to know it, has changed. Many of us sought out careers that would assure present security and future potential.

We may have accepted the agreement that our employers promised–hard work now with a pension or retirement benefit at the end of our career. But it was a lie. I haven’t decided yet whether the lie was intentional or simply a result of mis-planning. Either way, there wasn’t enough good faith investment in our future to insure that it will exist (the way our younger selves envisioned it).

The Promise

The promise was that if you accepted a career in public service, you’d have stability, decent fringe benefits, and a pension after at least ten years of service. Retirement age was contingent on your years of service and a vested pension. But these promises are dissipating before our own eyes. As worker bees, we’ve come to work daily, progressed towards our objective, and endured policy changes and threats of diminished contracts when we renegotiate.

For employees in the private sector, the promise of promotion in exchange for hard work and allegiance to the corporate goal motivates us towards a promising future. Retirement age depended on how soon your 401k (or other investment package) would mature, your level of risk, and your retirement goal. Will you be able to afford to live comfortably after you retire? Who knows?

We are hoping for stability in a still-unstable economy. So we begin to conclude that the promises made to us were built on infertile foundations. Our hopes sink on sinking sand. Our dreams fail to grown where our seeds were planted.

The managers who work within the confines of our annual budgets see the writing on the wall. They are reluctant to speak on it, for they have a much clearer view of the inevitable. I’ve stopped asking my managers questions because I can not trust them with my livelihood. Their objective is not aligned with ours. Managers do not enjoy the due process and semi-stability that the worker bees posses. Instead they have knowledge of the impending doom; and they adjust accordingly.

Instead of hope to gleaning a glimpse of the internal workings of our employers’ mechanism, WATCH the managers. If they are behaving as if their job is secure, know that they are acting with the knowledge that things are going well and will continue to do so. However, if they are using their vacation time (and not actually going on vacation), if they are bitter in their delegation of responsibilities or unwilling to engage in team problem-solving; it may be a sign that they are planning an exit.

When the captain of the ship is the first on the emergency escape boats, ask yourself why?

They aren’t worried about pensions and fringe-benefits. A managers salary often exceeds their responsibility. We know this as worker bees. How many times have you said, “I can easily do my bosses job,” because you know you can. You’re already doing it!!

Managers worry about their exit plan because they lack loyalty. They’ve “put in their time” and feel even MORE entitled than the worker bees.

How much longer will you allow your manager to delegate their responsibilities to you and your colleagues while they take larger salaries with minimal commitment? For that matter, why don’t we start running our own lives?!?

For those of us who allow our professional lives to infiltrate our personal lives; and our spiritual lives to infiltrate our professional lives (you know that you do this when you choose the high road instead of cursing your boss out like a heathen), it may be time to consider an alternative. It may be time to retire.

After all, what is retirement?? Nowadays, who do you know that REALLY retires? Retirement really means career shift. I can’t think of many retirees who simple stay at home and avoid any work or civic responsibility. Let’s keep it real! I’d happily volunteer my time if I could find a way to pay my living expenses. So there really is no retirement like we were promised there’d be.

Who retires the old-fashioned way? Politicians who collect multiple pensions, lawyers who negotiate huge settlements even when they loose the big case, and doctors who received commissions on peddling treatment instead of cures–they can retire. Hmmmm. Are you one of these? Me neither.

I spent enough time as politician to know that public policy rarely serves the public. My time as an educator has proven to me that managers are more concerned with the appearance of “collective success” rather than individual growth. And sadly my time as a social worker has left me feeling that (1) the work is never done, and (2) the policies favor the organization over the human being needing the support.

I share my perspective with you because I believe that once you look inside yourselves and develop a better sense of worth, you may agree with some of my points. There is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow! The illusion of working to 55 or 60 with 3/4 of your salary to live the rest of your life is a LIE. The bankers have already collected the commissions on your investments. The politicians have already spent their mandatory contributions to your pensions! The lawyers get paid to fight this fight for us, even when they loose. And they will loose–because the money is all gone.

Who is going to replace those investments? The younger generations?!? Never that! They are too busy re-imagining a world without trust, a world without hope, and a world where they KNOW they can only count on themselves.

We need a new plan. We need innovation. We must do it now and for the humanity that is fading away. Don’t wait for someone else to do it.

The innovators are not planning for the far-off future. They are creating in the NOW. The hope for what is to come is bleaker than ever. But don’t be discouraged. Be inspired! It is because of the lack of innovation that anyone with an idea can become a hero to mankind.

And so I am retiring. Or I should say instead that I am re-inventing this world that I know. My pension is not promised. It’s barely there. My retirement investments evaporate the moment I deposit them (and my investments were LOW RISK). My mandatory retirement age has been arbitrarily prolonged another FIVE (to TEN) years–pronounced like a prison sentence. I’m not waiting to be eligible for “parole”. My retirement will be pronounced E S C A P E.

So who is coming with me? I’m seeking collaborators and innovators with no promises and no hope of a destination. We are planning a new route instead. The journey begins here…and never ends.

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Holiday Dream

I had a holiday dream…

I opened my eyes. I thought I was in my own bed. It looked like my bedroom. The linens smelled fresh like my own. As I descended the staircase, the silhouette of an undecorated tree and the chore of unwrapped gifts still lay on the floor. Running water from the aquarium invited my gaze. The house mascot pawed at me–an unfamiliar sight. My bags were packed and sitting by the door.

The draft from the cool outdoors blew in from beneath the door as I noticed my canvas shoes laid out for me next to a cozy work jacket I once wore in a career long ago.

I looked in the mirror by the door. I was already dressed and my hair and face were well-groomed. With my key fob in hand, I pressed one button, and the lights in the driveway lit up. Was I driving somewhere?

Dishes washed, laundry folded, and trash taken out, there’d be no mess awaiting my return. The most recent message on my phone read “Merry Christmas and traveling mercies”. Where was I going?

I snatched the pre-packed backpack in and headed out the door. There were no voices acknowledging my departure. I turned back for a moment. No lights, no lingering fragrances, no melody looming in the darkness…

Good bye, fare well?

Will I return?

I turned the ignition and a voice from OnStar greeted me with no recognition of the holiday. “Your destination has been sent to your onboard navigation system. Enjoy your day.”

Reverse…creeping into the street; none of the neighbors were watching. The traffic light at the end of the block faded from crimson to go-green! There’s no turning back.

A half tank of gas won’t take me far. But the airport is only 43 miles away. Not a car on the road, the engine hums past 80mph. Whoosh up the highway. Record time!

My destination still a blur. The sun rises over the bridge. All tolls paid. Valet awaiting, and a chauffeur ushering me to my flight. Weeeeeee

I’m not coming back. I can just feel it (at least until after Christmas).

Where am I going, Denver?