[My Thoughts] Security for the Dangerous Years
This column is the final in a series of lessons learned and insights about how to balance the need for security with the ability to live exuberant lives with confidence and freedom.
Benjamin Franklin said, “Those who surrender freedom for security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.”
Why is the year you retire one of your two most dangerous years?
I believe it’s because people in our culture find their Ikigai (passion or reason for living) in their work. If they don’t have their work, they drift without a purpose. Do they have a purpose anymore?
A BCH trustee asked me recently if I plan to be around as president for another five years. “Yes,” I told her. I feel good, and there is no reason to retire.
But her question really pierced my thoughts. What would I do if I retired? Who would I be? Where is my identity then?
I confess my job is both my security and my identity. My employees are my family and I’m almost a father figure now. They are not “like” family; they are family. There is a family identification.
I recently did a spontaneous rap during a statewide event – Family Gathering IV – with hundreds of children and staff. They went wild. I donned period clothing and portrayed Captain William Lafayette Kennedy during Kennedy Home’s Centennial.
As long as I’ve been in my current role and as well as staff know me, they still don’t know what to expect now that I have this freedom because of the security of my work and the self-identity I find in it.
Yet, every day, I learn of other friends and colleagues who are deemed no longer “a fit” by their supervisors and they are out of a job.
So in this climate, your job should not be the source of your security and identity. You need to have some kind of security past your job when you retire.
Do you have an avocation? What do you love to do outside of work? Do you wait for 5 o’clock to come so you can race home and immerse yourself in your hobby?
I saw it in churches. Members would be constricted in menial jobs during the day, but in church and volunteer roles they were powerhouses. Maybe it was leading a Scout troop, or driving for Meals on Wheels, or teaching Sunday school or serving as a deacon, or in homebound ministry. They found an activity they loved and in which they excelled and for which they became known.
A lot more preparation for retirement is required than getting your savings accounts in order. Do you and your spouse each have enough of a special interest that will engage you so you can enjoy it, and then bring the vitality of your interest back to the common table?
No discussion on safety and security can neglect the fraying of our sense of security in our own communities. I don’t know that we feel safe anymore.
This is not a homogenous nation. We’re not of one mind like we were in the days of our founding fathers. There seems to be no common goal or perspective uniting us.
We once had a sense of pride and considered ourselves brothers and sisters simply because we were all Americans.
That’s not true anymore. We tend to see ourselves not as a part of the larger American identity, but as a tribal member of some small special interest group.
That special interest becomes our primary concern and we work for the benefit of that special interest, even to the detriment of the larger community. I will tell you, trying to secure benefits for our tribe to the detriment of the larger community will ultimately doom our tribe.
Can you see the future you want to live toward? Ultimately it’s going to come right down to security. We want a future that is secure.
I want security. And I want to know that my life mattered and that there’s life after retirement and I can still make a difference when I’m done with the nine to five.
I want to be able to listen, relate, talk, laugh, participate and just to enjoy where I am in life because I’ve earned this.
You may not have your spouse at the end, but you still want the love of your family, your children and grandchildren. You want to know you’re loved and that your life matters to someone.
From my vantage point, I’m saying it only ends in this positive note if you nail things down early. Remember that you run out of “eventuallys” a lot faster than you can imagine. All those things that you will do “eventually” become impossible for the theft of time and energy.