This I Believe

Paul - White Plains, New York
Entered on January 23, 2007

I believe that the Baby Boom generation is headed for a world of hurt. Recently we have watched enviously as our parents retired, happy and prepared for their golden years. They played by the rules, and were rewarded for the most part with generous pensions, Social Security benefits (with cost of living increases!) and guaranteed healthcare. Retirement was under their terms, as we believed it should be.

Now in our early to mid-50’s, our generation is increasingly being downsized, rightsized, outsourced, and just plain fired. Welcome to the real world. And we are not prepared, financially or psychologically. It is staggering to consider the number of boomers effected in this way; just ask the employees at Pfizer.

I was “voluntarily terminated” close to 6 months ago. The choice was a no-brainer: either accept the severance package offered, or risk an inevitable lay-off, without any benefits. After 26 years with my employer, I thought I was set for a short job search, followed by a challenging second career and a soft glide towards retirement. So I took a few months off, and built a gazebo. Relaxed, refreshed and recharged, I believed that my work experience and chock-full resume would be a ticket any potential employer would want to punch. Surprise! Lots of interviews – and lots of rejections. The reasons are inevitably the same; too old, too well paid, or too many years with the same employer. Oh, and too many similarly qualified candidates, of the same age and younger, competing for the same position. It’s not the job market I expected.

At the same time, I also beleive in my ability to overcome this situation. And I believe my fellow boomers have the same strength to do so. As a generation, we are used to mostly good times, with success and prosperity seen almost as our birthright. Now we are faced with the first serious challenge to our expectation of an early and easy retirement.

We can and must look to the lifelong work ethic of our parents for the inspiration needed to face an almost certainly uncertain future. Their generation overcame obstacles of a different sort, but no less daunting. They returned from World War II, and adapted to a new economy. They expected nothing, and they scaled their hopes and ambitions to reality. Then they went to work, and survived. Boomers can too, even at this late stage of life.

So, now I am trying to believe in change, along with the opportunities it may present. I’ll keep plugging for my dream last job. But I’ll also rework my resume, and adapt my salary requirements and lifestyle accordingly, and to the reality of the marketplace. And I’ll urge other boomers in my situation to do likewise. Following the lessons taught by our parents -the people of the Greatest Generation – are the very keys to our own future. I choose to believe in them.