Thursday, November 25, 2010

What's This Blog About?

     I recently turned 60. Okay,okay, thanks for the condolences. But crossing this milestone has made me realize a few things. Traditionally (like for my parents and the parents of my friends) this stage of life was a quiet, settled time. Your family was established, your job secure, your future all mapped out.

     But things are different now. Your 50s are more likely to be a transitional decade. You might have a new spouse, a new home, a new job. Retirement is on the horizon -- and may come sooner than you think. You may be dealing with life-altering health issues, while still parenting grown-up children or taking care of elderly parents.

     The decisions you make in your 50s and 60s not only affect your current way of life, but profoundly influence the lifestyle you will enjoy -- or endure -- when you’re in your 70s and 80s. Your body now has less tolerance for abuse. If you take care of yourself you feel fine. But if you eat junk food, or drink too much or try to cheat on your sleep -- oh man, you really suffer the consequences. Meanwhile, medicine offers new tools to find and fix health problems. If caught early many situations will respond to treatment before they break out into life-threatening illnesses. But guess what. First you have to go to the doctor!

     You’re like a car with 75,000 miles on it. Take care of it, bring it in for an oil change and new belts and tires, and it will chug along for another 75,000 miles. But if you don’t, you’ll be coughing and belching to the junkyard before you know it.

     Financial questions loom large as you near retirement. What are you going to do without a paycheck? Few people can count on a pension anymore -- the very concept has the gloss of nostalgia to it -- and Social Security seems kind of shaky these days. The responsibility to pay for retirement has been transferred from your employer to you as an individual. The financial moves you make in your 50s and 60s can set the stage for a comfortable and dignified retirement -- or struggling along on a shoestring and depending on the kindness of others. Your retirement could last 20 or 30 years. Do you want to spend all that time worrying about when, or if, Social Security will send the check?
     At the same time, people at this stage of life enjoy more freedom and choice than any group of pentagenarians or sexagenarians in history. Second careers are born. New friendships are found. New relationships are formed. The kids are grown up and becoming independent, relieving you of parental responsibilities.

     I'm using this blog to take a sighting of where I stand at this stage of life, and to help me plot a course for the next decisive years. I don't have any more particular career goals. But I have expectations for my kids. I still want to live long and prosper. And I hope the blog will also provide a forum for ideas and suggestions to help other people map out their futures. Because we could all use some advice, some guidance and a little help from our friends.

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