Having the Last Laugh

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By John Graves     

Much hand wringing has been shared of late over we Baby Boomers.

We have little saved for retirement. We are in poor health – overweight, bad teeth and eyes and digestion, lungs destroyed by years of smoking. We are in debt over our heads. Our kids want us to go to a nursing home or simply go away.

We are consuming government benefits faster than expected and will rot the system from our greedy expectations. Medicare will have to support our weary bodies until we finally, regretfully, expire.

Or, as Rousseau said, life is short brutal and dark.

While many may feel this way, I would suggest another point of view. The media cares less about an uplifting story than one of sorrow, disaster and distress. I but I offer this rosier scenario.

We are the healthiest, wealthiest and happiest generation ever to retire. We feel confident in our abilities to enjoy a long and fruitful sojourn beneath the stars, our long loved one by our side. We love our kids, their kids and our community. We save, tithe, have little debt, and are frugal.

How can I make such absurd comments? Am I insane? Someone call family services!

Actually, we Boomers make these comments. Annual surveys from EBRI over the past 22 years are consistent with the back story. The most recent survey of March 2011 has 60% of pre-retirees satisfied with their preparations for retirement. Retirees by an overwhelming majority, 70%, are quite comfortable. Many wish they had retired earlier, knowing what they do now about their retirement expenses (lower than they thought or had been told).

We are healthier and happier than any previous generation too. We live longer, eat better, are more involved in our families and our communities. We travel, give and spend wisely. Our health affairs are in order. We eat less and better. We exercise. We walk and talk and are intimate with our spouses.

Our finances are in order. The majority of those passing away today have more capital than they need and insure that this goes to families and faiths. We live within our means. We were taught by our parents, in the 1940s and 1950s, to save, to avoid debt, to live within our means, to tithe. We have not forgotten these lessons – although we may not have done a very good job of teaching our own children the same lessons.

Of those of us who work, 90% do so because we wish to, rather than because we must. We remained engaged in our driving passion for work. Perhaps we transfer that passion to the community and give of our expertise to those in need. Perhaps we begin anew with a new profession, skill or hobby.

As a result, the fastest growing generation in the nation today are the centenarians. While small in number, their growth rate is high. Think about it. If you survive stress and disease and bugs past 60 or so, what’s left? Only senility and satisfaction!

So relax. Have a cigar and a shot. Time is on your side. You have earned it. You are the silent majority.  You do have the last laugh!

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