Avant-garde retirees

February 20, 2013

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Last month I wrote a blog post about retirement, a term that some believe is becoming an anachronism. As early as 2008, financial consultants were writing about this possibility: “The word ‘retirement’ conjures up visions of leisurely days spent traveling, dining at fine restaurants, golfing, volunteering, and getting together with friends. Unfortunately, only very, very few of us are going to be able to live the dream.”

Larry Cohen, the author of this foreboding paragraph, went on to say in his article on investmentnews.com that the reason for his negativity was that “very few households have saved enough to be able to afford such a lifestyle for the 20, 30, or more years they are likely to live after they retire in their early 60s.”

Early 60s? Come on, Larry.

From my observations, only a few of us will even attempt to retire in our early 60s. According to the current poll on thefabricator.com website, 21 percent said they will retire between the ages of 65 and 69; 36 percent beyond the age of 70, and 14 percent will never retire.

It’s a sign of the times and the evolution of retirement. As Cohen noted, “since 2001, SRI Consulting Business Intelligence (now Strategic Business Insights) has been watching a small but growing, avant-garde group engaged in what we call ‘revolving retirement.’ As of 2006, we estimate that about 5.5 million households are in this category, whose members engage in activities that sometimes seem like retirement and sometimes don't even resemble pre-retirement. Other studies have looked at this group and described its members as semiretired, working retired, or never retired. Regardless of what you call them, group members share a defining characteristic: They are not retiring in the traditional manner.”

This country always has had its avant-garde retirees. Whether out of financial necessity or love of occupation, some workers have worked long past Social Security eligibility or never retired. I was reminded or this recently when I came across a newspaper article about my paternal grandfather. Granddaddy—Willis Moores—was born in 1890. He began working for what became the Richmond Daily Register (Richmond, Ky.) when he was 13, and still was working there on his 71st birthday in 1961.

The article said, “Willis is a good printer, a good pressman, and has been a loyal, diligent, faithful member of the Register family these 58 years. We are thankful that his health is still good and that he continues to do a productive days work. (He likely set the type for this article.)

“We appreciate the many fine qualities of this conscientious, capable workman. He has our highest esteem and best wishes for many more birthdays.”

I don’t remember the age at which Granddaddy retired. I do know that he was on the job well into the
mid-1960s, because I visited him at work in 1967, when he was 77 years old. I can still see him working the linotype machine. My guess is he retired when the linotype was replaced by other printing methods.

Granddaddy was an avant-garde retiree before the movement; were he alive today, he would have a lot of company, including his granddaughter.

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Vicki Bell

Web Content Manager
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