essays

Stay Tuned for Act II

volunteer 1Call it a second act or encore career, the term coined by Marc Freedman who authored the book Encore, but what you are really talking about is active retirement.

Does anyone really stop working and sit around all day doing nothing? Not really, according to experts, and the primary reason is that no one can afford to be retired for 30 years. When I hear someone is taking early retirement at 55 or 60, the first thought that pops into my head is, “wow, they must have a lot of money stashed away.” My second thought is what the hell are they going to do for 30 years.

Marc Freedman posits that baby boomers are still idealists looking for a cause, so don’t expect them to sit around playing cards like retirees before them. Besides not having the money volunteer 2to last 30 years, they want a calling, something important that they can do with their time, something that makes life better for others. They need to do something useful because it’s important to their own identity. Okay, so you knew that there had to be a self-centered aspect to this somewhere, but the point is that boomersare flocking to second careers in education, health care or with non-profits, and their experience is valued.

Experience Corps, which Freedman helped to found, describes itself as a clearinghouse for new adventures in service for Americans over 55, tapping their experience in order to tutor and mentor students. It’s interesting to note that they describe it as a program great for students,great for schools, and great for the volunteers. Everybody wins. What more could an idealist boomer want?

Sometimes I think the descriptor “win-win” was invented by a baby boomer. And I’m okay volunteer 3with that. Our slogan is “Your whole life’s in front of you,” and that implies that we all have a lot more time to do some good on this planet. I find it interesting that many of the high profile baby boomer philanthropists don’t want to just write checks – they want some hands-on involvement. It’s not just about trying to micro-manage their contribution, though it’s true that boomers are known for micro-managing everything else. I prefer to believe that we never lost our 60s idealism and now that we have met our adult obligations of raising children or doing something significant with our careers, we now have the luxury of time to donate to programs and causes that can really use our contributions.

Every day another 10,000 boomers turn 60. Here’s hoping that they make their second act even more worthy than Act I.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

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