essays

Learning to Retire?

401K eggYearning may be more like it, but no, I mean “learning” to retire. Some boomers can’t figure out how to retire or what to do in retirement, so they are going back to college.

Specifically, to a workshop at the University of North Carolina, Asheville. It’s called the Center for Creative Retirement and if I start to sound a little cynical about it, you must forgive me. Firstly, anyone who can retire now in this horrible economic climate is pretty damn lucky. Secondly, I have to wonder if there’s a university-sponsored workshop for every major life decision, or does UNC just look at dazed and confused boomers as the next cash cow.

The Center’s goal is to see its members “thrive” in life’s second half. Okay. So far so good. Our motto at BoomSpeak is that your whole life’s in front of you, so it turns out that we’re even more optimistic than they are by one half.

One 60-something participant in the Crative Retirement Exploration Weekend said that she had worn herself out trying to figure out what to do and just wanted somebody to “tell me how to do this retirement thing.” And for that, she was willing to shell out $850. You read that right. $850.

But surprise-- that’s now how it works. The wonderful folks at CREW (get it?) help you “examine your issues, concerns and possibilities to gain insights and pose questions that you may not have thought to ask. Facilitated discussions help prepare you for decisions ahead. Presenters and other participants inspire Retirement for dummies coverrisk-taking, planning and areas for further exploration.”

In other words, they don’t have the answer either. I get that retirement is a big step, but somehow it sounds ridiculous to me that boomers will pay big bucks to have other retirees guide through the decision process. Resorts and corporations are ramping up programs that will appeal to delirious pre-retirees. Kripalu Center for Yoga and health in Stockbridge, Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, and MetLife, to name a few, are moving into the retirement planning business.

Are we that helpless or are we just a big, tempting target for people with something to sell? And why shouldn’t they try to get us to buy a workshop? There’s 70 million boomers and if you multiply that times $800 or so it comes out to a number so big it won’t fit on my cheesy calculator.

Not me. I’m going to write the book, Retirement for Dummies instead. Oops--someone’s already written it.

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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