essays

Hi Ho, Hi Ho

It’s off to work we go.

And the rest of the song lyrics?

We dig, dig, dig, dig, dig dig, dig, dig
In our mine the whole day through
To dig, dig, dig, dig, dig dig, dig, dig
It’s what we like to do
It ain’t no trick
To get rich quick
If you dig, dig, dig
With a shovel or a stick

dwarf miners

And boomers continue to dig – well past age 65. In fact, the percentage of baby boomers working past the traditional retirement age of 65 is now at a record high, and we all know why. They can’t afford to retire.

It’s not some dream retirement scheme that’s keeping them in the labor market. It’s way more complicated than that. Boomers are still working to compensate for the hit they took when the market tanked. They are still working because they are supporting offspring who have returned to the nest. They are still working because they realized they don’t have enough savings to cover life spans that are projected to last longer than ever. And many boomers are still working simply because the alternative lay-about lifestyle is an anathema to them.

If you thought you were going to die in your eighties, you might as well pack it in at age 65 and have Grumpy15 years to travel/golf/fish/knit/whatever. But if most of us are going to live well into our nineties, that’s 25 years to fill, or a hell of a lot of bogeys/fish/scarves. And even that assumes we will have the mobility for any of these activities when we’re in our nineties.

For many boomers, working is a habit that’s hard to break. Unlike our parents, perhaps, boomers are often defined by their careers. It can be a comfort to say “I AM a lawyer/
doctor/designer/ manager/teacher/musician, than to say I WAS any of those things. Even if retirement brings new challenges and joys, the career that was your life’s work is completely in the rear view mirror, and that can be an unsettling sensation.

Speaking of unsettling, the statistic in the latest Labor Department stats that gave me pause was that for the first time ever, one in nine men over the age of 75 were still working, along with one in 20 women.

And here I was thinking that 70 might be the next high water mark for retirement.

 

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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