You know you are getting older when around age 50 you are bombarded with solicitations to join AARP. You are reminded again of the march of time when around 64, offers for Medicare Supplement Insurance flood your mailbox. Comes another milestone in your late 60s or age 70 as Social Security deposits dribble in monthly.
Then comes the ultimate marker, age 70 ½, as you are commanded by IRS to take Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) from Qualified Retirement Plans.
The oldest Baby Boomers turn age 73 in 2019. Members of the Silent and Greatest Generations born before 1946 have been in RMD territory for a few years or more. However, RMD rules may change based on a Aug. 31 executive order by President Trump directing the Treasury and Labor Departments to study easing RMD rules to allow tax-deferral to be stretched out further. Stay tuned.
On the topic of aging, The Wall Street Journal, Aug. 30, offered a “Turning Points” reflection by Clare Ansberry entitled, “Forget ‘Senior’—Boomers Search for a Better Term,” referring to the word games played in trying to label seniors. Senior to what? Anyone younger, supposedly.
Boomers, whose favorite song may be “Forever Young” by Rod Stewart, reject labels like “Senior Citizen.” They totally hate “geezer.” I can relate.
The year 1966 was a big one for me. Returned from duty in Vietnam as an Air Force officer, I left the service and was working with United Airlines in Philadelphia. That year I totaled a Volkswagen Beetle in a multi-car pileup on an expressway in New York City, bought a 1966 Mustang, and met the charming school teacher who would become my wife. The Mustang is long gone, rusted out from northern winters on salted roads. My wife and I recently celebrated our 51st wedding anniversary.
Loved that Mustang! If I still had that car, you wouldn’t refer to it as a “senior car.” It’s a Classic Car. Using the same rationale, kindly refer to me as a Classic Citizen!
Ms. Ansberry notes that one term being thrown around in reference to a senior is “perennial.” Boomers don’t like the term “senior.” Dictionary.com describes perennial as “lasting for a long time; enduring; (of plants) having a life cycle lasting more than two years; lasting or continuing throughout the entire year, as a stream.”
Well, all of those fit as we go though life’s transitions. Just hanging in there midst life’s slings and arrows is an achievement. Buddha exclaimed, “It is better to travel well than to arrive.” You’ve arrived at a certain point in life, perhaps a Milestone Birthday. Arrived, but what’s next?
Boomers face that question in spades as they navigate major life transitions, some of which may be challenging and difficult. Later in life divorce, caregiving, retirement, leaving a lifelong profession, selling a closely-held enterprise, loss of a spouse or other loved one, health and physical complications, matters of faith. The question becomes, after any transition, how do I adjust to a ‘new normal’?
Ms. Ansberry noted that in the search for a new generational identity, “perennial” suggested reinvention, rejuvenation. Then again, you may not want to be referred to as a plant, since “being planted” has negative connotations. The nub of the matter is not what you are called at mature turning points, but your “calling” itself. As a financial advisor, I ask folks what they are going to do after they retire?
“Travel,” is a common retort. Or, “We are going to move to be closer to grandchildren and family.” Those are activities. When you arrive home after a trip, or settle into your new abode, what are you going to do to maintain meaning and purpose? The quintessential question is, “Who will you be?” It isn’t, “What will you do?”
Beyond not running out of money before your heart stops, not being bored in retirement looms large in the minds of many. Whether male or female, you have spent your life acquiring skills and learning, morphing talents into strengths, chasing and raising kids, perfecting a professional identity, building an enterprise, growing in wisdom. No matter where you are in life, “always making your future bigger than your past,” is key to “what’s next” with meaning and purpose. (Thanks to Dan Sullivan, The Strategic Coach®, for the quote). Have you had that conversation with your spouse or advisor? Yours truly celebrated a milestone birthday recently in the company of family, friends, and colleagues. Call me a house plant (perennial), call me a Classic Citizen, if you must. I prefer to call myself greatly blessed. Reinvention trumps retirement!
Lewis Walker, CFP®, is a financial life planning strategist at Capital Insight Group; 770-441-2603. Securities and advisory services offered through The Strategic Financial Alliance, Inc. (SFA). Lewis Walker is a registered representative and investment adviser representative of SFA which otherwise is unaffiliated with Capital Insight Group. He is a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach and a Certified Exit Planning Advisor (CEPA®).