Baby Boomers are in the process of turning retirement on its head. What do you want to be when you grow up?
A funny thing happened on the way to a lazy retirement consisting of watching grass grow for Robert and Patricia Gussin. They had done all the right things. Robert had retired as chief scientific officer of Johnson & Johnson in 2000. Patricia also retired after a long career in research-and-development positions at McNeil Consumer Products and Johnson & Johnson Consumer Pharmaceuticals. Then, in 2002, on a trip to New Zealand, Patricia asked, “Wouldn’t it be fun if we owned a vineyard?”
And so they bought one. A few years later, they bought a second, and today they own about 70 acres, producing 200 tons of grapes annually, enough to make around 200,000 bottles, split among sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, and pinot noir. They now spend nearly five weeks a year in New Zealand overseeing their vineyards, and they say they would spend more time there except that in 2006, they started Oceanview Publishing, a publishing house that now releases about a book a month and has multiple authors under contract. This is clearly not your father’s retirement.
“Nowadays, we should banish the word ‘retirement,’” says Robert, who along with Patricia has written What’s Next … For You? The Gussin Guide to Big Changes, Big Decisions & Big Fun. “A 70-year-old today often has the health and vitality of a 50-year-old from 20 years ago. There is a lot of living in front of you.”
“Retirement is just a terrible word,” agrees Bill Roiter, Ph.D., author of Beyond Work: How Accomplished People Retire Successfully. “It has always meant the end of something, never the beginning of something else, but that won’t work for the Baby Boomer generation,” says Roiter who, at 60, is squarely in the Baby Boom, the 78 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964 and who, collectively, are poised to turn retirement on its head. What had suited prior generations — adopting a slower-paced life, perhaps centered around a golf course or in other cases, a full slate of daytime television — just will not suit Boomers. For them, high activity is often the rule, and there is also typically a Boomer quest for meaning, purpose, and doing things that matter.
“There is so much opportunity out there for seniors,” says Marvin Tolkin, 83, coauthor of the recently released When I’m 64: Planning for the Best of Your Life. “The day you retire is the day you stop pleasing others and start living for yourself.”By doing what? John Hudson, a Ventura County, California-based retired human resources executive who is the author of Choosing the Right Path, says two points are both obvious and large. First, “when you’ve been doing one thing for 35 years, you are ready to do something else.” More on what that might be in a bit, but Hudson’s second point is that whatever it turns out to be, “it won’t be just sitting on the porch in a rocker. That isn’t going to be enough for Baby Boomers.”
Hudson, by the way, admits that, personally, when he retired, “I thought I’d play golf every day for the rest of my life. I loved golf; I still do. But it took me three months of playing golf every day to recognize there had to be more in my life.“The question to ask yourself is: What do I really want to be doing?” Hudson continues. “What am I passionate about? In my case, it is writing. What is it in your case?”
His firm advice to all with retirement fast approaching: Start thinking now, long and hard, about your next act because there is going to be one, and the more fully you have contemplated it, the more fully you will enjoy it.