I guess the best way to spin this is to say, “I’m trendy!”
That’s my reading of a new Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development report, “Working Better with Age,” which effectively concludes that older workers are now absolutely vital to the global workforce, and that people who might otherwise be settling into life after a career are, instead, working longer, either because they want to for personal reasons or need to for reasons of the wallet.
I’m part of that cohort of workers on the flipside of the hill, still rebelling against my AARP eligibility and looking into the maw of the beast that is “Social Security Full Retirement Age.” (Cue ominous soundtrack.)
I’ve contemplated this often in recent years, wondering if I’ll actually retire one day or just keep on slapping my keyboard haphazardly with my fingers. I mean, I’m fortunate in that my chosen career—writer—has no age at which the body fails to keep up. (The mind: totally different argument.) And there’s no real age bias. If the trials and tribulations of “Octogenarian Jeff Trekking the Faroe Islands,” for instance, has value to a publisher, or a movie producer, or some advertising-supported blog I come up with, well, then, I can still earn a living no matter my age and no matter my location.
Ultimately, I like to think that’s my plan…to keep on writing until the oxygen runs out.
Which, honestly, partly answers the question: Why did I move my life to Prague last year?
Don’t get me wrong—I love my home country, but America’s crazy expensive these days, even in relatively low-cost cities I’ve lived such as Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Dallas, Texas.
Taxes are spiraling higher as local, state, and federal governments go to crazy lengths to plunder their citizens’ pocketbooks to pay for decades of excessive spending and expensive, grandiose promises to voters and government-employee unions. Recently, for example, tax goons in Spanish Fork, Utah, showed up at a day-long fair aimed at teaching kids about entrepreneurism. The taxman figured he was due sales taxes on the $1 that 9-year-old Ezra Callis was charging fair-goers (mainly other kids) to take a picture with a goat. Sadly, this is representative of the wider tact these days.
The quality of life, meanwhile, is decaying, the result of decades of income stagnation that continues culling our middle class. And healthcare costs are no longer tethered to reality—or even healthcare. Rather, they’re about the cost of malpractice insurance doctors need to protect against frivolous lawsuits; the cost of runaway juries awarding frivolous sums of money to frivolous victims; and because Congress allows pharmaceutical companies to advertise on TV, a multi-billion-dollar annual racket the cost of which you and I ultimately bear. (Seriously, why do I need to ask my doctor about Abilify? Shouldn’t my doctor already know if Abilify—and the drooling, incontinence, and lip smacking I might experience—is right for me?)
I won’t even venture a comment about America’s politics of hatred these days.
I moved overseas precisely because I want to work during my retirement, and I want to do so in a place that fills me with energy when I wake up. And, to be clear, I’m leery deploying that “R” word because technically it implies ceasing to work. I don’t want to cease working at some randomly selected age, then melt into a brown Barcalounger and subsist on prune juice and Geritol while watching The Price Is Right reruns and awaiting the Reaper to come a-knockin’.
I want to keep traveling the world and writing about the topics that interest me. I see a lot of value in that: a sense of purpose, an opportunity to keep growing and to keep my mind and body active, a chance to share with readers all that I learn about our shared world. And these days, with all the opportunities brought to us by way of technology, working for as long as we want—and I mean working at something that makes your days joyful—is a real possibility deep into the later years of life.
Better yet, we can do it anywhere in the world. Stay in America. Venture abroad. Doesn’t matter. Pick a place that makes you smile when you wake up.
Maybe that means you, too, chose to head overseas, as I did, because the money you’ve saved for life’s third act, and the income you earn while continuing to not retire, guarantees you a better chance at living a richer, more rewarding, less expensive life. Maybe it means you relocate within America for the same reason, since the U.S. is filled with scores of amazing towns where a relatively small nest egg (combined with Social Security) will fund a comfortable, fulfilling lifestyle across those post-65 years.
Maybe it means you finally convince yourself to pursue that job you’ve always dreamed of—baker, woodworker, writer, photographer, whatever—to generate an income later in life doing what truly makes work feel like fun.
The point is: I’m trendy…you’re trendy…and the world thinks we’re vital.
We can exploit that to our great benefit.