WILL UNWOUND #363: “Rant Wednesday at the Unwinders Tavern – Is it unAmerican to Retire?”February 15, 2011
I’m not sure this is a rant.
I’m not sure what it is.
Let’s call it an opinion that I need to get off my chest and out into the blogosphere for others to react to. Then when I get all your comments I’ll know if I’m on to something or just walking down a blind alley.
It all started with Andy Woodworth’s lightening rod post on The Case for Retirement. Andy got me thinking about whether retirement is looked at less favorably in America than in Europe. I for one was struck by the rioting in France last month. The people were very upset that their retirement benefits were being cut back and that their retirement age was being increased.
I don’t think “retirement riots” will ever happen here in America because we have a very ambiguous attitude about retirement. What are some of the phrases we use to indicate retirement:
- Joining the “over the hill” gang
- Being put out to pasture
- Hanging up the spikes
- Riding into the sunset
- Being put on the shelf
- Getting the golden watch
- Going into the twilight years
- Being sent to the glue factory
- Moving to the raisin ranch
- Getting ready for the next big thing…death
All of these images involve the concept of uselessness. A person who was once a productive worker is now being warehoused to a storage facility of spare and obsolete parts. The retiree is not necessarily a bad person for abandoning the American workaday world, he or she is more a victim of the aging process.
Now here are my theories why retirement has a negative connotation in America:
- The All-American work ethic derived from our Puritan past. Work keeps the devil away because “an idle mind is the devil’s workshop.”
- In America you are defined by your job. It’s who you are.
- Retirement connotes laziness.
- Instant gratification means enjoy life now; don’t save for retirement.
- The biweekly paycheck is another self validator.
Where am I going with this? It is becoming very clear that governmental entities and private corporations are doing their best to strip away retirement benefits. Traditional pensions are on the endangered list and 401k corporate matches are dwindling. Retiree health care is also a thing of the past for most. Now you have to wait for Medicare. Oh, and did I mention that Congress doesn’t seem to want to do anything to shore up Social Security?
And yet…..no one seems to care.
Where is the outrage?
Unwinders, is it becoming un-American to retire?
At least I can say I have a tavern to run!