Well, here we are at the end of January already. Have all of your New Year’s resolutions fallen by the wayside yet? Once again, to keep the pressure off, I chose not to make any specific resolutions, but rather to enhance the few good habits I started last year:
- Create monthly calendars;
- Get my tax prep done in January; and,
- Take a look at our savings and make a new budget.
Check, check and check. Now I can start playing with a new idea that came along recently. It was close to the New Year, so I thought it would make a good sort-of-resolution. It’s a long-term resolution, but one I want to figure out well before I retire. I’m calling it: “Plan to retire with a full plate.” It’s not really that catchy, but the idea is spot on. Some background…
My husband and I were early enthusiasts to a concert series here in our small town. A group of Boomers formed a non-profit organization that brings professional musicians to our town so that fine performances are available locally. This group finds amazing musicians to perform, sponsors to support the effort, and books our gorgeous Town Hall as the venue. In just the 3rd season, the Needham Great Hall Concert Series is wildly successful, with seats filled for every concert. But regardless of the performer, we can’t help but notice that we are in the small minority – considerably younger than 95% of the audience. We laughed about being “young” again in our mid-50s!
The most recent concert was especially interesting. Judy Collins was the performer. Yes, that Judy Collins of “Send in the Clowns” fame. She is the highly successful, Grammy-winning, soprano of the era that changed America. Before the concert began, I read the program notes on this musician of whom I had little knowledge. Of course, I knew the Clowns song and knew her name. And, I would have lumped her in with other big names of an era gone-by: Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan and the like. These were musicians who wrote lyrics that painted a vivid story of situations they felt were unfair, unjust and just plain wrong. They were they voice of a generation…the Boomers. But, not all of us Boomers. Just the leading-edge Boomers.
As we listened to her music, almost none of it was familiar. It was lovely, especially the gorgeous lilt she achieved in her Irish songs, a tribute to the melodies she remembers her father singing during her childhood. Her songs about the need for protection under unions would have been controversial back in 1964 and “The Blizzard” was a long and winding musical portrayal about female empowerment and confidence written by Collins back in 1990. All in all, a lovely evening.
But, the concert was not really the most interesting part of the evening for me. As a lagging-edge boomer whose teen years were during the mid-1970s, I missed most of the folk-style songs and activist-focused music that “defined a generation.” Instead, my group of friends loved anything by Olivia Newton John, Billy Joel and movie soundtracks to Grease and Rocky (the first one!). So, I was impressed at the enthusiasm of all of the older concert-goers. It was so fascinating to see how Collins’ music took this group of Boomers back to their era, and how she still defines their cultural roots.
At 75, Judy Collins has a jam-packed, full plate of concert engagements. (Ah, now you see where I got that snappy name for the new resolution!) Some of the venues may be smaller and more intimate, but she packs a full crowd of paying fans. She writes books. She paints. She continues her activism. In fact, even she seemed surprised when she shared with us that she’s been performing now for 55 years! A rousing cheer went up at that.
While her singing voice may not be as young as it once was, that really doesn’t matter. It’s about who she is as a person. How she has defied the odds at every turn, including getting older. How she still has a clear and pointed view about those with less and the injustices all around us. She makes you stop and think about what you are doing and how you are contributing.
What came to mind as I watched this tiny sprite of a woman stand and perform for 90 minutes, strumming her guitar and singing long, complex songs of a bygone era was, “Wow. This woman has staying power.” There is nothing that can stop her. She has a voice – a big voice with many followers. At 75, just a little older than the oldest leading-edge Boomer, she is still making a difference. She remains a voice of her generation. And, I think, she re-inspires those who grew up with her…and charts a path that the rest of us can follow as we look to define the years we have in front of us.
An unexpected, but important result of going to this concert was that I came out feeling like each of us is in control of what we want our retirement years to be. Clearly, Judy has a rhythm and routine that work for her. She has passion for what she does; she’s expanded her life with so many other things; and, she’s making a contribution every day. I don’t think you have to be famous to have what she has. But, you do have to make some plans to retire with a full plate. It won’t just happen by magic.
That’s how I came around to my new long-term resolution. Start to figure out who I want to be like when I retire. It’s about taking a few steps today then continuing to look for role models as I approach retirement. Here are a few ideas that might help you get a good start:
- Watch List – Find a few role models who are older than you and who are putting together a retirement that works for them. They don’t have to be famous, but Judy Collins is on my “watch list”. Who of your family or friends is doing things in retirement that you want to do? Who in your community? Who would you say is really loving retirement?
- Reject List – Equally important is to identify people you know (or know of) who are doing things you don’t want to do in retirement. This is as important as finding those who are doing cool things. You might find some of these folks at work. They come into the office every day, but don’t in fact do anything. Is that what you want to do in retirement?
- Core List – Start to figure out what you do best and think about if you want to continue to participate in those areas once you retire. For me, at my core, I love teenagers, financial planning and the retirement business. How can I turn those interests into ways to contribute once I retire? I’ve started by joining the local Chamber of Commerce. I’ll see what that brings from a business perspective, if anything. I have time to figure out the rest.
Now that you’ve put those New Year’s resolutions aside, focus on the longer-range stuff. Figuring out how you will retire with a full plate will take some time. So, let’s use the rest of this year to get started! Let me know who is making it to your list – we all could use a little inspiration.
For More Information:
If you need some ideas for starting to plan to retire with a full plate, here are a few suggestions:
After the concert and writing this post, I came across a terrific Wall St. Journal article about Judy Collins, complete with backstage photo shoot pictures!
The Gypsynesters (one of my watch list idols for a wildly creative retirement and the inspiration for the 16-boxes blog post) have their first book out. Going Gypsy: One Couple’s Adventure from Empty Nest to No Nest at All. I’ve pre-ordered my copy already!
If you only think AARP is for discounts for us 50+ crowd, you would be incorrect! Check out their Life Reimagined section for lots of ideas to redefine and reshape how you are thinking about retirement.