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Are your best years behind or ahead of you?

From my point of view, I see 60 years coming up this summer. If my best years are behind me, I’m not sure I want to know it.

As I delved into this subject, I was a bit nervous. Statistics can be brutal and I’m not above living in denial. And wasn’t it just yesterday that I was a young teeanger on Santa Monica beach with my girlfriends listening to KHJ on my transistor radio as we promised each other that we would never trust anyone over 30? It was, in fact, 45 years of yesterdays.

Baby boomers (born between 1946-1964) have been labeled a financial drain to our economy and a burden to our society. Our aging bodies filling up emergency rooms with our ailments, collecting our social security checks; the picture is not a pretty one. It’s also not factual.

The baby boomers of today are over 80 million strong, representing over 35% of the population. That’s not chicken feed, and I don’t see a long line of retirees buying floral shirts and condos in Florida. No sir-ee-Bob!

Whoever set the bar for our “prime” clearly didn’t see us coming.

This generation of “aged” (whoever thought up that term should be taken to the woodshed) has changed every single phase of life they have migrated through. It’s hard to argue with the numbers. Someone turns 50 every 8 seconds in our country. By the year 2015, over 45% of the U.S. population will be over 50. Staggering.

Interestingly enough, Americans in their 50s and 60s have the highest rate of entrepreneurship than any other age group. Yes, any other age group. Are you paying attention pip-squeaks? If you’re not there yet, you will be soon enough. There is nowhere to go but up. In years, I mean. It would probably be a good idea if you started taking notes. If we’re lucky, aging is a game we all get to play.

There is an assumption that our generation is becoming a pillar of budding entrepreneurs because we haven’t saved enough money to comfortably retire. You would only be partially correct.

The truth is that 70% of us do not feel that we have enough money to retire and live the lifestyle we want for ourselves. Baby boomers have never been good at settling for less than they think they deserve. Retirement is not an exception to that logic.

People past the age of 60 have listed these reasons for opting to continue working (often as new entrepreneurs) vs. retiring:

  • They want to maintain a certain lifestyle and have no inclination towards downgrading.
  • They are living longer than their grandparents (approximately 18.6 years) and healthier lives.
  • They have tired of corporate life and the rat race that goes with it.
  • Given their druthers (yes, it’s a real word), they prefer to self manage their time, rather than have their work hours dictated to them.
  • They long to use their creative minds and want to implement their ideas and passions.
  • They view remaining active as a way to remain current, tuned in and youthful.

I find all of this very fascinating. When I was a kid (horse and buggy days – that was joke, why aren’t you laughing?) I witnessed my elders retiring, receiving a gold watch and spending their retirement years sitting on the couch watching television waiting for their arteries to harden. When you reached 60 you were too old for pretty much anything mainstream.

That was then. This is now.

Baby boomers are hip. We account for over one-third of all online sales in the United States, spending up to $7 billion a year for our purchases. Since we represent 70% of all U.S. disposable income, we are America’s largest target consumer audience. We are tech savvy; texting, Skyping, blogging, conducting webinars and checking our Wall Street stats from our smart phone and laptops, and we account for one-third of all social media participants.

Are we too old to run a business, have an active sex life, travel, drive? Don’t count on it.  Today’s 50, 60 and 70 year olds have experienced failure, tasted defeat and survived about 5 economic crashes. We’ve been cleaned out, checked out, started over, watched as our President was assassinated, gone to the moon and back, witnessed numerous wars and saw our way clear through the purple haze of drugs, rock and roll and AIDS. We have been unfazed by gas rationing, killer bees, acid rain, and the atom bomb. We are not easily scared or intimidated, and the fact of the matter is, this isn’t our first rodeo.

The biggest obstacles we boomers face in our quest for longevity are cancer, obesity, heart disease and suicide. The first three were sadly no surprise to me. Suicide was. The rate is not insignificant. In 2009, there were 11.8 suicide deaths per 100,000 lives.

The generation that was known for its need for massive consumption and personal gratification is settling the score. Giving back and helping humanity is on our to-do list as massive numbers of boomers donate their time and money to healing causes. Boomers give more total dollars to charity than any other generation; roughly $47 billion a year.

This past decade, I have found my way to myself. Interesting, since I never really knew I was lost. The years have a way of delivering patience, understanding and purpose. I’ve always thought of myself as a force (of some kind), but it’s only until recent years that I have had the utmost confidence in what I do. Perhaps it’s because I have earned my stripes, know my stuff, have learned and recovered from my failures and I no longer feel the need to take any guff from anyone. That’s a tough combination to beat.

I don’t buy in to the idea that 60 is the new 40. But I also don’t buy in to the thought process that 60 is too old to do any damn thing I want. I believe that, for many, our best years are ahead of us. We’ve still got a lot of fire in the furnace and the will to maximize our time. This time in our lives we actually know what we’re doing and have no shortage of courage to do it. We also have no problem moving someone out of the way if they try to stop us.

It all comes down to how long it takes you to learn what you need to know to live a full and rewarding life. I can’t imagine that anyone younger than the age of 40 could possibly master it.

It is clearly obvious to me as I approach 60, that I am not the woman I used to be.

I’m better.

 

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Joan Cooper - Boy did I need you today!!!

It is wonderful how you express so cogently what I am thinking. I am way beyond you in the life experience, but I really do not know the answers. But then, even the highest paid people on the planet don’t either – you know – like Presidents and Kings and such.

My epitaph – Keep a fire in your heart and a smile in your eyes.

Joan

Suerae Stein - Very well written and very interesting statistics! I am at the youngish end of the baby-boomers and I hope the best is yet to come. I am just now realizing that life is more than working and raising a family. There’s a lot to learn/feel/overcome/enjoy, etc… This post comes at a time where I’ve heard at least 4 different people talk about how wonderful their golden years are. I guess I have a lot to look forward to! 🙂

Mel Glenn - You ARE better than you were because you know more, have experienced more, but in addition to that, you have confident, upbeat spirit that stands you in good stead. As Ringo Starr sang, “It don’t come easy,” and our accomplishments are hard-earned.
A very positive column, Tammy. I will try to remember all you’ve said because I will be 70 (!) in the spring.

Maureen - Just got an email that said “Life isn’t about how to survive the storm, but how to dance in the rain.” As always, very enjoyable read Tammy, Thank you!!

Sharon Westmoreland - Tammy, you’re timing is spot on as usual. Yesterday my doctor sent me a pre-physical questionnaire. When I finished it, I sent her an email saying that it felt like it was directed toward someone “old”. Not me. I couldn’t relate to all the questions for someone who was seriously declining in health both physically and mentally. Trenna recently referred to me as a tough old bird as I recover from multiple compound fractures I acquired from a fall off my horse. Like you, I ain’t going quietly that’s for #%^%*! sure!

Tammy - Hi Joan, you are such a delight! I’m not sure there are any secret answers to the aging dilemma, but if I find one, I’ll be sure to let you know. That is, after I’ve written a killer article on it and made a bazillion dollars from it! (Wishful thinking never hurt anyone) I love your epitaph and have very high hopes that you won’t be in need of it anytime soon. Thanks for being here and for your post.

Tammy - Hi Suerae, timing is everything … so they say. I must share with you that while I am not thrilled at the prospect of turning 60 (still in a state of shock, actually) I am enjoying my life like I never have before. I’m not rolling in money, I don’t have a villa in Italy and I can’t remember the last time I bought a piece of jewelry, but my every day is so content, challenging, meaningful and full of love. I am convinced that good things come with age. I hope to be reporting back to you in another 20 years…give or take. Thanks, Suerae for your post. So glad to have you here!

Tammy - Hi Mel, we are almost twinsies! Well…ten years apart. Phst! No big deal. When my positive attitude leaves me (and it does) my sarcastic sense of humor kicks in and always saves my day. As my daughter always says “mom, you could have a party all by yourself”. It’s a blessing and a curse. I welcome both. How will you be spending your 70th day of life? You must share it with me. Thanks for the kind review. Coming from you … it means a lot. One day, Mr. Glenn, we may actually meet in person. Stranger things have happened. Thanks for visiting and commenting. Appreciate it so!

Tammy - Hi Maureen, I’ve read that quote on many an email myself. I’ve always thought it was brilliant. So glad you enjoyed the read. More happy that you are on the other side of my blog! Thanks for the comment!

Tammy - Hi Sharon, there’s a LOT to be said for being feisty. I’m convinced that we can add years to our life just through sheer stubbornness. It’s worth a shot. A friend of mine referred to me as a tough old bird, at which point I looked her square in the eye and said “you mean I’m a feisty little filly, right?” she smiled nervously and nodded. Life demands toughness. Those who argue are doomed to regret their resistance. But once we learn, we also learn to go to our soft spot, our patient place and our content state of mind. Thank God! Aside from the body aches and pains, I’m loving this age already! SO HAPPY to see you here. Thanks ever so for the post!

Carol - Tammy, I always feel so inspired and super charged after reading your articles. You are so wise! Many thanks for the reading enjoyment, encouragement and statistics! Being smack in the middle of the baby boomer generation and in the process of reinventing my career (because I can ) I was so inspired reading this and have confirmation that I’m not alone and I’m on the right track. I’m keeping this by my side and will be rereading it everyday!

Tammy - Hi Carol, well, you made my day! Thanks for the kind review. No. You’re definitely NOT alone. I find a lot of comfort in knowing that I will soon be part of a majority. What is that saying … “misery loves company”? So does joy, achievement, challenge and gratification. Like everyone else, I have good and bad days. I am super grateful that these past years have produced more of the former. Cheering you on, Carol .. big time! Thanks for sharing and posting. So appreciate it!

Ande Lyons - DELICIOUS post Tammy!

I am so happy to declare I’m a Baby Boomer… and all the quirky, squirrely attributes that come with the Sex, Drugs, Rock and Roll years.

I’m also the daughter of two very vibrant Greatest Generationers (is that word?). Mom and Dad are 89 and 90, respectively… and they’re constantly showing off. Jumping into the car and driving 12 hours to visit my younger sister. Volunteering here, there, and everywhere. I can never get them on the phone… they’re too busy! They ask me “Did you see Charlie Rose last night? What do you think about that tech guy’s prediction for Google?” Yup, they email, upload docs and photos, research everything online as well as hangout at the library. I’m exhausted just hearing about their day.

The example given to this Baby Boomer by her parents is always be curious, interest, and make sure your wear out, not rust out.

So I’m with you, Doll… we absolutely have our best years ahead of us. Yeee Haaaw! Ride ‘Em Cowgirl!

LOVE YOU!

Ande
@AndeLyons

Tammy - Ande, I LOVE your parents. I’m exhausted after reading about their activities. Do you have any idea how lucky you are? Geesh, of course you do. I have NO doubt that you will follow suit. I also have no doubt that THESE are the times of our lives! And I now have full understanding of the phrase “if I knew then…what I know now”. Because, baby, I know a LOT! It’s going to be a grand run of it and I’m excited every day. Also excited knowing you are on the other side of my rationals, rants and ridiculous notions. Thank you for that!

Jenny - “No matter where you go, there you are”, I’ve seen this saying on notepads, picture frames, cards and I like it. I enjoyed being right here and reading your post. Yes sir-ee-Bob, it’s going to be a good day!!

Tammy - Jenny, yes, it IS going to be a good day! Wonderful to hear from you. So happy you enjoyed the read. I enjoyed the post!

Kellie - Maya Angelou
when I was younger I did what knew; now that I am older I do better because I know better.

Sharon Greenthal - Having just turned 51, I am at the tailend of the Boomer generation – but I am no less a member of the group. I am finding that this stage of my life – kids grown, a little money in the bank, free time – is proving to be the most creative, productive, and happiest in many ways. I’m not afraid of getting older – as long as I can continue to do the things that make my life meaningful, I’m happy – age be damned.

Tammy - Hi Sharon, age be damned is right! We should put that on a T-shirt! I’m with you, I don’t really care how old I am as long as I am healthy enough not to dread getting up in the morning and I feel good enough to do “my thing” whatever the heck that might be at the moment. Although, I must admit, 60 seems a bit unfathomable to me. I can’t imagine ever thinking of myself as old, and yet, here I am. So wonderful to have you here. Thank you for that…and for the lovely post1

Janie Emaus - I’m at the beginning or far end of the baby boomer generation. And life is only getting better.

Virginia Sullivan - I think the thing that’s so wonderful about being 56 at this time is that when I actually say my age to people- I’m amazed that I’m that age. It sounds weird but I don’t feel old at all. I still have work that’s important, I still run marathons and jump out of airplanes, I still get hit on by men in bars. It’s just that I do it with pictures of my 8 grandchildren in my purse! What a great time- you are absolutely right. It’s good that it always surprises me that i’m this old.

carrie tuhy - Hi Tammy,

Just found your blog through Gen Fab.
What a wonderful summary of our
unwieldy, unconforming generation. The
thing about turning 60–and I have–is that
you maybe part of the overanalyzed baby
boom generation but you uniquely
yourself and you can see yourself clearly and celebrate your eccentricities proudly.

Tammy - Hi Janie, amazing how that happens, isn’t it? Did you ever think you would be so wonderfully wise, patient and “all that”? I sure didn’t. And yet, here we are. Speaking of which, I’m so glad you are HERE! Thanks ever so, for the post.

Tammy - Hi Virginia, you run marathons and jump out of planes? Oh my! You are either my hero or a bit off your rocker. Haa! I vote for hero! LOVE that you pull your grandbaby pictures out at bars. I’m still laughing! I’m with you … it is shocking to hear myself say out loud the number of years I’ve lived. I often cock my head and mutter “what was that?”. Yup. Thanks for popping in and know that I appreciate your post!

Tammy - Hi Carrie, I just found GenFab myself and am super impressed with the talent and generosity that I’ve found there. Women that support women…what a concept! I DO celebrate my uniqueness and find myself happy pretty much every single day. As my daughter often tells me “mom, you are a party all by yourself”. And that’s a bad thing, how? Thanks for being here and especially…thanks for posting!

Ellen Dolgen - O M G! I can’t believe I just discovered your blog. I love your writing and POV. Reaching out is in! xo Ellen – I will be following you a lot. You can check out my blog ellendolgen.com where it’s the latest research on women’s health, aging and menopause.

Anne @GenFab - This feels like a manifesto. And I love it.

Chloe Jeffreys - Preach it, Sister! This will not be our grandmother’s aging. My grandmother was old at 50. I feel like life is just finally getting interesting.

Tammy - Hi Ellen, well you have ME excited to read your blog! LOVE, LOVE your enthusiasm … I want to go back and read my blog post again! But seriously, I am thrilled to be found by you…thrilled! Clearly we share a POV and a sense of humor. visit me randomly and often and you can be sure I will be visiting you! Thanks for stopping by and especially for posting!

Tammy - Hi Anne, now that you mention it … it DOES feel like a manifesto. Mine! Thanks for loving it. It would be fair to say that I love you for that! So happy to have you here. Hope you come back and visit again. Appreciate the post!

Tammy - Hi Chloe, (chuckle) you make me laugh. I am preaching to the choir I think. Do you remember Aunt Bee on the Andy Griffith Show? Her supposed age in that show was early 50’s. Yup! Can you imagine you or I wearing paisley/flowered moo-moos and pinning our gray hair in a bun while we wear orthopedic shoes? Yeah, I didn’t think so. The times … they are a changing! LOVE your line “life is just finally getting interesting”. I second that!! Glad to have you here….and grateful for the post!

Ellen Dolgen - What a great summary of the power of the 50+ females. I started EllenDolgen.com almost half a decade ago to give the boomer women the health tools they need to thrive during these years because this is THEIR time! I shared this on FB too.

Tammy - Hi Ellen, so glad you enjoyed the read. Some powerful statistics speak on our behalf, that’s for sure. Checked out your site and have to save that I LOVE IT. Wonderful information and greatly needed. Kudos to you, my dear. Very happy you found your way here and so appreciate the post!

Ellen Dolgen - Thanks Tammy. Girl power to us all.

Mark - Love this! You obviously did a ton of research to put this together and it shows. It’s a very enjoyable read and reminds me of one of the final episodes from Season 5 of Boston Legal wherein John Larroquette & Betty White sue the television industry for ignoring the elderly with their programming. Good Stuff!

Tammy - Mark, oh, how I miss the gang from Boston Legal. So glad you enjoyed the read. And very happy you stopped in for a visit. There are so many stats on Boomers that it can make your head spin. Most of it is pretty positive, which came as a surprise to me. It seems the future is less bleak than what was predicted. Thank God for small favors. Appreciate the post and hope to see you back again!

Karen D. Austin - I agree that Boomers are redefining aging and commanding attention in larger society — as they have since the started shaping large cultural movements when they were young adults. I’m on the tail end, and it’s exciting to see late adulthood being redefined. There are still some real challenges for older adults, but I’m seeing some positive change for many.

Tammy - Hi Karen, We so agree! There is definitely power in numbers (thank God for small favors!). It is very exciting to see how ageing is being redefined. It seems that growing old is an ever changing landscape. Some of it encouraging and some, not so much. So happy to hear from you. Appreciate the read and the post!

Rael Hall - WOO HOOOO 60 is the new 35 !

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