Taking A Leap: At Graduation, Retirement And Somewhere In Between

&l;p&g;&l;img class=&q;dam-image shutterstock size-large wp-image-1102011050&q; src=&q;https://specials-images.forbesimg.com/dam/imageserve/1102011050/960×0.jpg?fit=scale&q; data-height=&q;579&q; data-width=&q;960&q;&g; Shutterstock

I attended a graduation on Sunday — my oldest son&s;s high school graduation, to be specific.&a;nbsp; As seems to be the new approach, rather than having the valedictorian give a speech, they held a competition for the privilege of giving the student speech, and I&s;ll have to say that the speech was pretty well done (my son reports that he was a debate team standout).&a;nbsp; He spoke on the topic of &q;taking a leap,&q; shared stories of immigrant ancestors of some of the students — a grandfather who escaped the Nazis in Hungary, a mother who was smuggled into the country from Mexico in a truck, a grandfather who came from Ireland — and encouraged his audience, graduating class and family alike, to be willing to take a similar leap.

It struck me at the time that immigration is our Great Narrative of Taking Chances.&a;nbsp; Our ancestors, or people arriving even still, are Taking Leaps, seeking better lives, with the happy ending in evidence by the fact that they are here in the United States and, specifically for those referenced in that student&s;s graduation speech, that these students are graduating from a high school in a highly-ranked school district.&a;nbsp; (As it happens, the school district is highly-ranked but this high school has a significant immigrant/ELL population, and the speaker was careful to reference the opportunities offered, not assuming financial well-being on the part of individual families.)&a;nbsp; But the ending point of these stories are their success in the U.S., and, outside this great story of immigration, we don&s;t have much of a sense of leap-taking as something that ordinary people do.

In fact, for as much as one reads reports about job and even career-changing becoming the norm, this sort of radical risk-taking self-reinventing change is still rather unusual indeed, and with good reason, as the need to support one&s;s self and one&s;s family make dramatic risk-taking difficult to do.&a;nbsp; As it happens, I&s;ve been reading a recently-published book on the topic, &l;em&g;When to Jump&l;/em&g;, by Mike Lewis, which consists of stories of individuals who indeed, as the book&s;s terminology says, &q;jumped&q; — commonly, but not always, from a corporate office to an entrepreneurial life or working at a nonprofit — and these &q;jumps,&q; when not immediately paired with a salary, typically (though not always) were accomplished by young people without families or individuals with spousal support to keep the bills paid, and with hefty savings before making that leap.

But for most of us, that &q;jump&q; comes at retirement.&a;nbsp; We&s;re asked to reinvent ourselves (&l;em&g;Retirement Reinvention&l;/em&g;, by Robin Ryan) or to unretire (&l;em&g;Unretirement&l;/em&g;, by Chris Farrell), to use our retirement years to find a new job that is less physically or mentally taxing and affords more scheduling flexibility, to find new hobbies that will help us preserve our physical health and cognitive abilities, to build our social networks via community activities and volunteering, and the like.&a;nbsp; And, in fact, this is increasingly being touted as not just &q;nice to have&q; but necessary, not just for the individuals themselves but for society to be able to cope with an aging population.

But here&s;s what I&s;m asking myself, and I offer readers as something to chew on:&a;nbsp; &l;em&g;is the age of 65 (or 67 or 70) too late to attempt this reinvention?&l;/em&g;

After all, it isn&s;t easy:&a;nbsp; learning a new skill, networking with new people, coping with change in general.&a;nbsp; I see this with my parents; readers may have similar stories.

And I tend to wonder whether some aspects of self-reinvention make more sense at a younger age — at least, for those who find themselves entering emptynesterhood in their 50s rather than their 60s.&a;nbsp; Heck, the eligibility for catch-up contributions at age 50 is a benchmark of its own, drawing on the expectation that pre-retirement empty-nesters are in a position to defer more of their earnings to retirement, and indeed couples who had their children at a traditional-ish age would have a good number of years to prepare for retirement after completing the work of raising their children.&a;nbsp; Now, a couple having children in their late 30s or even early 40s, and, as we&s;re told will increasingly be the case, unable to scoot them out of the house until well past reaching legal adulthood, might be more limited than in the past, but, if I might put a bug in readers&s; ears, at least, I would suggest that, in the same way as saving for retirement needs to take place long before one hits old age, so, too, should planning for how one will live in retirement, whether it&s;s becoming involved in community groups, exercising and adopting good health habits, or making a career change at an age young enough to do so successfully, rather than simply being burned out at the end of a traditional working lifetime.

And, yes, readers, I am trying to put this into practice in my own life.&a;nbsp; This isn&s;t a forum for my own story, but if you want to read this, or to comment, you can read &l;a href=&q;http://www.patheos.com/blogs/janetheactuary/2018/06/a-career-move-thats-either-incredibly-brilliant-or-mind-blowingly-stupid.html&q; target=&q;_blank&q;&g;my latest personal blog post entry&l;/a&g;.&l;/p&g;

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