By Steve Kelman

Blog archive

The Lectern: Tempted to retire?

I recently saw Dave Litman, the respected senior procurement executive at the Transportation Department, and learned that he will be retiring shortly. FEMA’s Dee Lee, one-time OFPP Administrator and senior procurement policy official at DoD, will be retiring. Retirements of senior government managers in procurement and IT have been getting a lot of attention from a government management perspective, because the government is losing a lot of good career people.


But another conversation got me thinking about retirement from a different perspective. I was talking with a long-time friend from the IT industry just yesterday, and he noted that, now age 55, he was thinking of getting out of the industry in a couple of years. He didn't plan fully to stop working, but he was thinking of going off to a beach resort area and setting up a small business in the maintenance area -- in other words, a complete career change, and a very different lifestyle from his current self-described 80 hour weeks.


Baby boomers in my generation are beginning to confront the idea of retirement. A nephew of mine, a twentysomething, asked me at a family event a while ago when I planned to retire. I said the thought of retirement hadn't even crossed my mind. He was surprised: He said most of his friends aimed to retire by the time they reached 45, having made a pile of money. Of course, many blue-collar workers are physically exhausted by the time they reach 60, and ready for retirement. I suspect that for other boomers, thoughts about retirement are a proxy for how much one likes one's job.


Very few academics I know are even considering retiring, a sign that (despite only modest salaries compared to people in business or law) we have pretty good lives. I enjoy what I do a lot, and I couldn't imagine wanting to do anything much different, so why retire? I would also say -- and this is probably becoming more common in the boomer generation -- that I don't feel I have any less energy or vitality than I had when I was 25.


Readers, particularly boomer readers -- what are your thoughts about retirement?


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Posted by Steve Kelman on Jan 18, 2008 at 12:09 PM


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