August 21, 2006
There it was at our staff meeting: the first birthday cake with the magic number 65 on top. They went with the big number candles, so they wouldn't have to bother lighting dozens of separate ones. Probably a smart move.
Sixty-five. That was once time to retire. And indeed, when I was younger I expected that in my mid-60s, I would join the "over the hill gang." After all, when I consider the staff here at the Heritage Foundation, I note almost all 200 are younger than I. Even a couple members of our board are years my junior. Yet there's plenty of work to do, and I'm not ready to hang it all up. When I wrote about turning 50 --which I did just yesterday, it seems -- I noted, "Fifty really does have a different feel to it than 49." Tom Brokaw put it well when he turned 50: "At this age, mistakes, however daring, are not easily excused. Achievement is not a cause of praise; it is expected."
Sixty-five is an age and, too often, an end. At 65. Jack Welch and so many others have followed company policy and hit the golf course -- permanently.
If they tire of golf, like my Dad did, they take up something else. In Dad's case, oil painting. One time I called home, and my mother answered the phone. After chatting a bit, I asked where Dad was. She responded, "Oh, he's out on the porch painting." Me: "Is he getting any better?" Mom: "No, but he's getting faster." Now we have his masterpieces all over the grandkids' room at the beach house. They're too young to notice these aren't really world-class, priceless Impressionist originals.
But turning 65 shouldn't be a time to lament. It's a time to reflect and to make a difference. I'm lucky to still be able to make an impact.
It's also a good time to look at the balance sheet.
On the asset side:
All in all, it's pretty clear my assets far outweigh my liabilities.
As I reach 65, at the front of the Baby Boomer generation, I think it's time to remove some of this magic number's stigma. "Retire at 65" was a policy made long ago, when life expectancy was 67 or 70. It's time to start pushing the retirement date back a year or two at a time. That would give talented people a chance to stay in the workplace and start addressing looming problems of Social Security.
As for turning 65: No, I don't like it, but I guess I will put up with it. After all, I'm still "on the right side of the sod," and when -- or perhaps I should say if -- 75 rolls around, these will be "the good old days."
First Appeared in the Washington Times