There is something positive for all of us who have seen our retirement dollars dwindle down to a precious few. Let's face it: You didn't really want to retire, anyway. You didn't want to start eating dinner at 4:00 in the afternoon. You didn't really want to buy a home where friends and relatives might drop in and stay for weeks and weeks. You wouldn't look good in orange-checked golf pants. And you'd probably end up with a sunburn if you took that trip to Tahiti. So, inadvertently, the thieves of Wall Street may have done us all a favor.
All that leisure time we dreamt of would probably have been dangerous. We'd have too much time to worry about everything. I don't need to know the answers to questions like, "If global warming is real, why am I wearing more sweaters lately?" With so much time on our hands, some of us would have gotten fat from eating all day, while others would have gotten injured from finally being able to take that kickboxing class.
You've seen the statistics, and you know anecdotes to back them up. People who continue to be active remain healthier than people who sit around all day. Scientists report that staying mentally active can stave off the loss of cognitive function. One of the founders of a Web site called, "2 Young 2 Retire" feels that "the idea of rest and play for the rest of your life is a ticket to the hospital."
About two years ago, because so many of its members were still working, AARP decided to stop calling itself the American Association of Retired Persons. They officially changed their name to — believe it or not — simply AARP. (I have the feeling that if they hired a few more seniors who still want to work, they could have come up with a better new name for the organization.)
Until a few generations ago, before Social Security and full-time leisure became part of our culture, it was expected that older people would work throughout their lives. They were who younger people turned to for their insight and wisdom. Ageism hadn't been invented yet. People weren't injecting botulism into their faces, hoping that they might look younger than their children.
You probably think I'm just rationalizing. I prefer to think of myself as someone who sees the IRA Account as half-full. Maybe some good things will come out of the scandalous behavior of executives and the frightening erasure of paper gains. For example, now you won't feel guilty when you don't write that novel you've always promised yourself you'd tackle some day. I've already discussed the health benefits, but surprisingly there are possible economic gains to come out of this as well.
If you're healthy, think of all the money you'll save in doctor and pharmacy bills even if the politicians never keep their promise to come up with realistic Medicare and drug plans. And because you'll still be working, you'll still be earning a salary — something you wouldn't be earning fishing from that boat you can no longer afford.
So, the irony is that we may actually end up happier and healthier than we would if we could all retire as we thought we were going to do a few months ago. If this turns out to be the case, I like to think that I'd be big enough to show those crooked corporate cads my appreciation. In fact, I would be happy to send them all thank you notes — as long as they would be delivered to their new addresses at some federal penitentiary.
Lloyd Garver has written for many television shows, ranging from "Sesame Street" to "Family Ties" to "Frasier." He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover.
By Lloyd Garver