Monday, October 12, 2009

Why Don’t We Plan

I just finished A Long Bright Future, An Action Plan for a Lifetime of Happiness, Health, and Financial Security by Laura L. Carstensen, PhD. The book offers a comprehensive overview of the current realities, possibilities and challenges presented by our changing demographics.

Each chapter is rich in suggestions to individuals, employers, agencies, policy makers, etc. The basic message: the tsunami of aging baby boomers is upon us. How are we going to cope? What does coping look like?

Much of my work the past 15 years has been trying to get people to plan for their end-of-life---with very little success. I was curious to see how Dr. Carstensen handled the issues of planning for the future.

First she warns us: “retirement could revert to what it once was before the prosperity, leisure time, and health gains of the mid-twentieth century…a brief, unenjoyable period of sickness and infirmity that buffers the time between work and death.” Then she encourages us: “Thinking about what might go wrong helps us to prepare, so that we can avoid calamities…”

In Chapter 7: What Might Go Wrong, she describes obstacles to planning. I now understand much better how difficult it is for humans to imagine and then intentionally create different kinds of futures. She got me thinking---how many of us are children and grandchildren of people who came here reactively---fleeing misery---focused on survival? Many of us are recent descendants of peasants---where almost everything is out of the individual’s control: weather, war, sickness. Perhaps a one-generation veneer of middle-class security isn’t enough to rewire brains. I think of my grandmother intoning “Don’t borrow trouble.” Or the King James Version of Matthew 6:34: Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

No comments: