Thoughts on The Bloating of America, and on The Encore Career… prompted by Marc Freedmans’s The Big Shift

I just presented my synopsis of The Big Shift:  Navigating the New Stage Beyond Midlife by Marc Freedman.  It is a thoughtful book, and a provocative read.  Though there is a lot in it, from a host of sources, it raises issues that we have known for some time.  And, in simple terms, it comes down to our never-ending quest for meaning – especially meaning in work.  Specifically, it describes the emergence of a new “age,” a new “stage,” described with many names and labels, but maybe most clearly and simply as the “encore career.”

People need this encore career — and, we need people to develop those encore careers:

“The waste of talent and experience is incalculable.”  (Peter Laslett).

If you are considering embarking on a new chapter in your life, this book is a good read.

But it was this paragraph that jumped out at me.  Sadly, I have not read Kurt Anderson’s book (though I know the radio work of Mr. Anderson), from which he took these thoughts:

Kurt Anderson, in his book Reset, …suggests that we are in the aftermath of what might be characterized as the bloating of America, a mass overextension that occurred between 1980 and the late 2000s…  Mortgages mushroomed, debt ballooned, and our houses expanded, along with our waistlines.   We could easily add the golden years to the package, as they went from an assumedly brief proposition at the end of life, a well-earned respite, to a thirty-year McMansion of a stage, inflated until it literally constituted the second half of adulthood.  But it became both unattainable, for most individuals, and unsustainable, for a society soon to have more people over sixty that under fifteen. 

Freedman’s message is pretty simple – people will need, and people will want, an encore career.  This will be part of our national “unbloating,” as we (learn to) live more realistically — and we work longer, for the health of the people working longer, and for the health of the overall society.

Yes, we will work longer.  Partly because “retirement” and “old” are moving targets these days.

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