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Americans losing drive at age 55


Doesn’t anybody enjoy their job? Even as economists suggest that the retirement age will have to rise as we look for ways to keep the Social Security program functioning, more and more Americans are talking about 55 as the right time to retire, not 65 or higher.

And it isn’t just people in physically demanding, mentally stressful or emotionally unpleasant jobs. Apparently, even the members of America’s royalty – entertainers – are barely able to drag themselves through their workday.

Ellen Barkin, who was born in 1954 and achieved one of the major American dreams by becoming a movie star, was delighted when she realized that her financial situation would allow her to stop acting. “Me no likey workey,” one story quotes her as saying.

Acting in movies is that much of a burden?

Last week, a news story about NBC’s Katie Couric speculated that she might be leaving to become the evening news anchor at CBS. Nothing wrong with that; she would get better working hours and, by some standards, more prestige. But the story also noted that her “Today Show” co-host, 47-year-old Matt Lauer, would like to semi-retire at age 50. He doesn’t want to work five-day weeks, according to the report.

Again, it would be understandable if he wanted to try a different job, no matter how glamorous his current gig looks to most of us. But what’s so torturous about working five-day weeks?

We hear examples all the time of people who couldn’t wait to get away from it all, then quickly realized they didn’t know what to do with all of that freedom. No doubt a lot of us are more hooked on routine and assignments than we imagine or would ever admit.

Maybe we need to make sure we know how to enjoy independence before we jump into it.

In Iowa, we still brag about our work ethic. It will be interesting to see if the “done by 55” movement takes hold here.

Our heritage is the farm, that curious mix of backbreaking labor and deep love for it. But we’re not a pure farm state any more. Like any metropolitan area on the coasts, Central Iowa is filled with people who work for somebody else, and that’s not quite what we want.

We think that if we retire at 55, we’ll get one last shot at doing things our own way.

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