As other writers have discovered, it’s always interesting when acquaintances find out an “older person” is taking classes, especially online classes.
Reactions vary, as anyone would expect: Good for you! is quite common, though more frequent is You’ve got to be kidding! Haven’t you had enough of that by now? (Yes, as a matter of fact, I have.) The most common reaction, though, is a blank stare, as the news goes right over their heads. That’s often due to the person having asked politely what’s new with you while not ready for an answer of any substance.
In my case, I’m taking more writing classes, and sometimes, the homework isn’t fun. But no, I’m not chasing riches as some have indicated. Neither do I have my ladder against the wrong wall. It would be a rare writer who went that route without falling flat on her backside when the ladder fell early in the game.
In almost all cases, the follow-up question is Why? Are you bored now that you’re retired? Well, personally I’m not retired, though others taking classes may be. Even then, they may not be bored as such. They’re just looking to expand their horizons or to accomplish a goal denied them earlier in life. The latter is a prime motivator, since life can steal your dreams early on.
Survival is the motivator
Personally, I’m taking classes to survive. In fact, many older workers (including writers) are taking classes for financial reasons. Due to family circumstances, we may not have had the opportunity to save sufficiently for retirement years (or realized later in the game the need to play catch-up). Often this is through no fault of our own. We’ve also been forced into our employers’ 401(k) plans instead of traditional pension plans that are pretty much extinct. And almost always the 401(k) is invested in the stock market.
Some 401(k) plans offer choices, rather than just the employer’s own stock, and are managed by quality investment firms. Some employers generously match an employee’s contributions up to a specific percentage, perhaps 5%. Even so, there are never any guarantees whether invested in stocks, bonds or a combo of each. Many potential or actual retirees have had their nest eggs trashed by stock market crashes in general and housing market crashes in particular. They are in dire straits and many of us seek to avoid joining them. Dubious other investment choices exist but it takes real expertise to navigate those without incurring further disaster.
Health permitting, a good way to prepare ourselves is to earn additional income following retirement when it does arrive. Most writers would much prefer to continue working on our novels or poetry when our time is finally our own. But from the practical standpoint, bills will need payment even after prudent downsizing and moving to a less expensive location.
Commercial writing can provide extra income, even if modest, when the writer has put in the effort to obtain proper training. And as far as chasing riches, if they come, they come. The good Lord does provide but generally for those who have first done what they can to prepare, instead of waiting for assistance that may well have strings attached. This does not include those who are disabled in some way, of course. Each must act in accordance with their abilities. Yet waiting for help that may never arrive isn’t as good a choice as first doing what we can about our situation. This may include taking online classes.