Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Advice for the Newly Retired

Forget Obamania. Sure there's a buzz and excitement with the new president. He's young, handsome, eloquent, exciting and adored by millions. Nope, when I look around the cast of characters in today's spectacle, he's not the guy I can align myself with.

Not too hard to figure out it's the other one, the guy in his early 60's who is retiring after what seems like an eternity on the job. I know what he's going through. He has just spent the last year more or less killing time in his office and staying out of the way because there was no sense in starting something if he wasn't going to be around.

And in the past three months, once everyone knew who was replacing him, he probably was lucky if he got more than a couple of phone calls from people who used to contact him daily. He's got a wife who is clearly going to be setting his sunset agenda for him. And his parents still love him even if nobody else can figure out how he managed to drive so many successful things straight into the ground.

Given that I've gone first into this great state of retirement by about four months, I thought I would write an open letter to the world's newest retiree.

Dear W

Welcome to the part of your life where you can finally do absolutely nothing and not be criticized - except of course by your wife. No one will judge you anymore if you say something dumb or incomprehensible. That is mostly because no one will be listening anymore or taking any note of what you have to say.

Sure, a photographer may pop by every once in a while to see how you're doing. But by and large you should stop worrying about appearances and feel free to adopt my recommended standard retirement wardrobe of shorts and a t-shirt. (You can substitute sweats in cold weather.)

Tomorrow when you wake up, you will have absolutely nothing to do that must be done. Actually, it looks as if you've been at this stage for a while so it may not be as much of a change for you as it is for some. But my strong recommendation is to A) enjoy not having to do anything and B) don't let Laura know you don't have anything to do.

The whole point of retirement is to feel good about yourself and your life. Whatever course you take, just have one goal in mind. When your final hours are ticking away, be able to look at those around you and say, "Mission Accomplished." But then again, perhaps there may be a better way to word it.

It says in the New York Times that you plan to write a book. That's a great way to spend your time, but it really requires a lot of work. You were reported as saying you want people to be able to understand what it was like in the Oval Office when you had to make some of your tough decisions.

I don't know if that is the best topic for your first book. You've got to remember that not all of your grand plans turn out exactly as you had hoped. This book could easily backfire and end up being used as a series of case studies on how not to make good decisions. My suggestion? Work with Laura and do a barbecue recipe book. It will lead to far more guest appearances on daytime TV.

One good thing about retiring so early is that you have plenty of time to rehabilitate your image. Sure it's got to be embarrassing having the lowest approval ratings in modern history. I mean - lower than the guy that got impeached, lower than the guy who couldn't rescue hostages from Iran, lower than the one that resigned in disgrace. And of course, although I am sure this wouldn't upset you, much lower than your father's ratings even though they kicked him out of his job.

But your golden years can be used to work on that poor image people have of you. Look, Jimmy became popular by building houses with Habitat for Humanity and then meddling in numerous international disputes whether he was asked to or not. Bill, who left with high ratings despite Monica, has used his after-work years to get incredibly rich and still spend much of his time trying to set the global social agenda through his foundation. And of course he and your Dad go to just about every natural catastrophe that befalls the world, kind of an odd-couple tag team of fundraising doom.

So find yourself a new cause to promote. All of the businesses you ran before becoming a politician failed, so why not consider using all that experience to start a support group for the thousands of people whose businesses are failing due to the economy you insist has nothing to do with you.

Or how about buying foreclosed homes and renting them real cheap to formerly employed people now living hand to mouth? Or perhaps you could consider establishing legal funds so the people of New Orleans can sue the federal government for its failures with Katrina and its aftermath. You know what a botched job that was and hey, it's the other guy's government now, so what do you care?

Those are just some ideas off the top of my head. There are other options, of course. You could just spend your days taking walks, reading, blogging and watching old episodes of America's Next Top Model. If that is more appealing, send me an e-mail. I have lots of advice on how best to do that.



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