Saturday, January 7, 2012

Retirement Guidelines — Words Banned in 2012

Lake Superior University in Michigan just issued its annual list of banned words. Words and phrases that qualify are overused, misused, useless or otherwise annoying—ones that make us grind our teeth so hard that the fillings vibrate.

This year’s dirty dozen includes such gems as “baby bump,” “the new normal,” “amazing,” “man cave,” and “shared sacrifice.” As a service to my fellow retirees, I’ve gathered a similar collection of ne’er-do-wells to be banned from publications targeted at us.

While it’s not likely anyone would send retirees tips on how to deal with our baby bumps, I would be happy if I never saw the words “muffin top” or “breadbasket” again. I’d be even happier if I never saw my own muffin top again. While we’re on the topic of muffins and bread, let’s banish “donut hole.” No one understands how that actually works and I’ve about worn it out in my blog posts.

I’d keep “bread box,” though, since it’s a useful term of size comparison. “Bigger than a microwave” just doesn’t have the same ring to it. I would, however, suggest tossing “lock box.” It, too, has served its purpose for my blogging needs. Of course, if Al Gore were to reappear on the political horizon, I might have a change of heart.

A better candidate for banishment than “the new normal” is “the new 50,” as in: “60 is the new 50.” Enough already; 60 is not the new 50. It can’t be, because 66 is the old 65, and pretty soon 67 will be the old 66. If you’re inclined to quibble over this, check out the progression in the FRA (Full Retirement Age) over recent years.

Moving on, I’d hang on to “amazing” and drop “age appropriate” instead. All this blather about what behavior is “age appropriate” for retirees flies in the face of the amazing condition that many retirees are in. Not to mention their energetic interest in politics, fashion, pop culture and—so it appears per a recent study of older women—sex.

Since I now have your attention, I direct you to a report in the American Journal of Medicine on research that followed more than 800 California women over the course of 40 years. (And you know what they say about West Coast girls…) Actually, the study doesn’t say senior women have a stronger interest in sex; rather that the sex is more satisfying when they get older. So much for “age appropriate.”

I digress. This post is not about sex; it’s about language. Overused, misused, useless or annoying language. To that end, I have no bone to pick with banning “man cave;” it sounds so, well… prehistoric. But I’d also like to get rid of any and all forms of “staging,” as in: “My real estate agent arranged for a stager to remove every hint of personality from our cave before we put it on the market so we can downsize.”

While I’d love to eliminate “downsizing,” it will be at least a decade before the baby boom of incoming retirees will have downsized their need for that term. Relative to its role in retirement planning, it’s not even close to being overused. Corporations seem to have come to a different conclusion, however, preferring the more euphemistic “rightsizing.” Yeah, right.

Speaking of not downsizing, “extended family” is another phrase that has outlived its usefulness. An “extended family” now has so many variations and interpretations that the phrase no longer has a reliable meaning. Better to be more specific, using “echo boomer” or “multi-generational” or “sandwiched” family and bid farewell to “extended.”

I haven’t decided yet how I feel about giving up “shared sacrifice.” I’m conflicted about how it applies to my husband and me. I’m good if it means that when one of us cooks, the other does the dishes. Now that I’m retired and watching our spending, I  “sacrifice” by getting my hair cut every six weeks instead of five. Best I can tell, my husband gets his cut about twice a year. If he shared my schedule-lengthening, we’d need to get him a man-cave. Not good.

Until I figure out how we can actually share sacrifices, I’d like to hang onto that phrase for at least another year. If I have to give up some other phrase in exchange, they can have “tighten your belt.” At this point in our lives, loosening our belts is far more useful. It draws less attention to our breadbaskets and muffin tops. Neither of which shall we speak of again.

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