According to Chris Farrell in his book Unretirement, retirement is going to look different for the Baby Boomer generation. And while media reports focus on Boomersâ€™ need to work due to adequate retirement savings, people like WordPress developer Bob Keller are probably more typical. These are the Boomers who, Farrell says, want â€œboth purpose and a paycheck.â€
Farrell told The Washington Post, â€œtheyâ€™re not going into traditional retirement. Theyâ€™re going into their own business or to be a consultant. Theyâ€™ll have informal partnerships with people they know. I think thereâ€™s going to be a lot more job movement than that idea of the older worker sitting in their cubicle for another 30 years.â€
Keller graduated from Carleton College in 1971 with a degree in art and a plan to make a living as an artist. â€œLike for most people, it didnâ€™t work out,â€ he said. â€œI drifted into commercial art and taught myself graphic design. I did okay doing that over the years.â€ In the early 1990â€™s, a dry spell in freelancing combined with a job offer at Dex, the yellow pages company. â€œI worked there 18 years, mostly as a manager, which was the Peter Principle at work,â€ Keller said.
Kellerâ€™s â€œunretirementâ€ started in 2009. â€œThe situation was that after the first of the year in 2010, I would not be able to get my pension as a lump sum. I didnâ€™t want to trust them with my pension, so I said, â€˜This is a really good excuse to get out of here,â€™â€ Keller recalled.
â€œI free-lanced pretty much straightaway,â€ Keller said. â€œI was in Michigan doing some work with a client that I have out there. I was out on the Old Mission Peninsula and driving into Travers City, and the old Cream song, â€˜I Feel Freeâ€™ came on. I thought, â€˜This is the proof and sign!â€™â€
A lasting benefit from Kellerâ€™s time at Dex was a background in computer graphics. â€œWhen I started at Dex, it was right at the beginning computers taking over the world of graphic production. I took to computer graphics like a duck to water. â€˜Where have you been all my life?â€™ I was able to figure the software out and solve problems and help people with it,â€ he said.
Chris Farrell told The Washington Post, â€œI think what a lot of people need is a sabbatical to sort of think about what to do next. People donâ€™t want to walk away from their skills or knowledge. But they donâ€™t necessarily want to work a 40 to 50 hour workweek, either.â€
Keller expected his unretirement freelance career to focus on illustration. Instead, he said, â€œI drifted into doing some web design and working with WordPress. I kind of went into the whole WordPress developer thing not really knowing much about it. Then I started hooking up with the WordPress community. When youâ€™re doing this kind of work, a lot goes on in preparation before you start to lay down the structure of the site. You have to explore what you need and what the customerâ€™s needs are.â€
As a pro bono project, Keller redesigned the website for the Minneapolis Spokesman Recorder. â€œI got it moved over to a new theme and did some work that I felt really improved it. I had a relationship with them for about a year. Then I got an email saying, â€˜Our desktop publishing guy is leaving. Do you know anybody who can do that?â€™ I stepped back into working three days a week. I was getting kind of bored, and who couldnâ€™t use a little extra money? Itâ€™s mentally challenging, Iâ€™m pretty confident that Iâ€™m good at it, and I have good people to work with,â€ he said.
Now, Keller is feeling ready to accelerate his WordPress developer and support business. â€œIâ€™m thinking â€˜Bernie Sanders is 74, and heâ€™s running for president. Iâ€™m not too old to start a business.â€™â€
The WordPress developer services, described at RobertCKeller.com, include design and build, maintenance, training and customization. â€œMy target audience is users, bloggers, people who want help with their website,â€ he said. â€œI want to approach people like bloggers who arenâ€™t real strong in the development aspect and get them on board as repeat customersâ€”solve problems around user interface and trouble-shoot for them.â€
Six years into his â€œunretirement,â€ Bob Keller has realized, â€œIt wasnâ€™t work that I hatedâ€”it was Dex. Iâ€™m going to keep working to some extent until I keel over.â€