This is the season of my birthday, and my grandkids think I’m an old man. Although, they still call me up and ask me to come out and play. The old man is still feeling good — working, writing, traveling — trying to reverse the stereotype that aging people are a burden on society. There is much talk about how older Americans are “breaking down the system,” with predictions that Medicare and Social Security are going broke. So here’s a story of people past retirement age, who, instead of bankrupting the system, are giving it back. Makes me feel good about getting older.
Jerry Conover, a 65-year-old retiree from Denver Colorado, made a good income as a lawyer. He was still working part-time as a mediator in legal disputes. When Jerry got his first retirement check, he didn’t need it. Jerry is among a small, but significant group of Social Security recipients, who don’t need it. They have other retirement plans in place that already meet their needs, so this is gravy.
This is NOT the case for most of the 33 million Americans who get Social Security. Most of them depend on those checks for more than half of their income. About 13% would fall below the poverty line without them.
At first, Jerry thought about putting it in a “lock box” for his kids and grandkids (not that they needed it). Instead, Jerry founded Hope for Generations, a nonprofit foundation to benefit low-income children in his community. He decided to do this in 2003, after talking to some friends who were in a similar position, (getting government checks at the end of lucrative careers), who had enough for themselves and for their kids. The foundation has about 30 donors. Jerry’s pitch to them was that if you can look at your Social Security check as a windfall rather than a necessity, why not give something back.
In 2003 (its first year), Hope for Generations raised $60,000; in 2004, $100,00. The money was used to support local schools’ enrichment programs, specialty teachers, and extracurricular programs.
Already, Jerry Conover’s program has inspired others. Last month, the Merage Foundation, Newport Beach, California, announced Children’s First, a program for low-income kids in their community. Some donors give their full Social Security benefits, others as little as $50 a month. What a great way to “pay it forward,” reinvesting your profits in the dreams of a new generation. If somebody organizes one in Phoenix, count me in.