Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Incompatibility

Now that I’m a certified MBTI practitioner, I’m hungry for deeper knowledge about type theory. So, consistent with my type preference, I threw myself into the task --reading one book on the topic Sunday and starting another one Monday night. Eventually, I had to go to bed, though, without finishing the book. So, I got up at 4:00 AM the next morning and finished it.

I had just finished the book when Marcia woke up. I greeted her with a question. “This is the 30th isn’t it?” True to my “N” preference, I’m not keen on details.

“Yes it is,” she said.

“OK, then, happy 36th anniversary. I just found out we’re not compatible.”

Consistent with her “S” preference she simply asked, “Who gets the house?”

In Gifts Differing, Isabel Myers cites that 77% of married couples were alike on two or more preferences. Marcia and I would be in the 23% minority of couples with one or no preference alike.

This explains a lot – especially about our conversations. For example, true to my type, when I’m telling a story, I’m metaphorical and exaggerate in service of making the point. True to Marcia’s type, I can only get a couple of sentences in before we have to verify facts.

Funny it took 40 years to figure this out.

So, even though we're incompatible, I don’t think either of us will be moving out anytime soon. We’ll just be a little more enlightened for the next 40 years together.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Civilization and Freedom

We’ve come a long way in the last 500 years since Columbus arrived. Then the height of civilization was about eating – not just having enough to eat but avoiding being eaten. And not just avoiding being dinner for Caribbean natives but, back at home in lean harvest years, avoiding being dinner for hungry Spanish farmers. (Can you tell I’ve just finished reading a book about Columbus’ voyages?)

Now the height of civilization is about access to health care. The US is Johnny come lately to this advance in civilization compared to the rest of the industrialized world. Nobody now seems to disagree that it’s important for a society to provide health care for its citizens. It’s just that we don’t want to pay for it.

Sunday night Marcia and I stayed up to watch the circus of the House of Representatives pass the bill that will lead to health care for virtually all US citizens in 2014. Only those who elect not to be covered and illegal immigrants will be excluded.

Will it cost more? Probably. And in distributing this cost, oxen will be gored. But in the long run, it’s the right thing to do -- for civilization and for freedom.

Ironically, mandated health insurance gives us freedom. Career and life decisions now frequently rest on the availability of health insurance. People are incarcerated in professions, jobs and firms due to the availability of health insurance where they are and the absence of it where they want to be.

When we were building our house, one partner of a two-man timber framing firm left the partnership and returned to a prior profession and employer because he needed health insurance. How many couples have a spouse working just for the health insurance? How many people continue work beyond the point of productivity or job satisfaction just for access to health insurance? Worse, how many people just starting out in life and career play Russian roulette by not purchasing health insurance in the mistaken belief that they don’t need it?

Early in my career as an HR professional, I saw an individual exceed the one million dollar lifetime maximum coverage and, absent the benevolence of the company, subject to financial ruin. It’s not as hard to do as you may think. I’ve seen at least one HR director lose her job because the health insurance plan exceeded the budget. I’ve seen health insurance plans cost go up more than 100% in a single year (based on a few high claims). I’ve struggled with the on-going shell game of shifting cost to employees, providers and other employers in an effort to preserve medical coverage for employees in the face of spiraling costs.

So, I celebrate the passage of the health care bill. I believe, as we avoid emergency room medicine, as we focus on prevention, as we have universal access to care, medical cost will stabilize – maybe not for everyone but for society as a whole. And the freedom from making life decisions based on the availability of health insurance coverage will pay big dividends through fostering entrepreneurship, creativity and, in general, a better quality of life for 30 or 40 million people.

Welcome to the next step in civilization, America. Welcome to health care freedom. Maybe 500 years from now, the notion of holes in the availability health care, will be as primitive and uncivilized as is the notion of cannibalism for us today.

Let’s hope so.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Now I get it...

According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), I am now “near elderly.” Up to now, I was, perhaps, maturing, but still in my prime. Middle aged. Ok, maybe late middle aged, but still in the middle of the pack.

To add insult to injury, EBRI says not only am I near elderly, but at 59 and a half, I’m smack dab in the middle of the 55 – 64 near elderly age group. Not middle aged but mid-near elderly. As Chester A. Riley says, “What a revoltin’ development this is!”

This explains why people keep asking me if I’m retired. Even though the percentage of civilian noninstitutionalized Americans age 55 plus in the workforce is growing since 1975, only 39.4% are still slogging it out. Since this number includes elderly and near elderly, I'm sure the percentage is higher for my fellow near elderly and declines with every year of elderhood. Still, if you’re making the daily commute, unlike 60% of your new buddies, you kind of stick out. More so each year.

Up to now, I’ve never liked the term “Baby Boomer.” But compared to “Civilian Noninstitutionalized Near Elderly,” Baby Boomer is a term of art.

So there goes middle age. Not with a whimper but a bang. I have to admit that I’m a Civilian Noninstitutionalized Near Elderly Baby Boomer. A CNNEBB. Kind grows on you, doesn’t it?

Oh well, at least when I leave the Whippersnapperdom of near elderly and join the real elderly at age 65, I will have had notice. Thank you EBRI and, the likely, Gen Y culprits who came up with this great name. May you all see your near elderly years.