A Retirement Myth?
In a previous article, “Making the best of your 9-5“, I mentioned my dad. Along with hundreds of other employees of a national monopoly, he was forced into retirement in his 50s. But he still had a lot to live for and so continued in active self-employment as a travel agent for another 20 years and then selling his business, and once again retiring. He is now in his 80s, and it is only in the last 3 years that he has really stopped all productive activity and finally retired to the golf course and social circuit.
So, what was difference between my dad’s state in his 50s, 70s and 80s? Since it would appear that he retired three times. It is obvious that there is more to retirement! One could be retired but still working, and one could stop working and yet not have retired? What does it mean to retire? One wonders if retirement is real, or just an illusion that we have conjured. Much like that of wealth causing happiness. I suspect that retirement is not an ideal. That it is not something one should even aspire to, but rather to seek something much better! I wonder if I can persuade you? Have a look at this picture. What do you see?
Too Much Happiness!
A person who lives for 70 years has about 2640 weekends to enjoy from birth to transition. Time to get the abacus out, and to count, how many already used up, what remains, and how best to use them? Well, yes and no. Yes, the breaks that weekends bring are vital to our well-being and we ought to enjoy them as best as we can. After all, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, and if one is to plan effectively for a retirement of prolonged breaks, it would be expedient to get some practise before launching out. No?
Well, it turns out that our yearning for weekends is actually fuelled by the drudgery, tedium and stress of our “working” week days. In a perverse way, the week days that we would like to wish away are shades that give meaning to the light of our weekends. Without those grey days, the weekends would slowly loose their glow and allure. Without weekdays, weekends would eventually fade in with the rest of a meandering meaningless cycle of existence. There is an Italian saying that translates roughly to this: “a life of too much happiness, no man can bear, it would be Hell on earth!”; and there is a recent study lends credence to what those Italians had to say.
To Work or Not to Work; …
Did I hear you say “damned if you work and condemned if you don’t”? The picture is only half painted and the fat lady has yet to sing. Have you ever tried tossing coins? If you haven’t, you need to get out more, or see someone that can help you understand why you need to. For the rest of us; reason says its either heads or tails, but a few have been lucky enough or persevered sufficiently to discover that their is a third way. Life is not always binary and coins have been known to land on the edge. It is crazy, but I have seen it. There is a third way.
If you have not read my article on 9-5, now is a good time to do so, if you have, recall the gist of the story. The destination is not a tenth of the journey, and we all need to make the absolute best of the latter. The reason is simple: the destination is itself an illusion! Rather, it is a product of our journey through life. Not everyone will get to “retire” (the destination), and not everyone that gets to “retire” will enjoy the state. By and by, our financial trajectory is pretty much set by our 30s to 40s, and most already have an idea of when and how they will retire long before they come to it.
senex est libertus
Apart from a select (famous) minority, retirement spells downsizing in almost all aspects of living, and a careful shunt to the exits of existence. The famous minority have a peculiarity that is amiss to many observers. They cling to any and every opportunity for relevance and productivity. They engage in charitable acts, serve on boards and advisory groups, act as mentors. Some even engage in physically tasking work; helping others and also keeping in shape. Why? Well, it turns out (BBC article) that a retired life that is not kept occupied soon dies!
When most of us conceive of retirement, we imagine an end to work, being presently encumbered in wage-slavery, or more preferably, money-chasing. But if we could step out of our present circumstance, what we would discover is this truth. We do not really desire to stop work, rather we want to be free from having to work. It is the “must” in work that we really yearn to shake off rather than the work itself, and there is the delusion that is “retirement”. No one should aspire to retire, in the sense of not doing anything, but we should all aim to pilot our lives away from the constraints of working-to-survive.
Perspective is Key
Remember the picture earlier; look again: what do you see now? Perspective is key in life. One person sees a journey another beholds a sight, and yet the reality is the same! It all depends on the one who looks and the mindset that they bring to bear on what they perceive. We all could apprehend more, and live better. With some reinvention we can sidestep some of our illusions and observe realities that were always there but we just never saw. Work and retirement are two such. The former is not a curse unless it controls us. The latter is not really a blessing unless we control it.
Have a blessed day, and start enjoying your retirement, now!