Ominous headlines abound: the economy is growing less; extended unemployment is not uncommon; adult children are moving back in with their parents; people are living longer and, thanks to inflation, able to save less.
Given this new reality, retirement–the concept of leaving a job or profession permanently in order to live out one’s days in leisure–should be scrutinized thoroughly.
The simple arithmetic may decide for many people who won’t be able to afford to retire comfortably. For those fortunate to have enough money set aside at the end of a career (Old Money and smart New Money), there are options. But is retirement, one that should be considered?
For many, the idea of not being required to go to a job seems like heaven. But, in the words of Rolling Stones’ guitarist Keith Richards, “Your dreams don’t come true. They become real.” And Keith is no stranger to broad experience, let’s just put it that way.
The reality of retirement is that you don’t have anything you must do. You don’t have to leave the house. You don’t have to get dressed. You don’t have to interact with others. You don’t have to learn anything new. It’s probably wonderful. For about a month.
Many people die within a very short time after retirement. Surely age plays a role, but we can’t discount the lack of purpose, the absence of being needed, the joy in getting something done, the dark sense that it’s all over, that the most fulfilling part of life is in the rear view mirror.
So what are the options? What are the “action items”, as they say in the best corporate meetings, that we can wrap our heads around and create a different future for ourselves?
First, let’s forget retirement. Decide that you’re going to die, a very long time from now, fully engaged in life, doing what you love, being productive, regardless of your financial situation.
Second, you have to prepare for that. You must develop healthy habits now, and keep them by your side like a bodyguard, which they are, for the rest of your days. Exercise, eat right, keep you mind active, all that stuff you’ve heard a million times. You’re not going to retire, so do things that will keep you young and alert.
Third, spend less and save more. Stop buying junk. Stop being a consumer. Go to a museum instead of a mall. Material possessions won’t help you when you’ve outlived your money. “What can I get for this at a garage sale?” is a good question to ask yourself before purchasing something you don’t need. “Not much” is an all too common answer.
Fourth, consider a second career, one that you start at the age of 60 or 65 and do until you die. Maybe it’s a twist on your current profession, maybe it’s something completely different. Think about what you’d be doing if you didn’t have to work and didn’t need money. Then mold that vision into a job for extra income, or a passion that enriches you and your community. Yes, it make take some time, work, and thought, but it will be well worth it.
So see your future differently. Not because you must, but because you can.