Forget About Retirement

Aug 4, 2019 by


What does “retirement” look like to you?

For most people and more all the time, the concept of working full time from the end of formal education until age 65 or 67 and then “retiring” is defunct.

For me, I don’t look forward in eager anticipation to a day when I no longer have to work. On the contrary, my aim is to keep doing things to earn at least a little money as long as I have two brain cells to rub together and can get myself out of bed in the morning. Finances have little to do with my ambition. I happen to enjoy getting paid for stuff I know and do, and I think my quality of life will be better in my “senior years” if I keep active in all sorts of ways, including working.

So I propose that we retire the word “retirement,” as traditionally used. The modern world has made retirement obsolete.

Why Retirement Has Become Obsolete

  • As fewer people spend their careers at hard physical labor, I think more are—like me—better understanding the significant mental and physical health benefits to people in their 60s and 70s of continuing part-time or temporary engagement with paid employment. My Dad—who is nearly 80—still puts in a solid workweek at freelance architecture. He’s always been a library supporter, and his “senior-years” practice focuses nearly exclusively on providing quality service at an affordable price to libraries throughout the state where he lives. While he’s continued to earn substantial income through the decade of his 70s, I think the most important benefit of his work has been to prolong his mental and physical well being. He’s sharp, productive, and in good health.
  • Many people choose to continue at least a little paid employment—even when Social Security payments and retirement account withdrawals begin—to achieve the sort of lifestyle they desire.
  • Improving understanding of what it takes to stay healthy means many people can be active and vigorous well into their 70s or 80s and beyond. Some find filling their days only with leisure dull and detrimental to their health.
  • Until all the debts—including the mortgage—are paid off, many people feel insecure about making a decision never again to earn money.
  • With financial “experts” encouraging (scaring?) workers to keep the lion’s share of their savings invested in risky stocks (and all stocks are risky) well into the traditional retirement period, a nest egg is never fully secured. That means it’s prudent not only to continue earning, but also to keep a toe in the employment pool, just in case your nest egg goes “poof” one day in a storm of high-frequency trading or Son of Meltdown.
  • Private pensions are a guarantee of nothing. (Ditto that insurance company annuity you may own.) It’s become common practice to use bankruptcy as a strategy to relieve a company or municipality of pension and other obligations. The estimated “funding gap” (that means there’s not enough money) for S&P 500 company private pensions is nearly $500 billion and some argue it’s a much as $4 trillion for public sector pensions. Counting on a pension as a key component of retirement income is unwise, to say the least.

Do You Plan to “Retire?”

Do you envision and plan for a day when you’re done actively earning money?

photo by Digital Sextant

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