If you’re knocking on the retirement door or a few years away, know this: Retirement isn’t the goal.
Maybe that’s a bold statement coming from someone who is a retirement planner. So, let me provide you with my argument.
I disagree with the common notion of Retirement being the end-all be-all. Retirement as the ultimate goal or final redemption is flawed for at least three reasons:
- It is a relatively new concept
- It assumes that you dislike what you are doing during the most productive years of your life
- It assumes the work ends
Retirement as we’ve come to understand it in America has only been around for 50-70 years. The descriptions of relaxing by a beach, playing golf, spending time with family, and traveling are very new concepts. Retirement wasn’t even a thought 100 years ago, but people still led full and meaningful lives, so to say it is the ultimate goal doesn’t hold muster.
Retirement is also viewed as an escape from a job that had to be done. Have you heard or thought this: “If I can just get X dollars in my account, then I can do what I want.”
However if you don’t define the “what I want” alternate activities, the X figure will increase indefinitely to avoid the fear-inducing uncertainty of this void.
Without addressing the shortcomings of “retirement,” we may find that the next stage of life is even less fulfilling than the first.
If retirement itself isn’t the goal, then what is? I propose a few ideas to ponder:
- Discover the transition of work responsibilities, not an end of work itself
- Discover that commitment is better than choices
- Discover that time doesn’t care about you
Discover the transition of work responsibilities, not an end of work itself
I believe that we are made to work. That work is good and that without work we lose a deep part of our purpose and identity.
As we age, we physically can’t perform the same tasks that we were able to as younger people. But that doesn’t absolve us from work itself. The “work” evolves from pushing the plow to utilizing a life’s work of experience and expertise to aid others in their journey.
Our culture worships youth and potential. What a shame. What we should extol is a mother and father who have raised kids – because the task has been completed. What we should praise is a woman who has stood in a boardroom and made a tipping point call – because the decision was made. Completion rather than potential should be idolized.
You have so much to offer others because it has been done. Share it.
Discover that commitment is better than choices
Secondly, the fallacy of retirement is that you can choose what you want and that you’ll love it because it’s what you want! The problem is that you have to choose and that makes us actually miserable.
Research shows that the more choices we have lead to less happiness with whatever option is selected.
In retirement, you have abundance as you are no longer tied to a desk or an office, but what you truly crave is scarcity and commitment. Writer James Clear says, “Many people delay taking action because they hope to avoid suffering. They keep searching for a path that won’t involve trade-offs. But some form of suffering is always inevitable. The process of taking action is the process of choosing your pain.”
And this pain is good! Take marriage – it is the hardest relationship that you ever engage in but it is also the deepest and most fulfilling.
The same goes for whatever you choose to do in retirement. There are many great opportunities ruined in retirement for the hopes of slightly better ones.
Commit to something – be it a new type of work or a community of people. Commitment brings meaning, it brings depth, it brings expertise. You can’t have those benefits in retirement without committing.
Discover that time doesn’t care about you
And lastly, there is no other age group closer to death and no other age group that may fear it more.
By coming to terms with death approaching, you can truly live. As cruel as it is, reality doesn’t care. Last time I checked, mortality rates are still hovering around 100%.
Time is limited. Who do you want your friends to say you were when you’re no longer around? Who do you want your family to say that you were? What are the types of things you wanted to do? What types of things do you want to pass on?
Our time is finite. With that as the perspective, it gives us purpose to our day-to-day life.
In closing, this does not mean that you shouldn’t play golf, enjoy the grandchildren or travel. However, if the focus of this stage in your life is on you, your comfort and enjoyment, then you are missing out on the joy that could be had for you. Retirement is not the goal, it’s just the next stage of life where you can refocus and do more of the things that make life meaningful.