My industry – financial planning and investment management – unwittingly puts a lot of pressure on people to retire. We all have retirement accounts and look forward to the day when we no longer set the alarm clock. Planning for retirement is a big deal - sort of like planning for a wedding. We anticipate the date and hope all goes well. But the years after the retirement – after the wedding – are also of great importance.
Some people – like me – love what they do and look forward to each new day and its challenges and possibilities. To these folks I say: You know, you don’t have to retire. Just keep working!
What’s the source of all this retirement pressure? Probably Medicare and Social Security. Medicare becomes available at age 65, so that is sort of the turning point age. The Social Security full retirement benefit is now available at age 66 and moving within a few years to 67. But there’s nothing here that says you must quit working, unless your job has a mandatory retirement age.
In fact, in doing retirement planning with clients I advise people to challenge their own retirement thoughts. To what will you retire? (See a previous blogpost on this topic here.) How will you fill your days? Is it even reasonable to expect a smooth transition to retired life when you’ve been in a leadership or management position for years, and all of a sudden you have nothing to do?
I’ve observed in some retired people a real sense that the world has moved on without them – that they’ve become abandoned and irrelevant. A downward spiral of ill-health and social isolation results.
So I challenge my readers with this thought: it is perfectly possible to quit working for a living, but continue working for the stimulation and challenge. Please re-read what I wrote: you still work at your job, but no longer because you need the income, but rather because enjoy getting out of the house each day and doing something productive. If you have a good investment nest egg put together, perhaps you no longer need to earn your salary. Investment earnings plus pension plus Social Security might be adequate. At that point gainful employment becomes not a necessity, but rather a choice. I choose to continue working in my profession is a far cry from: I gotta get up and go to work today!
There’s a lot to be said for this attitude: you keep yourself sharp. You are continually involved with work colleagues. Who hasn’t felt the isolation of COVID lockdowns this year? You continue to amass investment funds. You continue to have disposable income. What’s not to like?
On the other hand, do you have an avocation that you can’t wait to devote more time to? Perhaps this is tennis or sailing? Or maybe a volunteer activity? Or auditing courses, or travel, or any number of things. If you can afford your retirement lifestyle – then go for it! Life’s for living, after all.
I leave you my readers with these questions: What will your latter years be like? Will you lead a life of productivity, contribution, and relevance? Or will you sit around, get old, waste time, and complain incessantly? Paints a picture, doesn’t it?