Retirement is seen to be the ultimate but somewhat elusive goal that we all aspire to and for which financial planners chide us that we must be well prepared. In their book Avoid Retirement and Stay Alive (Harper Collins, 2007) David Bogan and Keith Davies put forward the idea that no one should feel compelled to retire and indeed no one should want to retire.
The key message of the book is not that everyone should work hard until the day they die. Rather than retirement being a life changing experience that takes one overnight from being a productive worker to being permanently on holiday, it should be a seamless process where life is a continuous combination of productivity and pleasure, with the balance between the two simply adjusting over time.
There is a common expression that life is journey, not a destination. Too often we are so busy focusing on how much better our lives will be in the future that we forget to enjoy the present. There is no reason why we have to wait until we are no longer working to enjoy travel and leisure activities. Similarly, there is no reason why we have to feel that after a certain age we are useless to
The concept of retirement is a modern one. Early last century, the average person was lucky to survive into their sixties and if they did, they were likely to be ill or frail. Retirement on a pension was intended to allow such people to have a few meagre years of life without having to work while frail. Thanks to improved lifestyles and modern medicine, it is not unrealistic these days to expect to live thirty years in retirement.
Somehow the concept of retirement changed to one of forcing people to give up a productive life on a given date. Continuing to be productive in retirement doesn’t mean however that you have to stay working in a job you don’t enjoy. There are many examples of people who use their later years to work at things they really enjoy or are passionate about. Some even choose this time to set up new businesses.
On the flip side, if you plan to have an active, income-producing retirement, there is no reason why you can’t do now some of the things you were planning to do in retirement. If travelling to Peru or learning to play golf are on your wish list find a way to make them happen today. It’s easy to have excuses. If only I had more time… if only I had more money…. if only I didn’t have children to worry about….
Doing fun things while you are younger and being more active and productive in your later years have been shown to help people live healthier, longer and more meaningful lives. Taking regular breaks is crucial to your physical and emotional well-being and new experiences let your mind know you are still alive. You are in charge, so make your own decisions about how your life will be lived.