Here is a question that has been vexing me for some time. I have come to the question watching my dad’s condition – physically, getting up from bed is a chore and he is completely devoid of any desire to live. On those long flights to India once every 90 days to see him for two days and back, I get a lot of time to reflect on. After all, there is precious little you can do at 30,000 feet in the air in a pressurized aluminum chamber once the iPad battery runs out 🙂
The question is : Is it time to retire the traditional idea of retirement? For at least most people who do not do physically intensive work?
My research indicates that the concept of retirement came from the agricultural and then the industrial days when people primarily did physically intensive work. You know, like tilling land, pushing the lathe machine, shoving coal in the blast furnace and all that. It stands to reason that after a while, time took its toll on your physical abilities. It was desirable both for you as well as your employer that you call it quits. So, the model was you work very hard, save a lot of money and then call it a day. Then you enjoy your hard earned money and time off.
And that was the way it was supposed to be for my dad. He certainly pushed himself hard thru his working life, gave an unbelievably great running start to his children and then retired. With his life savings in his hand. With the life savings, he bought a house, built a garden – ready to enjoy life as it were.
Except he didn’t. He suddenly realized that he was in his mid-sixties. There was no way he could enjoy the stuff that he would have enjoyed in his thirties. Or forties. Or fifties. He had the money. And the time. But not the physical condition. Or like minded friends, to be honest. He could not travel as much as he would have liked to. He cannot kick a ball anymore (he loved playing soccer)..
That house? His kids visited his great abode once a year. Till we moved him and my mom next to our sister last year, the grand kids saw him once a year. My mom has grown her own interests in life and certainly much more physical issues.
All this makes me wonder – “That was not the plan. Could this happen to me too?”
Like most of my friends – and a large segment of today’s population – I also have become an “intelligent” worker. We do not till land, do not throw coal at anything but use our brains and intellectual faculty – invariably with a computer – to do whatever it is that we do at office. (That, and we do a lot of meetings 😉 ).
Theoretically speaking, I should be able to work as long as I live – as long as I am not crippled by Alzheimer’s and such ailments that fundamentally impair by ability to be an “intelligent” worker. There is no need to retire. I can work till eighty, if I wanted to. In fact, two of my peers at work are over seventy and they are doing a fantastic job at a C level post in a medium size very successful public company!!!
I assume I will not necessarily earn then as much as I do now. But really do I need to earn as much? Most of my financial responsibilities will be over – kids’ education will be done, spousal welfare would span over a far shorter time frame, and I certainly will outgrow the fascination of “owning” stuff (I am relying on maturity that comes with old age on that last one).
If I put all this together, is the logical conclusion somewhat like this – work till you die or cannot work; spread your retirement time from now on? Which means work for a few years, retire for a couple. Come back and work again for a few years and take again a year or two off. Enjoy the things I can enjoy when I am in my forties. In my fifties. In my sixties.
Maybe I should have started this in my thirties? (Heaven knows, I cannot break the six minute running mile barrier any more now!!)
Have any of you had such thoughts? I would be very interested in understanding your opinions or points of view. I would gladly call you if you wanted to spend some time on this topic.