Here’s an excellent article about the need to postpone retirement in today’s economic and social climate. Many 60+ workers are finding their savings have shrunk along with their property values. The goal of “sell this house, buy a small apartment and enjoy the difference” has morphed to, “Hope we can sell this house someday.”
Frankly, I think working makes a lot of sense even if you can afford to retire. I tried slowing down myself when I was living in New Mexico. I realized I needed more stimulation. I also like the edge that comes with getting paid for what I do. Volunteer work has become as competitive as paid work. For some it’s satisfying. For me it’s second best.
Even more, I met lots of retirees in New Mexico. Some had started new businesses; one couple fulfilled a lifelong dream of running a restaurant. But some were just plain bored.
One of my neighbors had been a distinguished scientist in a former life. He had published papers, run labs, supervised doctoral students and enjoyed international acclaim. Retiring, he decided to live alone in a remote part of the state.
At first things went well. He got involved with building his house. He huddled with an architect and then a contractor. The house was magnificent.
But then he didn’t have much to do. He didn’t want to write a “real” book and go on tour. He didn’t want to consult. So he puttered. And he drove the neighbors crazy. I still remember getting a cal one day: “Cathy, I noticed a plumbing truck outside your house. What were they doing?”
Frankly I didn’t remember the plumbing truck. I had to stop and think: “Just what were they doing?”
That guy was bored.
Sure, he could have done volunteer work. I don’t think he was passionate about literacy or conservation or any of those other things. He loved his dog. But compared to his talents and energy, he didn’t have enough to do.
I sometimes wonder what would happen if I didn’t work. I would take my pottery classes. In fact, the pottery studio’s open hours are filled with senior citizens whose creations are magnificent. Would I get better if I potted every day or even a few times a week? I would take more improv classes and writing classes.
But then I’d start to think, “Can I sell my creations? Probably not. Can I get paid for using these skills? Not likely.”
I might go back to school to study something I find fascinating. But then I’d want to publish papers and that means … a new career. And I’d want to get financial rewards.
For me, these creative pursuits are like icing on the cake. Icing is great but without the cake it’s too sticky and sweet. I like the focused energy of working – and the rewards.
What about you? What do you think about retirement?