Retirement doesn’t just happen. Retirement is a man-made phase of life and it is nothing until you put things into it. That concept stopped me in my tracks when I was reading an article in the Wall Street Journal with contributions from my colleagues in the US. In most cases, it is not an age where we feel ready to retire, but rather the age where everybody else thinks you should be ready to retire.
The world tells us we should be stopping work in our 60’s but we Boomers don’t feel ready, hence the emergence of the Retirement Coaching industry to ease the incongruence. Many people still feel they shouldn’t need help after all their parents adjusted well.
But our parents felt ready to retire. They had lived through the War and the exertion of re-building the world thereafter. Many more of them had worked manually and in general, their lives were tougher than for our generation. Why is it we Boomers don’t feel ready to retire? Can we simply put it down to Longevity?
The same article poses that, as many of us work at desks or in the service industry and not in manual labour, we have fewer physical limitations which might necessitate earlier retirement. I turn it around and say with the arrival of technology and the internet, more of us have or can pivot to sedentary jobs in retirement, offering us the opportunity to continue working long after the traditional cut-off date.
To go back to Robert Laura’s comment – retirement is nothing until we put something into it. Is that why many of us are hanging onto work? Fear of the big empty void that we need to fill? Work has fulfilled our needs and purpose for so long, are we simply reluctant to give up what we know? If I look at my desire to keep working, I cannot deny that I would like the extra money to travel (if we are ever allowed to travel again) but my work gives me an identity, it gives me a purpose and definitely gives my life structure.
I could probably fill my life with other things such as volunteering and socializing. And of course, now that I am working on establishing a vegetable garden I realise that will take much of my time. Given the chance, these could probably give my life the same meaning.
But on further examination, I think that keeping up with technology, being able to hold my own with the younger generations and being forced out of my comfort zone to do things that turn out to be very rewarding, is behind the reason for my continuing work. If I were to develop my hobbies at my own pace I don’t think I would get the same excitement, challenge or feeling of fulfilment.
That brings me back to the comment that Retirement is man-made. Surely this means we can bend the rules and mould them to suit our needs. If we survive Covid, we stand a chance of living for several decades after the date that is suggested we stop working. That is why we need to resist ageism and the belief that we have to stop work at 65.
My favourite saying is “Retirement is when we stop Living at Work and Work at Living.” It does not say we should stop working!
I would love to hear your thoughts on Retirement being a made-up phase of life.