Planning for Retirement? Great, But Don't Call it Retirement!
We've all heard of the word "retirement" but what does it mean? What does it really mean?
For me, I hate the word retirement. The idea of it is old and out of date for the world we live in now. I worry that if we limit ourselves to the word retirement we might start believing what it means. And we might forget to fully unlock that next chapter of our lives.
But first lets look at a classic definition of "retirement:"
According to Wikipedia, "Retirement is the withdrawal from one's position or occupation or from one's active working life. A person may also semi-retire by reducing work hours. In most countries, the idea of retirement is of recent origin, being introduced during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Previously, low life expectancy and the absence of pension arrangements meant that most workers continued to work until death. Germany was the first country to introduce retirement benefits in 1889.
So the recent idea of retirement is something that we created over the past 100+ years. When the industrialized world had found a way to provide enough savings for it's citizens to stop working. The retired would have enough money to enjoy the last years of their life. And how would the retired enjoy the last years of their lives, assuming their health was well enough? Golf, summer cottages, long walks, swim exercise sessions and cruises, travel - that's how, or at least that was the cultural myth we created. This concept certainly seemed reasonable for its time, but things have changed now. Life expectancy is going up in many places around the world. According to the US Census Bureau, OECD countries, with the exception of the United States, we're now all expected to live on average to our mid 80's. And as you can tell by the graph below, on average that number is continuing to trend upwards.
We are now also seeing more people reaching 100 years and counting. So its not unrealistic to expect that average of 80+ life expectancy to reach 90, and then even 100 and beyond in the decades that follow. We are also continuing to learn more about how our lifestyle choices including how we eat, how frequent we exercise and how we interact with others be it family, friends and community, has a direct impact on life expectancy. So if you are 'retiring' in the traditional sense in your 60's or 70's or even 50's for those able to save early, what are you going to do with all that extra time? And does the term retirement really sum up those experiences?
In my opinion no - absolutely not, and here's why in three simple points we'll expand on:
Why we should stop using the word retirement:
1. Do you want to live a fulfilled retirement? You may have 10, 20 or even 30 plus years left before you pass gently into the night. That's a lot of golf and sitting by the pool. It's a lot of cruise ships and port visits. Its a lot of cake eating that might leave you feeling unfulfilled and searching in your final stage, for a sense of meaning and purpose.
2. What are you retiring from? Retirement's traditional industrial definition may not define what your actual life consisted of before retirement. Maybe you were a mechanic, or in sales, maybe you were a nurse, maybe you worked in the corporate world, or you ran your own business. Whatever your answer, there are two potential scenarios that will go back to the same question:
3. Did you love your life before retirement? During your life, before you retired, were you doing what you loved each day? Was it helping people, was it the simple pleasure of just interacting with your sales contacts, was it building things in construction, or did you enjoy solving puzzles on a daily basis be it in finance, accounting or something else.
Your blueprint to living the final stage of your life full of happiness and fulfillment:
Did you love your life before retirement?
If YES - well, why retire? If you love your life, if it gives you satisfaction, why stop?
If 'Sort of' - what can you keep and what can you change to make it the life you always wanted it to be?
If NO - well, then quit that job. And START doing what you always wanted to do.
WELCOME to the THIRD ACT of your life:
Jane Fonda calls the last stage of life the THIRD ACT. Here's a great video on her approach. She says that rather than thinking of aging as a arch, where you reach your peak in middle age and then slow, life is all about progressing upwards in steps. Those steps lead to self actualization, self awareness and peace with who we are, where we have been and where we are going.
And this for me is a place I think we should all try to live our entire lives. A place where we are excited to wake up in the morning for our day ahead. For the help we'll be offering others in need because we have more than we need. Because humans were designed to live in perpetual motion and to be hunters and gathers not just in food and shelter but also to seek out love, fulfillment and eternal peace. It's not about doing more when you retire, its about doing what you love to do inside and out.