The idea of retirement seems like a good one. Wake up anytime you want, there is nobody to boss you around, no stress and no worries.
Before the end of 19 century, there wasn’t such a thing. People continued working until old age when they were no longer able to do the work. In 1881 German Chancellor Bismarck announced that everyone would retire at the age of 70 and he would pay them a pension.
The chancellor, of course, couldn’t fund everyone’s retirement out of his own pocket for eternity. Pension contributions became mandatory and were deducted from employees’ wages.
This is how the retirement idea began taking a shape in other countries driven by social reforms. The retirement age was reduced over time to 60 years instilling a stereotype that the career golden age occurred between ages 25 to 40.
People protect the idea of not worrying about going to work after a certain age. Recent protests in France triggered by the retirement age increase by two years had about 9 million people storming the streets in anger is confirm that.
Reasons Why You Should Not Retire
While I respect everyone’s opinion I think that the concept of retirement is flawed. These are the reasons why I am planning to never retire.
Employed People Live Longer
Retirement at 55 is associated with a significantly increased mortality rate when compared with people retiring at 65. This makes sense as work can provide a sense of purpose, and structure and give you a reason to maintain good health and not stay up till midnight drinking beer and watching Netflix.
Retiring Is Linked To Cognitive Decline and Mental Health Issues
Correlation does not equate to causation but the evidence is there. Early retirement is associated with worsened mental acuity, depression and anxiety. Without giving our brains regular exercise the use it or lose principle kicks in.
When we get older our brains prune unnecessary neural connections as a part of maintenance and efficiency. Our brain machinery that evolved to survive gets covered by metaphorical dust and rusts away just like a sports car is wasted away unused in a locked garage.
Work Gives Us Purpose
Some people go mad looking for their purpose all life and never find it. A job is a simple solution right in front of our noses. When we have a job there is always something to do. Perhaps it is my personality style but I struggled to do nothing when I took a year-long career break. I started an online business and a coaching practice to fill this need.
While not everybody may be happy with their current job contributing to society is a worthy ideal. And for those who have to fight Sunday scares continue reading for the solution further in this post.
Employment Provides Structure
Our minds love routines. They create certainty, give us a sense of security and help us focus. The working environment comes prepackaged with scheduled daily and weekly tasks. We accomplish goals and finish projects giving ourselves a sense of satisfaction.
Work Forces Us To Adapt And Learn
The days when workers had to go to the office every day doing exactly the same thing are over in most industries. Every company has to go through a change to stay relevant in the changing world. Adapting to new technology and ways of working creates a necessity to stay flexible and develop our skills.
Multicultural workplaces have generations of old and you workers from different backgrounds. I am a curious person and I love to know how people live their lives, what music and movies they enjoy and how they spend their holidays. Work gives a continuous opportunity to learn about different cultures first-hand.
While Employed You Are A Part Of A Community
Humans still carry attributes of small tribes and communities from our ancestral days. The need to belong and socialise with others is baked into our DNA. Social isolation is a health hazard that is equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day and can increase mortality by over 40%
Office buildings are our savannas, caves and bonfires. We work and earn together, help each other and share stories about our lives to the humming of microwave ovens during lunch. Retiring is akin to walking away from our tribes and missing out on all of the fun.
The Pension Age Is Increasing
The population is getting older in most countries and retiring early will not be an option. While France is revolting against the pension age increase the same changes are happening all around the globe.
Despite Bismark’s promise to Germans to fund their retirement, the pensions are paid by the taxpayers who are currently working. Because of the ageing population, there will not be enough young workers and we have to stay around a bit longer. In Australia, the retirement age is going up to 67 years in July 2023 with a proposal to increase it to 70 by 2035.
Why Do We Want To Retire
Health and personal circumstances aside I have two theories on this.
Firstly we like the idea of an early environment because we associate it with holidays. It is nice to take a break from a busy routine and sit on a beach for a week enjoying the sun and sipping on a cocktail. However, if sitting on the beach becomes a new routine it would get boring faster than your dog swallows a treat.
People often make the mistake of moving to a place they went to on holiday only to find that the place has issues just like anywhere else. Retirement is no different from this concept with its own challenges when compared to employment.
Secondly, dreams of retirement may be a symptom of another issue. Perhaps a person is not satisfied with their current job, industry, leadership, or company. I am certain that there is a happy place and a job in this world for everyone. Unless there are some health or availability issues preventing us from joining the workforce or starting a business there are other ways to find what we love instead of retiring.
What Should We Do Instead Of Retirement
Now that we covered my reasons for not retiring let us discuss what should you do instead. The suggestions below are something I personally have done or will be using as my “retirement” plan. They are also based on an assumption that you are not overly happy with your current job. Otherwise, why would you be considering retirement in the first place?
Take A Career Break
A three to six months holiday will give you a taste of retirement as well as help to clear your mind. I found it to be a great self-exploration experience coupled filled with learning, travelling and lots of deep thinking.
I studied Spanish in Barcelona, climbed The Great Wall of China and saw my first opera in Paris. I also learnt presentation and coaching skills and planned my next move in the corporate world.
Figure Out What You Dislike About Your Job
When someone says they hate their job it is a broad statement similar to “everything is wrong”. It helps to break it down to an objective factual component of a “Job”.
A job is not a homogenous object but a collection of activities performed in an environment working with other people. The person dislikes some set of activities and enjoys some. Or it could be the environment. By understanding the specifics you can change the equation to produce a different result.
One of my mentors told me that before I accept any job offer I should consider the alignment with the big four – the role, future manager, team culture and the organisation.
By taking a close look at your current job you may realise that it isn’t the retirement that you need but a change in one of these areas.
Find What You Are Passionate About
Let me warn you first – making passion your full-time job can backfire. I heard stories and have a first-hand experience that when we have no choice in doing something we may start hating this very thing we love.
I had a workmate who started a cake-baking business that they abandoned. A weekend hobby turned into a chore when they had a stream of orders coming.
Another group of my friends who love nights out opened a bar as a side gig. They soon found that turning up to pour drinks and serve tables no matter how they felt that evening was not fun. They ended up hating their lives until they broke the lease and ruined their relationship.
Instead of a specific occupation focus on activities that bring you joy. I am referring to things like organising events, problem-solving, applying analytical skills or running projects.
Also if you haven’t done this already complete a personality profile test. I wrote about my personal favourites Clifton’s strength profile and Enneagram. Understanding how your mind works will give you insight into what roles or industries may be suitable for your personality type.
Start A Side Hustle
A few years back side gigs were all the rage with people starting Amazon stores, blogging and youtube channels. While there is the view that site hustles can be a distractor to your main occupation it is an option worth exploring.
Often a side business can teach valuable skills for your main job or offer a career transition down the track. Side hustles can also help to figure out what your passions are and try a new business without quitting your job. A successful side gig can create supplemental income and could be a soft “retirement” option.
Consider A Career Change
I remember agreeing with someone saying that it was too late for me to change careers as I invested heavily in my current job. I was 35 at the time.
I am glad that my beliefs changed after seeing many successful career changes. A colleague of mine became a real estate broker after a long career in cyber security. A part-time driving instructor and hospitality business owner that I know recently passed his bar exam and started a family law practice.
It is never too late to find a job or start a business doing something that you love. If you struggle to figure out how to find your purpose check out my guide on how to find your purpose.
There always be Nay-sayers telling you how difficult, late, and expensive it will be. Do your own research, apply common sense and do what feels right for you. Also, ditch the negative crowd and look for positive and encouraging friends while at it using my guide here.
Plan Your Career Ahead
The jobs that I enjoyed in my 20s and 30s would not work for me today. At the beginning of my career in technology, I travelled a lot to visit my clients, helped to unload trucks and bring computer equipment from our suppliers and worked 36-hour shifts.
While this was a valuable learning experience that helped me to get where I am today, I wouldn’t be able to continue working on this lifestyle for the next 20 years. It is worth planning your moves ahead no matter what industry you are in.
I recently to had a chat with a successful startup owner, who previously would never settle for anything less than running a new startup. Now, realizing that the level of intensity may not be sustainable in a long run he is considering staying in the startup industry in a consultant capacity. Play a clever game and look for career opportunities that can you can sustain without burnout, health issues, and compromising other areas of your life.
Reduce Working Hours
Staying in the same role but reducing working hours could be another option. You are likely to accumulate savings in the mid-late phase of your career that will allow you to do so. Taking it down a notch can help with focusing freed up time on hobbies and socialising.
For me, retirement is moving away from learning, socialising, and being valued all the things that bring us joy. While I want to continue experiencing those I am however flexible in how I will be doing that as my life progresses.
With my idea of never retiring, I’m not planning to do exactly the same job until I can no longer continue. There are other ways to enjoy life while contributing to society. I may consider down-turning and working 20 hours or choose a less competitive industry. Volunteering, or working for a nonprofit, is another option if you are financially independent,
It is also refreshing that companies became more focused on well-being and looking after their staff in the post-pandemic. And as much as people like to criticize Gen Z for being demanding compared to previous generations of workers they paved the way for everyone by not settling for companies that do not prioritize their employees’ health before profit. Future workplaces may be more accommodating for people beyond their 60s if well-being will continue to be a priority
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