Key Point: Retirement may need to be “retired.” When life expectancy was averaging about 70 years in the western world, somebody came up with the idea of retirement at age 65; even early retirement. Of course, defined benefit pension plans that were common until the last decade (when you’re guaranteed a certain percentage of your best income when you qualify), helped with the process. Also, the middle working-class often had jobs that involved a fair amount of manual labor. After 65, there is no doubt that the body just isn’t the same. However, the concept of retirement today may be a misguided idea for many of us? I’m at a chronological age where people ask me “when?” quite often. My response usually includes the following:
- In my current work I get to live my life’s purpose to lead, teach, coach, love and transform everyday.
- I deeply believe in the purpose of the company I work for and am able to contribute to that in a meaningful way.
- I work with people I genuinely love. They stimulate my personal growth, make me laugh, and just invigorate the heck out of me.
- I make darn good money that I use to mostly invest in other people and purposes I deeply care about.
So, I ask people if retirement means I have to find new channels for my life’s purpose, seek out new people to thrive with, and make no money for investing in others; well why would I want to intentionally do that? Yes, I would like to be in fewer meetings, travel a little less, spend more time with my family/friends and maybe read a few more fiction books. I think I can do that while I’m “working” if I prioritize better. However, the idea of getting up and primarily self-indulging is not appealing. In my framework, that means I’m “unemployed” not retired. And I believe my life’s very best work and contribution is still well out in front of me. My fondest wish is to have all my loves around me when I die (ideally at age 100+) AND earlier in that day (with all my loved ones joining in), I would have had rich conversations, written a blog, read some cool stuff on Flipboard, ate a filet with a great red Zin, a Titos martini with three giant olives as an appetizer, and belly laughed many times… Oh, and sent out two invoices for work I recently completed for a customer.
There’s a big reason the healthiest societies in the world have no word for retirement. I believe retirement is a false concept based on assumptions no longer true. Age 65 retirement was invented when average lifespan was 70. What’s the solution? Keep working. And make sure whatever you’re doing includes the 4 S’s of meaningful work:
S – Social
We are the most social mammals on the planet for a reason, and it’s not just the extroverts who can master this. Look, according to Stumbling on Happiness by Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert, our social relationships have a greater effect on our happiness than our income, religion, gender, or even health. What does a good workplace foster? Small team dinners. CEO AMAs. Lunch walking groups. Work sports leagues. If these are missing, start one.
S – Structure
There are 168 hours in a week. Fifty-six are for sleep (eight hours a night if you can get it), 56 for work (including things like commuting and extra work at home), and 56 for your passion. On structure, there are two things to point out. One, work helps create and pay for your third bucket—the fun bucket, the passion bucket. And two, if everyone in this structure has a third bucket, what can each person bring in from outside of work? Can the word nerd start a book club? Can the hospital volunteer start a company volunteer program? Can the late night DJ plan the Christmas party? Work structure should allow outside work passions to be big parts of our lives.
S – Stimulation
Always be on the lookout to learn something new. In every job you have, ensure the steepest possible learning curves are between ‘value giving’ and ‘value getting.’ Examples to make sure this happens are things such as staying a maximum of two years in roles, initiating job sharing or job trades, planning regular development sessions, and scheduling quarterly growth meetings with one and two-up managers. Make sure you can always say yes to the question ‘Am I learning a lot and adding a lot?’ If your answer is tilted one way, it means you’re giving something else up.
S – Story
‘Story; is all about feeling that you’re part of something bigger than yourself. It’s about first ensuring the company’s mission and higher-level purpose capture the heart and then bringing the mission to life by regularly sharing customer stories, hanging anecdotal posters on walls, and talking about it at open or closed meetings. …What’s your company story?”
- Forget thinking about the day you’re going to retire. Live the perpetually imperfect life you love and appreciate NOW. (Although financially, plan for a time when for some reason you can’t work). There is NO guaranteed happiness in retirement.
- Focus on making your work/life more meaningful by progressing on the 4 S’s! And then one day, you die happy knowing that you were still moving for most of the day.
Meaningful in The Triangle,
One Millennial View: Heck! Yes! As we approach The Masters next week, this gets me thinking about the life of a professional golfer. To me, these players have it figured out… They are professional athletes who get to make an incredible living, and travel to the nicest courses in the most beautiful places on the planet, playing the game they love. Unlike other pro athletes, it’s low impact and they can potentially swing clubs forever. (Of course, golf is also a very charitable oriented game as well). We are probably not going to be pro golfers, but with whatever you’re most passionate about, it would be great to approach it like a golfer instead of, say, a pro football player who maxes out earnings and retires with a mangled body by age 30. Keep walking that course as long as you can.
Edited and published by Garrett Rubis