The spark for this blog post came when Fred Wilson replied to a comment by Anne Libby on Fred’s blog on Good Friday / Eve of Passover.
I find the history of the concept of retirement as reported in this New York Times article dating back to 1999 very interesting. If you’ve never read it, maybe you want to take a look.
The construct of making an entire class of citizens “retire” is relatively new in society and I can’t help but wonder what would be an even better construct, particularly in the face of the changes that are occurring as a result of the globalization trend; as well as the deflationary economics caused by the technological disruption movement.
Another way I would frame Fred’s comment is “When you are still fully functional, why would you want to retire?”
When your work consumes you rather than completes you, or when it has come to be exhausting, I think it becomes easy at that point to shift into “wanting to retire”.
But I would assert that would not be retiring for “the right reasons”, (assuming there’s such a thing).
It becomes simply wanting to remove the exhaustion from one’s existence.
Or distancing oneself, once and for all, from doing what one hates so much to do, week in and week out.
On the other hand, if you do physical labor for decades, chances are your body will wear out and you will need to retire from that activity, as Fred’s comment suggests.
But then why not transition into something fulfilling, but on a more cerebral plane?
In other words, is retirement the most optimal solution a society can find for the ageing segment of its population?
If you’d owned a casino, I bet you’d say yes.
As it is the case with many things in life and in many industries, I suspect that it is not the best solution that has won the popularity contest.
This issue is extremely complex as there are other factors involved such as physical and mental health, an individual’s background, cultural beliefs, economic circumstances, education and even morals and ethics-related issues.
For example, some people will not have the economics in place to retire comfortably, if at all; some will be too sick not to retire; while there are others who prefer to lead unproductive lives, etc.
To me personally however, by and large, it comes back to finding your passion.
Confucius has famously said: “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life”.
So why retire then, right?
To those who would argue that work is called work because it’s not play and that once you depend on something to put food on the table, it becomes different, I would counter-argue that perhaps the answer lies in aiming at financial independence specifically — and as soon as possible — rather than “planning for retirement” per se.
Looking at the etymology for “retire”, I’m tempted to ask, “Why would you want to draw back?”