It’s not because I won’t have enough money to retire
We were meeting with our Financial Advisor. The advisor asked us both when we planned to retire. My partner said as soon as possible. I said never.
Why do my husband and I have opposite answers to the question of when to retire? Our work is different. My husband trades his time for money at a job he struggles to show up for mentally. He is a civil servant in an often thankless position that is frequently stressful. The days and years to retirement appear endless to him. You probably have not found the courage to put a dream into action.
My work is primarily self-directed and is meaningful. I manage a family business, teach in higher education, write online and take on freelance projects. There are goals and tasks to tackle, but I decide when, where, and how to accomplish most of them. In addition to the work I am hired to do for others, I create my own content and choose work that I find intriguing. Time looks like an opportunity to do more and better work. I want to do more than I will ever have time to achieve. Work is energizing and exciting. It’s not always easy, but I have learned to accept challenges as learning experiences.
I don’t think my partner has ever considered the idea that work can be fun, even when it is hard. If you feel the same about your job, I will wager that you cannot decide how your workday will look. You are not encouraged to be creative. The path to advancement is linear and requires you to conform to rigid rules.
My partner wants to retire as soon as possible. He would be happy never to punch a time clock again. To him, work is a burden to be cast off as quickly as possible. He grew up with parents who worked professional jobs, retired with a pension, and settled into old age. He has carried that expectation over to his own life.
Traditional retirement sounds good. We have a fantasy of spending our days traveling and pursuing hobbies without a care in the world. But, we don’t think about moving on from the work identity you nurtured for decades, losing the social circle that came with your job, and facing old age.
What has struck me is seeing many people develop serious health issues soon after they reach traditional retirement. Their retirement revolves around regaining health and wellness. Some people must retire because their health is already in decline. Leaving an unfulfilling job will be a path to better health for others. In my case, continuing to do work I enjoy is life-giving.
I grew up in a family that created multiple businesses, tried again when they failed, and encouraged new ideas. My parents are well past the traditional retirement age. They have no intention of quitting work; they like it too much. They pursued many different endeavors over the years but now focus on the one they like best. They have the stamina and mental acuity of people much younger because they get physical and mental exercise every day by getting up and going to work.
I admire the go-getters who look at retirement as a second or third act. An executive who mentors students at the university. A business person who writes inspirational books and does mission work. The former 9-to-5er who starts creating and selling online. There is joy in doing work you love your whole life and not abandoning the idea of work.
My work gives purpose to my day. I find running a business fascinating. Actively teaching is rewarding. Reading and writing stoke my curiosity. I am passing on a legacy to those who can benefit from my time on earth. I can’t imagine not working, with or without pay, though I certainly want to keep earning from my efforts. Continuing to work for compensation is a tangible reward for the value I am providing to the world while keeping my mind and body in the best shape possible.
I love my work. It’s part of who I am. That is why I can’t retire. If I wanted to stop working and spend my days painting and taking care of grandkids, I could probably afford to do that at some point. It’s not about the money. It’s about the mindset.
When you feel this way, you are simply planning for the future, not retirement.
This post was originally published in Inspired by Living at Medium.com