Inspiration, Personal Development

I Will Never Be Able to Retire, and I’m Happy to Say It

It’s not because I won’t have enough money to retire

Image from Canva.com Edited by Author

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

5 thoughts on “I Will Never Be Able to Retire, and I’m Happy to Say It”

  1. Hi Michelle 🙂

    Why did you choose to publish this on medium.com before publishing it on your own site? IMHO your own appreciation of how self-directed you work would make more sense without relying on other intermediaries in order to publish your own ideas (also note that IMHO one can never be certain which content does not conform to — or “pass” — the censorship of other companies).

    Work is indeed an interesting concept. I am reminded about how the computer on the Enterprise used to respond to James T. Kirk (I only ever watched the “Star Trek” TV series, never any followups, but I did get a kick out of a tune I once heard based on the show … I think maybe in the late 80s) … namely: “working…”. Never did the computer say anything else, such as “chillin” or “hacking around”, maybe “goofing off” or whatever.

    Particularly in English, work is conceptually closely related to the notion of *functioning correctly*. Experiencing a headache or being ill “doesn’t work” (well) for most ordinary humans.

    Well, so I’ll close with a very simple “FASCINATING” (said in my best Leonard Nimoy imitation voice 😉 ).

    🙂 Norbert

    1. Hi Norbert, thanks for you thoughts. Typically I publish first here, then cross-post some articles at Medium.com to reach a different audience. I really do like the writing interface on Medium better than WordPress, so I chose to write this article there first for that reason. I find Medium quite interesting and want to be a part of the conversation there on some topics. Unfortunately, the Medium. com algorithm means a lot of good writing goes unnoticed. I was curious whether publishing on Medium first rather than making the canonical link a post on my blog would make my article more visible to Medium readers or not. So far, posting on Medium first rather than importing a blog post was not helpful to be seeing on Medium. I do think if you can get traction on another platform, but invite readers to follow your owned blog or subscribe to your own email list, that is a smart move. It is never a good idea to rely on a 3rd party more than your owned media (like your blog), your direct email subscribers or your in-house customer database. First-party connections are preferable. For now, I am dabbling in different spaces as I hone my skills and develop ideas.

      1. EXCELLENT! 😀

        I have many blogs myself (and, EVEN MORE domain names — LOL).

        One of my blogs is focused on “context” ( contextual.news.blog ). I find publishing on WP useful because I feel WordPress has a very high concentration of *quite* literate users.

        I also have a blog of my own (in the sense of being my own *personal* views aka diary, etc.) … and I just posted there last night (though in general, now, less often) — it’s called remediary.com but is also accessible as freely.be (because I am, of course, a free person).

        I’d be interested to know what you think of contextual.news.blog/2020/04/22/introduction-to-rational-media-content-vs-container

        🙂 Norbert

  2. Maybe your partner isn’t doing a job that he/she was meant to do? I’m like your partner: cannot wait to retire! I learned much too late that I should have been a Spanish teacher. Instead I chose finance because I’m good at it and that I would always have a paycheck. If I had become a Spanish teacher I might not have gotten a repetitive stress injury to my shoulder in 2009 that still plagues me. It was from sitting at a desk that was not set up ergonomically correct. I recovered in 2009 but re-injured my shoulder 10 years later. Good for you that you enjoy your work though. My hat’s off to you. April 2022 can’t come soon enough for me!

  3. My original reply doesn’t appear and may have gone through to you privately. I see that you have been researching retirement in Spain and sharing that on your blog, thank you for sharing with others! My husband chose law enforcement as a career. It was exciting at first, but over 20+ years, the world changed. The entire profession is under fire as bad apples have made it difficult for officers to do their jobs today. He is not a young man anymore, and the job gets harder as the years go by, but he needs to get to full pension. Thankfully, he has a pension, most officers being sworn in today probably do not. I’ve encouraged him to think about a second act, as it is never too late to try something new and starting to develop that before retirement could give him more of a sense of purpose now.

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