There are studies that say retiring early (at age 55 or before) can lead to longevity in life. And that retiring at 65 or older can lead to death within just a few years of retirement. So many studies that say so many things...
I have friends, mainly in civil service jobs (the 9-5 variety) who have been looking forward to retirement since they were 30! They all plan to retire in their mid-50s, with government pensions and enjoy life. It sounds wonderful to most people.
But for some reason, I have never understood this. I don't want to retire - ever. I plan on working up to about a half an hour before I die, if I can organize it to be that way! This doesn't mean I'm a workaholic or spend no time with my family. I spend more time (ie; 24/7) with my kids than any parent I know and my husband and I spend tons of time together. But work has always been a part of my life, except when I had my children all in a row and wanted to be an at-home parent full time. But even then, I took language classes, administered a website and wrote. I like to work, I've always worked and I find no comfort in the thought of never having to work again. In fact, I find the concept terribly depressing.
Why is this? Maybe it's because I like what I do. Because it's creative and allows me self-expression, as well as freedom to work odd hours and never having to punch a time clock. I suspect if I were working the line at a Detroit auto factory 8 hours a day I might feel differently.
But either way, work - even just a few hours a week - will be a part of me until I take my last breath. Work keeps my brain sharp, my eyes focused and my wits about me. Sometimes I look at men who retire and suddenly go from managers and execs to pottering about the garden and getting in the way of impatient wives who begin to think that "having the rest of your lives together" sounded better on the retirement cards that it does in real life.
I wonder if I asked these men if they'd like to consult a couple half-days a week, what they'd say. I bet they'd jump at the chance. Retirement is hard for men, particularly boomers and older. They have been conditioned to be what they do. They are associated with their job ("how's work?", is one of the first questions they are asked when out and about) and they quickly learned that their self-image, self-esteem and all-round identity is wrapped up in what they do. The same can be said now for many working women. That's not a good thing. There has to be a happy medium.
Not everyone gets to do what they love or achieve their ultimate dreams. If that were the case, I'd be doing interviews about my Booker Prize winning novel at the moment! Sometimes we have to do what we have to do to put food on the table and to put clothes on our kids backs.
But if given the chance, why would anyone not want to work at something they really like, for their entire life? If we take pride in our work, if it's meaningful and keeps us physically, mentally and emotionally strong, then I want to pass the age of 65, and 75, knowing that I have work to do after my birthday celebrations are over. If we hated our jobs but hung on for that pension and security, then 65 isn't too late to start something new that we can love! Being a tour guide, working at a theater, museum or a castle in Scotland. We don't even have to get paid work, we can volunteer our time and work for free!
I see people at church gatherings, in my neighborhood and at other social events- writers, poets, artists and carpenters. All still working and none of them young. Lawyers long retired from corporate law but still keeping their license and doing pro-bono work here or there. Electricians and plumbers still contracting into their 70s and teachers and architects still connected to their professions, albeit in ways different to when they were under 65. I see those who completely retired, yet find themselves busy as ever, with volunteer projects from soup kitchens to art council advisory boards. I always admire these people. There seems to be something so purposeful about their step, their stance and their conversations. And for some reason - whether true or not - they seem healthier.
Time off is good. I believe in down-time, vacations and long walks. I think staring at clouds for an hour can be relaxing - and ironically, productive. I don't plan on putting in 80 hour, stressful work weeks when I'm 80. I want that down-time. I assume I will have earned it.
But work, I will always do. It's more than a paycheck or a 401K plan. It is not my link to self-esteem, self-worth nor is it what makes my life worthwhile. My family, friends, hobbies, travel, and all our combined good times do that. But at the same time, work stimulates me and challenges me and occasionally sets me up for failure in ways that make my successes all the more sweet. Why would anyone want to give that up because they reach a certain age? Why limit ourselves when life is limitless?
Am I quite mad?! Do you long for the lazy days or retirement and plan to spend your time fishing, golfing or reading good books? Or do you plan on keeping your finger in the work pie, long after your peers have checked out?