Retirement is Killing Us.

Like our current educational system, retirement is a creation of the industrial age.  Both of these institutions were created to serve industry.  Retirement is the ultimate carrot, but this gilded vegetable is rotten inside.  Our parents and theirs spend their entire lives working for one or two companies, working 48 to 50 weeks a year for 40 years with a promise of relaxation and recreation in our “golden” years.  I will never retire.  For me retirement means: “To slowly fade away, to stop making a contribution, to give up my life’s work when I’m at the peak of my profession.”  Why would I stop working at a time when I have the most to contribute?  Why would I give up the opportunity to travel and relax until my health is fragile? 

Common sense dictates that we’d be better off spreading out our “golden” years throughout our lives.  We’re taking a hell of a gamble, that we’ll live long enough to enjoy the carrots of our labor.  This is more evident now than ever before, with our recent financial crash, it’s become obvious that it’s not just life and health we need to sustain to enjoy retirement but also our investment and retirement funds.  Many of which have gone the way of the dinosaur in the last few years.  Is there anyone who doesn’t have a friend or relative who didn’t loose substantial investments in the last few years? 

A small number of companies offer sabbaticals for employees and as Dan Pink suggests in Drive, take a year off every 7 and go travel, take some classes, live in new places or try new projects.  Can you imagine how doing this will increase your quality of life, how much perspective you’ll gain?  Investing time and money in yourself throughout your life will greatly increase the odds that you’ll find your passion and make you more valuable to your profession, your friends and your family and most important to yourself.  I was laid off last May and instead of panicking and scrambling to find a new job, I started traveling and spent the next 8 months traveling in the US, Mexico and Asia.  It’s the best thing I’ve done in a decade and it led me to researching motivation 3.0 and starting this blog.  I’m happier than I’ve ever been.  Yes, it’s a risky way to live, but what’s the alternative?  For me it would have been to sit around the house looking for a new job in IT management, a field I should have escaped from 5 years ago, and being stressed out the whole time with an unhealthy helping of self doubt. 

So why not retire, retirement or at least reinvent it and starting planning your adventures now? It takes some planning, saving, some going without consumer goods, maybe less eating at restuarants and you’ll have to take some chances but you can’t win if you don’t play.  If you can’t make a whole year work, try 3 or 6 months, hell, try a month, when’s the last time you took 4 weeks off in a row?