The financial services industry is spending billions of dollars per year trying to convince Americans that retirement is a great idea worth pursuing. In fact, their basic premise is that the sooner you retire, the better. But for whom? We certainly know that the sooner the financial services industry gets their hands on your money, the better it is for them. However, is retirement in a service-based economy all it is cracked up to be? Is it possible that we are being sold a bill of goods?
With increased automation in the manufacturing economy, as well as the expansion of the service economy over the past few decades, many of the laborious, dirty, and dangerous jobs in America have been eliminated or replaced with desk jobs. One of the potential fallouts of our primarily service-based economy is the skyrocketing level of obesity in America. The cable TV industry may tout their HD-TV as a contributor to America’s obesity epidemic; however, the fact that so many of us have desk jobs has been a major driver of larger waistlines.
So if we are not retiring from dangerous work, we are not physically worn out from years of heavy manual labor, and we have better health care as well as quality of life than previous generations, why the rush to retire so soon?
One of the themes the industry pushes is that once retired you will have the time to pursue what you really want to do, instead of what you have to do. This seems to be a rather cynical take on how many of us live. I recall one of my uncles once explaining to me that “you are not supposed to like your job. That’s why it is called a job.” From his perspective, early retirement made sense.
What if you are someone who enjoys what you do for a living? Does it make sense to retire just because you hit some magical age? Do you look to when the government makes Social Security benefits available to workers? Do you rely on some pension formula that combines your age and years of service to determine when it is time to leave?
If you have used your body for decades of manual labor, it is likely that your body will tell you when it is time to retire. But what if you use your mind to work every day? Does your mind need a rest, or does it need to remain engaged in intellectual pursuits? Has the concept of retirement changed over the past few decades and left you confused about what the role of retirement, if any, should be in your life? Are you thinking of retiring because others are expecting you to retire, rather than because you feel “it is time?”
Many of our clients are opting for something we call semi-retirement. They wish to remain just as engaged in their job as they were in the past, just not on a five day a week or fifty hour a week schedule. They are taking one day per week to pursue other interests. They are scheduling vacations on a quarterly basis to give them a break in their routine. They may work fewer hours in the summer.
Enlightened employers understand the value of talented workers. They see the need to pass along the institutional memory of a department. They know that they are better off with a limited amount of time from a talented proven commodity. If you are starting to think of retirement, think again. It is a whole new ballgame today.