The New Look
In the years long gone, viewing retirement as an ‘entitlement’ was appropriate. The conditions most folks faced until they reached retirement age and their shorter life expectancy made that a good fit. However, the changed conditions have opened up new possibilities.
An important thing to recognize is that as adults — at every age — there is one priority above all else: we have to take responsibility for and take care of ourselves before we do anything else. To accomplish that some of our limited time, energy, resources, and funds (TERF) must devoted to providing the things — the goods and services — required to survive. Among them are all the chores necessary to stay alive and well on a daily basis. Some of the TERF must be provided by others. Most often we pay for the required goods and services out of our limited funds. Additional amounts of our limited TERF is necessary to fulfill any obligations or commitments that we have taken on. The balance of our disposable time, energy, resources, and funds can be used for whatever else we choose. It is from that perspective that I would like to address “retirement” with you.
Avoiding or delaying the decision to retire and continuing to work has its advantages. The job provides additional income. Furthermore, postponing retirement increases Social Security and pension benefits. It also makes it possible to put more money aside for unexpected contingencies and for the retirement years. Gods’ willing, eventually each of us reaches the place where we have to face the question, “What will I do when I retire ?”
At that time two things are certain. One is that sometime in the future we will die. The other is there is no way of telling ahead of time when that will be. We cannot know how much time we have left.
I must admit in 1985 when I decided to retire I did not take that into consideration. About six years ago, 28 years later at the age of 85, I decided to address the question of how much longer I have to live. I pulled up the University of Pennsylvania life expectancy program and learned that on average I had about six more years. A couple of years later I decided to check it out again. I found out that the program could not tell me because I was no longer in the cohort group. Nonetheless, here I am at 91 and still trying to figure out what I want to do for the rest of my life — perhaps another six or seven years.
As I mentioned earlier, the classic way of viewing retirement is as an entitlement. We spent our adult years working hard, so now is the time to lay back, cool out and to take it easy. If along with Social Security and retirement benefits we have put aside enough funds to make that possible, clearly that’s an option. We can prop our feet up for the rest of our life and cool out.
What if, instead of viewing retirement as an entitlement, we can view it as an opportunity?
What often happens is that we wake up one morning and realize that we have reached ‘retirement age’. However we got there, unlike for our predecessors, the amount of time spent in retirement can be considerable. As I’ve shown, for me, up to now, over 30 years have gone by. That is more than half my previous lifetime.
Under some circumstances by treating retirement as an opportunity the ‘retiree’ can make a significant difference. For example, some couples or individuals with sufficient funds are able to ensure that the rest of the life is taken care of by entering a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC). Once they are established in that setting, they can use their unique skills and some of their residual TERF to help others. One way would be to mentor younger individuals. That would enable them to pass their unique skills on to future generations.
There are those who have been very successful and as a result accumulated a large amount of funds early on, perhaps in their late 30s or early 40s. They could consider ‘early retirement’. That would make it possible for them to treat their retirement years as an opportunity, be able to take care of themselves and do whatever they really want to do for all the years ahead of them.
Let me remind you that the recent changes in technology were largely beneficial, and very likely contributed to our wealth and made us better off. Nonetheless, those changes made others worse off. There is another opportunity for those who have been successful and accumulated a significant amount of funds. You might consider using some of your disposable TERF to assist those who have been displaced, harmed and pushed into the lower end of the income distribution is by the recent technological and economic changes, some of which you may have helped bring about. Consider helping them make the adjustments necessary to have a better life.
Here’s one example. Having a college education helps people get out of the lower end of the income distribution. Frequently the student loans they incur are a significant burden. Moreover, the loans come at the time in their lives when freeing them of that burden would make it possible for them to make a greater contribution in the future. One way those with disposable funds could help is to “adopt” those individuals and pay off their student loans. Another would be to help fund a not-for-profit organization that is set up to pay off student loans. You may come up with other ways as well.
Those are just some suggestions.
Remember each of us is unique. We have our distinct traits, strengths, background, skills, experience, interests and expertise. Some also have our “passion”. Those attributes put each of us in the position of being able to make a special contribution. After taking care of oneself, “retirement” is the time to pursue any of those options or any other ideas that you come up with. Only you can decide what is right for you. When you have conflicting objectives, the path you choose defines who you are as a person and what your legacy will be.
While I am still around my agenda, after taking responsibility for and taking care of myself, is to use my unique professional and personal traits and experience to help others make the choices that are best for them, for others and for the planet. To the extent that I am successful, that will be my legacy.
The path you choose will determine what the rest of your life will be like and what your legacy will be. Only you can decide the path that is best for you.
Perhaps retirement makes it possible to do some things you’ve always wanted to do but could never get around to. Think about this. It may also provide us with the opportunity to consider using our unique traits to leave behind things that benefit others, things that no one else could provide. That would be our legacy. My hope is that is what I’ve done.
The original article can be seen at https://berniekemp.com/2019/03/11/revisiting-retirement/