Retirement Doesn't Work
Professor David Demko,
| Here's the best retirement advice you'll ever get ...
DON'T DO IT. Forget retirement. There is no such thing. Retirement is just
a convenient invention created years ago as an avenue to clear the work
place for new blood. Over the years, entire industries became
beneficiaries of this new concept called "retirement". Ironically, it
seems that the last person to benefit from retirement is the
retiree. It's time to start traveling in the right lane of your road to retirement.
So how did the Captains of Industry get mature
workers to go along with the idea of retirement? Easy. Tell the workers
that retirement is a reward, the best part of life. But was that true? As
far back as twenty years ago, the American Medical Association called
enforced idlement, like retirement, a health hazard. In fact, even before
the AMA proclamation, studies by the National Institute of Mental Health
suggested that the transition to retirement was so stressful that the
average life expectancy of a white collar male at age 65 was only 36-40
So why does the retirement myth persist? Well, there's too
much at stake for too many special interests. You might even say that
retirement was created for everyone's benefit but the retiree. Sure, you
might end up benefiting from retirement, you might even enjoy it. But
that's incidental. Let's take a look at the intended beneficiaries of your
Corporate America wanted "new blood" to strengthen the
work force. "New blood" is code for "replace experienced personnel with
younger people who will work cheap". Any how, the corporate thirst for new
blood set off early retirement trends that continue unabated to this very
day. Interestingly, industry's trend of pushing mature talent out the door
has coincided with the downward spiral of America's competitiveness in the
Another benefactor of your retirement is the
nation's huge health care industry that, ironically, prospers only when
you're sick. Where's the incentive to keep you healthy, active and
enjoying your retirement? If you're lucky enough to be healthy, then
there's the "well-you-never-really-know" insurance industry trying to
capitalize on your anxieties about life's uncertainties.
benefactor of your retirement is the financial planning industry that
distracts you from pondering whether or not retirement makes any sense at
all, because you're too darn busy planning to be financially secure in
retirement. Never mind that you just might be financially secure, yet
emotionally miserable, if you stopped working. Everyone seems to be having
a great time living off your decision to retire. Everyone that is, except
If you want to get retirement right, you have to understand
that almost everyone's interests are served by your retirement, except
your own interests. Once you figure that out, you're half way home.
Enjoying an active and productive retirement won't just happen. Retirement
is more a state of mind than a stage of life. It's what you make of it,
it's what you discover is in it for you. Retirement is doing what you want
to do, even if it's work that you want to do. Here's a few rules to keep
in mind if you want to make retirement work for you.
DAVE'S RULE #1
Ask yourself why you want to
retire. Don't do it just because you hate the daily drill of your job. If
you don't like your job, you should change jobs, not retire. I criss-cross
the country speaking to thousands of retirees, and this is what their
spouses would like their husbands to do ... GET A LIFE. Women say they are
sick and tired of the "stopped living, stay-at-home,
sitting-in-a-chair-waiting-to-die husband". So plan on retiring from one
thing, like your job, to something else that's equally interesting. Just
don't retire from life.
Find out what makes you tick. What makes your life
inspiring, worth living? Ever wonder why a lot of self-employed people
never retire? What for? Their retirement reward is to be able to continue
to pursue their lifelong passion whether it's a hardware store, law
practice, or photography.
Force yourself to set lifestyle goals. Since you can look
forward to another two decades, plan to make it as interesting as
possible. For example, make a list of ten things you'd love to do if you
could afford to retire. Then, write down how much time you're spending on
these activities now. Most likely, you have a retirement fantasy that
includes a lot of exciting pursuits. But if you're not pursuing any of
these activities now, what makes you think your preferences will change in
retirement? People find time for the things they love to do. In a sense,
successful retirement results from people who call their own bluff. All
their worklife they talk about all the exciting activities they'll be
engaged in. Then comes retirement and they don't pursue any activity.
Don't wait for later to discover that your retirement dream is all show
and no go.
DAVE'S RULE #4
to see through the dollar signs. A common mistake is to concentrate only
on the financial aspects of retirement. Sure you need to have a nest egg.
But what's the point if you aren't healthy enough, or don't live long
enough to enjoy the opportunities afforded by your retirement income? One
of the greatest ironies of so-called retirement planning is that most
people spend fifty years building a nest egg, but only fifty minutes
making plans to stay healthy enough to enjoy it.
exists at all, it exists as a state of mind. The ultimate in retirement
probably means being able to live life on your own terms, doing what feels
right for you. Continuing to work. Changing careers. Stopping work
altogether. Pursuing a college degree. Or one of a thousand other
pursuits. Today's retirees have based the retirement decision on economic
feasibility without much thought to the personal consequences. Baby
boomers may be a different story. Research suggests that boomers won't be
financially capable of retiring in the same style as their parents.
That's the bad news. The good news is that the boomers will have
to do a lot more soul-searching about the retirement decision. As a
result, they may not retire at all. Call it necessity, or preference.
Retirement, as we know it today, may never be the same. And quite likely
just might disappear from the American experience.
Dr. David J. Demko is a doctoral graduate of the University of Michigan with certifications in Gerontology (UM), Geriatric Assessment (USF), and Retirement Planning Leadership (AARP).
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