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Lifestyle: Less golf; more satisfaction

06 Sep 2019

With thanks, by guest columnist Carl Richards, creator of the Sketch Guy column in The New York Times.

Today, I want to talk to you about retirement.

You know, that thing we spend our whole lives working towards… a mythical land of golf, gold watches, and umbrella drinks. Isn’t that exciting?

retirement carl richard

Here’s a quick history lesson: The idea of retirement dates back to 1881, when Otto Von Bismarck, the chancellor of Germany, cooked it up hoping to defuse the growing Marxist threat to good old-fashioned capitalism. Like most things that are almost a century and a half old, the idea of retirement is rather outdated.

For starters, we’re living longer now than ever before. If you reach 65 today, according to the Social Security Administration, you can expect to live around 20 more years. This doesn’t just pose large money questions. It also brings up a certain existential crisis: namely, are we really supposed to believe that golf will keep us emotionally satisfied for the last 20 years of our lives?

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I have worked with precisely zero individuals who went from full-time work to full-time leisure at 65. Instead, what I have seen over and over are people planning creatively for other options later in life. Now, that often involves scaling back a bit, or even changing careers around 55 or 60 and working for another 15-20 years. In many cases, I’ve seen people: 

  1. "Retire" from jobs they hated a decade earlier than they thought financially possible;
  2. Get a new part-time job in something they found more fulfilling;
  3. Use the income from that work to cover their expenses.

Now, these "retirees" can’t keep growing their retirement accounts once they quit. But they also often don’t need to dip into their retirement savings while they remain working part-time. Don’t underestimate the effect of another decade of compound interest at that point in your life. 

All that said, the biggest reason to rethink the traditional retirement model is this: 

If you realize you aren’t going to retire, then maybe you don’t have to keep working a job that’s slowly driving you insane.

For many people, retirement is the light at the end of a deep, dark tunnel called a career.

What if we flipped that notion on its head, and the end goal wasn’t to stop doing the wrong kind of work, but to start doing the right kind of work instead?

Just imagine how liberating that would feel…

Or maybe that long-awaited retirement party, the gold watch, and an umbrella drink on a beach is worth it after all. And hey, there’s always golf, right?

CARL RICHARDS is the creator of the Sketch Guy column in The New York Times.

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