The game of life, especially in America, is work like a horse to 60 or 65, and then you get your “reward” of work-free existence. You go spend your remaining days at a country club retirement home, playing golf and gossiping about people at morning brunch. Or sometimes you go on a cruise where you can gossip about people at morning brunch while overlooking the Caiman islands.
People follow this pattern with blind loyalty, because it’s what everyone else does so it has to be correct. These days, a major issue is that it seems social security is falling apart, and certain members of congress want to push back the retirement age to about 70 (for whatever selfish, socio-political reasons they are scheming about this time).
People my age (in their 20s or early 30s) place minimal thought into this subject. They just assume they’ll do what their parents did, and they’ll work like horses and then reach their finish-line if they’re still alive, where they can enjoy work-free life.
Author Timothy Ferriss and several other entrepreneurial authors I know call this “life deferment”. You are deferring the best years of your life to the very end, ironically when you are at your least physically capable. His solution is to cut back your existing working hours or mobilize your income from home or your laptop, and enjoy mini-retirements your whole life.
I think this is a good idea, and something I support, but I think there’s an even bigger picture to look at. What is “work”? And is it really the boogeyman to run away from? Surely, grinding away as an accountant, construction worker or some painstaking office job is going to take its toll on you, but what if your work was A: meaningful, B: beneficial to society, C: mentally stimulating and D: balances your life with greater meaning?
Many retirees and elderly seem very depressed to me, and I think this is because they no longer feel useful or relevant to society, and their family has sort-of pushed them into these retirement homes, where they don’t have to worry about them anymore, and they can be safely forgotten about.
So as a fairly young mind, I look at that, and then I contrast it to the elderly-types who never seem to retire. Let’s take, for instance, Clint Eastwood. As of writing this article in 2010, he’s still making movies, I mean this guy’s still out there playing the game, and often winning things like Oscars. He’s in his what, mid-80s? But this doesn’t stop him.
I think this is the thing that gives him and others like him vitality. It’s not “work-work”. It’s not slaving away in some office for some higher-up, it’s more like expressing your influence and years of wisdom and continuing to contribute to society, while providing continued meaning in your life.
I am convinced the number-one cause of death is retirement. So, an alternative to working towards retirement is to work towards building your own mini-empire, so that you can eventually call the shots and work on what you WANT to work on, on your own terms. Because I think every human being NEEDS to work. It’s part of the balance of our existences. It’s not something evil to escape from, and if you think it’s a good idea to deny yourself of productivity, you may also be denying yourself of a sense of meaning and purpose in your life.