Saturday, May 12, 2007

Why the concept of "retirement" doesn't work

There's a lot of talk in our country about the ability to "retire". That's the Holy Grail for a lot of people, isn't it? The ability to finally stop working...the finish line of a 40-50 year career so that now they can finally sit down and enjoy the fruits of their labor. Right?


The whole concept is flawed from the beginning. It's an outdated concept from the early Industrial Revolution when employers told laborers, "Hey, if you'll work for me for 40 hours a week for 40 years...then you can quit and get a gold watch and a pension."

That plan hasn't worked since the 1950's. It probably didn't work for your mom and dad and it's definitely not going to work for you, either.

Here's the good news: it doesn't have to. I'm not saying that you have to work 'til you die. I'm saying that the concept of deferring your life's pleasures until you're 60+ years old is STUPID.

Consider Timothy Nerriss' perspective from his wonderful book, "The Four Hour Workweek":

Retirement as a goal or final redemption is flawed for at least three solid reasons:

1. It is predicated on the assumption that you dislike what you're doing during the most physically capable years of your life. [Tony's comments: This is already an impossible situation. Nothing in the world can justify doing something you dislike for 50+ years.)

2. Most people will never be able to retire and maintain even a hotdogs-for-dinner standad of living. Even one million dollars is chump change in a world where traditional retirement could span 30 years and inflation lowers your purchasing power 2-4% per year. The math doesn't work. The golden years become a replay of lower-middle-class. That's a pretty bittersweet ending, isn't it?

3. And if the math DOES work, it means you are one ambitious, hardworking machine. If that's the case, guess what? One week into retirement, you'll be so damned bored that you'll want to stick bicycle spokes into your eyes. You'll probably look for a new job or start another company. Kinda defeats the purpose of waiting, doesn't it?

So, what am I (and Ferriss) saying? That you shouldn't aspire to have a life where you can relax and do as you please? Not at all!

On the contrary, my point is that you should begin living that life NOW. How much sense does it make to work hard for 40+ years so that -- when you're 60+ years old -- you can finally start doing the things you want to do.

Life is now. Don't postpone it.

Tony Rush