Article shines harsh spotlight on the realities of retirement

A faith-based website, Gentle Reformation, shined a rather harsh light on society’s fascination with the idea of retirement and pursuing a life of leisure.

The website’s motto is “speaking truth gently,” and its article titled “Retirement: The new afterlife?” lived up to the site’s mission.

Written by Steven Steele, the article starts by exploring the juggernaut of money focused on retirement. He noted that America’s gross domestic product, or the sum total of all goods and services produced by all people in the country, currently totals $23 trillion. However, the combined assets of all American pension funds current equals $34 trillion.

Journalist Sam Kriss, once wrote “mass consumer pensions have turned our entire adulthood into a preamble to old age. You work for three, four, five decades — all so you can enjoy those few, brief, useless years between retirement and death.”

Ouch! He also claimed “the entire global economy is now a machine for producing satisfied retirees.”

I don’t know if I’d go that far. The entire global economy seems focused on making super-wealthy people even wealthier. But, Sam does point to an alarming trend in that society is pushing people toward and promising them the concept of perfect leisure before they die.

Steven is correct in noting that, for millennia, people had put their hope in heaven as the ideal afterlife. The Bible calls heaven “paradise” and we have a hard time imagining that what will be other than a place without sadness or suffering.

Yet, 2 Corinthians 2:9 recalls the words the prophet Isaiah, who wrote “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived the things God has prepared for those who love him.

Yet, in our post-Christian world, the new goal is to achieve heaven on earth by living in retirement communities that offer a plethora of recreation opportunities with little responsibility.

In a different article, Sam suggested marketers promote “the true purpose of human life is to have fun, to drink and play golf, and you can only really experience the true purpose of human life once you’ve retired.”

That’s obvious from all the commercials, advertisements and marketing materials being pushed on people over 50 and, certainly, those who are over 65.

Our whole goal in working at jobs we don’t really like is so we can enjoy retirement. Unfortunately, it often doesn’t last long, especially for men.

The Social Security Administration found that people who retire at 55 have an 89% greater likelihood of dying before they reach their 65th birthdays. The National Center for Biotechnology Information found men who retire at 65 are often dead before they reach 68.

How many people do you know who have made grandiose plans to do something they’ve always dreamed of doing “someday?” Yet, it often seems that physical health doesn’t keep up with their dreams.

Even if people have good health, the fear of running out of money to support their new lifestyle often keeps them trapped in an unproductive routine and a scarcity mindset.

The Gentle Reformation article quoted Samuel Johnson in describing the unhappiness among men who led a busy life experience. After retiring in expectation of enjoying themselves at ease, they generally languish for want of their habitual occupation, and wish to return to it.

In other words, younger people often live for the weekend. Older workers live for retirement. But, retirees long to return to their youth and a time when their lives had purpose and meaning. What a vicious circle.

Purpose. People need it more than ever in retirement.

Regardless of age, when we are in that sweet spot of purpose which combines our natural talent, learned skills and vast experiences in an endeavor to help other people, we enjoy a quality of life that marketing messages can’t begin to describe.