Is the concept of retirement selfish?

For the entirety of my life, I have heard people talk about retirement as a goal or final destination.

They are planning for retirement, saving for retirement, and counting the days until they retire. They are skimping and saving now so they can “retire” later and live off their earnings. However, they can only do so if they continue to skimp and save.

It’s a horrible fear for many seasoned citizens to run out of money while they’re still breathing. Consequently, once people “retire,” they usually continue to live small. Sure they might take a nice vacation once a year, or eat at their favorite restaurants upon occasion. After all, that adds spice to life.

But when it comes to retirement, the idea of ending work is very appealing. That’s because so many people literally hate their jobs. They despise the control. Truly, should an adult need to get permission from another adult to take an afternoon off just to relax?

After years of playing corporate politics and all the games that come with that, people get fried on the concept of work. There is a lot of stress, jealousy and manipulation at play in office environments.

Let’s face it, many of us don’t like our co-workers, yet we give them the best parts of ourselves every day and return home with nothing left for the people we really like.

So, in a way, retirement is not selfish when we want to practice better self-care and spend more time with the people we love.

But, the reason so many people look forward to retirement is for the opportunity to walk away from jobs they hate. How many of us have dreamed of walking backward into the boss’ office with a resignation letter in one hand and a bouquet of mistletoe tied around our belt loop?

The problem with work isn’t with the idea of working, it’s that we don’t value what we do for a living. When our work has no purpose, then it’s hard to go through the motions to complete mundane tasks.

Boredom with our jobs and bitterness at being controlled is what makes retirement so attractive.

A question that changed everything

I heard a story recently about a coach who had a conversation with a wealthy man, but the talk could have applied to anyone of any income level.

The wealthy man was burned out and just wanted to do his own thing. He had enough money stashed away for him and his wife to live very comfortably for years, without skimping. He already ensured his children and grandchildren would be able to do anything they wanted in life.

But the tired old man didn’t want to be bothered anymore. I think a lot of us can relate to that.

“So you got what you wanted,” the mentor said. “Now you are just going to do what you want and not help anyone else with what you have learned? You’ll just step aside, live the good life and not share any of what you learned with others? That sounds pretty selfish.”

The statement opened the wealthy man’s eyes — and heart.

Going forward, he looked for opportunities to have conversations with younger people who were just getting started in his area of expertise, or who were struggling to move forward. He began doing more coaching, writing and teaching, which was something he loved doing in the past.

Within a short time, the man wasn’t even considering retirement any longer. He was having the time of his life by helping other people. Ironically, even the physical ailments he was factoring into a decision to retire had nearly vanished.

His new venture gave him even more money.

It was magical. His work had purpose, and that motivated him in ways he hadn’t experienced for many years. Yes, the money he earned from his old job and new venture was wonderful. But, money is only a tool. Money without purpose still equals boredom. We see that played out by wealthy celebrities every day.

What’s your legacy going to be?

When you contemplate your own legacy, how do you want people to remember you?

  • As someone who worked hard, got what he or she wanted, and lived the rest of life in relative obscurity?
  • As someone who utilized his or her natural talent, learned skills and vast experiences to help others improve their lives?

Despite what “they” have been telling us for years, just because we reached a certain age, it is not time for us to step aside from all responsibility, take it easy and simply enjoy life.

Rather, it is time for us to slow down and be intentional about what we choose to do to leave the world, and the people in it, a little better off.

How will you make a difference in the lives of other people today?