April 15, 2011
I just read an article in Money magazine about starting late for retirement. The article was about a man in his 40s having no clue as to what he was to do and how he should get started on a path to retirement.
And then the comments came after that.
The feeling was not an encouraging one to read the comments of “good luck, buddy”, or “there’s no way you’ll make it”, to a host of comments that shared the same desperation. The feeling of “I’m not going to make it after all” was spread pretty heavily across the comments.
I believe that man is not alone – I would dare say there are more like him than not, especially in this day. I myself look at my own situation. I have a house, four kids, one just about to graduate high school and now I’m faced with college for the next zillion years. All the while the burn rate on daily living is incredible. Still, we don’t take elaborate vacations – never have, we rarely eat out – and we don’t shop except for what we need. And it still seems as if it’s not enough. How many of you are like this? I know I’m not alone. But the concept of retiring has always made me cringe. I hate the idea of retirement. To me, retirement implies that I want to stop doing what I’m doing. But I want to stay in the game until I die. In fact I want what I’m doing to have meaning beyond my life and my death, so the work that I’m doing has eternal, lasting value. I want to keep learning, I want to start new things when I’m 50, when I’m 65, when I’m 85.
The point I want to make is not about looking ahead with dread at the point on your horizon where you get to a certain age and realize you’re empty. My point is this: do what you were made to do. Doing what you were made to do takes on a whole new dimension with regard to retirement. You just may not want to stop working when you love what you do. When you love what you do, you’ll find pathways to do it. When work turns from a duty you pay to stay alive, to a gift you want to share, how does this uniquely western idea of retirement hold a grip on me? It doesn’t.
There is a plan for you, that is a promise and the promise it to prosper you and not to harm you, and it’s a promise you have to claim and then you have to receive. When that happens, you have already retired – from a worry that need not be.
Consider this: What if you hated what you did and now you could retire at any age? It begs my question in the chapter on performance: What if ________ suddenly ______? Then what?
What if you had all the money, but suddenly you realized you didn’t know what to do next? And you have potentially a long time of living ahead of you? Then what? Watch Wheel of Fortune for the rest of your days? Or, what if you hit whatever age and now have to work somewhere where your talents are buried. Even the greeters at Wal-mart are becoming fewer and farther between. Is that the next pathway for you?
Father in Heaven, hear those desperate prayers.
Which would be a worse outcome, getting to the imaginary finish line of retirement and not knowing where to go from that day forward or racing without that imaginary finish line and you are delighted to run and want to run and not want to stop running? I’ve seen people who crossed that finish line and die for lack of purpose. I’ve seen others age almost instantly, wondering around pathetically without a sense of meaning to their days. You can only fish, or golf, or quilt, or whatever a hobby is for so long if it doesn’t include the authentic passion which is to give your passion for others, to sacrifice self to share with those who need your passion.
Hmmm, something to think about.
Are you doing what you were made to do?