How to deal with the fact that you cannot retire

How to deal with the fact that you cannot retire

The big question here is what retirement means for you? For most it is the thought of not working and enjoying life. The picture of the gentlemen on the beach says it all. When I speak to people, who are about to retire, they often understand that retiring does not mean “doing nothing”. But when you listen to their retirement plans, it sounds rather like one big holiday.

The question for retiree’s should rather be, “after you leave your current employment, what will your work be?” This may come as a surprise to many but retirement at your current employment is not the announcement of one big holiday. It is only the transition of one type of employment to another. The truth of the matter is; signing up for one big holiday is really signing up for your own death bed – literally. The reason for this is simple. When you say farewell to your work, you usually also say goodbye to your usefulness. You lose meaning and you start to feel you have nothing to contribute towards life. You made yourself redundant. Something happens in our soul when this happens. Our inner being dies and then our body with it.

Interestingly enough if you read Genesis, in the Bible, you will read that when the first human beings were placed within the garden of Eden and they had to take care of it and WORK it (Gen 2:15). This is the creative kind of work which each person is called to do. Later in in Genesis a new kind of work – a punishment work is announced. “By the sweat of your brow you will eat..” (Gen 3:19), Adam is told. We must not confuse the punishment type of work with the creative-play type of work which we are called to do.

The problem is that most people find themselves in jobs they absolutely hate and they can’t wait for retirement – their work is their punishment and their retirement is their reward for putting up with the punishment. They feel trapped in their work – which feels like a type of slavery for them. Life should be a matter of moving towards that which you love and not only moving away from that which you hate. Retirement should be a move towards a more meaningful type of work where we can make a larger contribution.

Having said all this, it also kind off bursts the bubble of what I believe is a fundamental floor in financial planning. Which is to drive the fear of hell into people by telling them that they have one huge shortfall for retirement and that they immediately should take out a massive retirement annuity to fill the shortfall. Then you will also hear statistics, such as, only 5% of South Africans can afford to retire and that 82% Americans have to continue working after retirement because their 401K retirement plans weren’t enough. Don’t get me wrong; I believe you should save as much as possible. This will allow you to scale down after retirement, but the truth of the matter is, when the calculation is done, of how much you will need for your retirement, it is done with the notion that you will not work at all with no further income. Even if you have enough at 65 and you do not need any income my question will still be to you: “How are you going to engage in meaningful and creative work?”

You must come to the understanding that you have a life calling which will only stop the day when you blow out your final breath. A life calling is something which you feel compelled to do; which you want to do. A life calling is where you make a contribution, where you are valuable to yourself and society, and …. maybe get paid for it. For everybody feeling enslaved and trapped in their jobs they so hate to do, my message is this… “find your calling, no matter what your age, and live the life you were meant to live.” Off course, this may change as you grow older.

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