I work with somebody who has worked for the State long enough to retire tomorrow with her health care paid for for the rest of her life, and a pension that will provide her somewhere in the neighborhood of 88% of her ending salary. Yet, she’s not retiring yet. One more year she says. I won’t go into the reasons why, but it leads me to ask the question.
Why not retire when you can? What holds people beyond that date at which they’ve earned the right to sit by the pool, travel, volunteer, and spend their remaining years doing what they want?
I know this about me. At the first moment when it makes sense, I’m making that choice. There’s a moment in about seven or eight years, when my kids will be done with college, I’ll have health care paid for, and will have a retirement benefit that is only 42% of my ending salary. When I hit that moment, I’m not looking to maximize my retirement income. Instead, my only objective will be that I have enough to pay for a life without obligation and responsibility. I will have paid my dues and will not be interested in paying them any more.
Whenever I have a few days off, I fill my days with the activities that interest me and it’s not nearly enough. To have days that spread to the end of my life during which I can do as I please (write, read, run, bicycle, bake, garden, see the ocean, nap, volunteer, spend time with the people that matter — I’ll stop there because this list could literally fill a page or two). Well, shouldn’t that be the goal for all of us? Work is work. I envy people who have found an occupation they enjoy. For me, work has never defined me. It’s what I do the rest of my day and week that does. The day I get to be me 24 hours a day will not come soon enough.
I wonder if it’s fear. Are people afraid that if they stop working, something will change for the worse? Do they think retirement means they’re closer to death and if they keep working, they may keep the grim reaper at bay? Is it fear of what to do with all of those years that, hopefully, remain? How do you feel all of those hours that have been filled by another purpose? I can imagine that can be pretty scary? Not for me.