A few years ago I sold my company and began transitioning my role with the new ownership. Because I made such a change in my career, friends and clients assumed I was retiring and when I saw or called people, they would ask, “How are you enjoying retirement?”
That’s one question I hope to never answer because I have no plans to retire. Ever. My dad worked until he was 87 and I will follow his example, working even well beyond that age if possible. He never believed people should retire at the then-accepted age of 65. As the comedian George Burns said, “Retirement at sixty-five is ridiculous. When I was sixty-five I still had pimples.”
For some reason even the assumption that I would be retiring bothered me. Perhaps it’s my own issue of feeling like I won’t be interesting at parties any longer if I’m no longer working. My identity seems to be inextricably tied to my career. I also enjoy the stimulation and interaction with other people that I get in a work environment.
I do a lot of volunteer work with non-profits and feel that staying in the working world keeps my skills sharp and better able to contribute to those organizations.
If I even tried to retire, I know I’d be like former NFL player Brett Favre. Although it was speculated for years that he was retiring, he continued to put on those pads and play, year after year. He played well past the time his teammates had hung up their jerseys, becoming the only grandfather in the NFL.
I do know plenty of people who are very happily retired. A friend of mine tells me how much he enjoys watching cartoons with his new grandson. Others play golf, travel and enjoy other activities they never had time to indulge in while managing a career.
The best example of someone blissfully retired is my wife, Arlene, who quit work after 25 years as a successful, award-winning residential real estate broker.
She actually retired at my suggestion. She had received a call from potential clients who were relocating to Atlanta and wanted her to show them homes that weekend. That meant she would have to preview dozens of properties, put together a complicated schedule of showings, alter it based on what they saw the first day, then do it all over again the next. Oh, and there is no guarantee they would buy a home from her.
Somewhat exasperated, she called to tell me we’d have to cancel all our weekend plans, so I said, “Why don’t you just retire? We don’t need your income, and it will give you the flexibility to do all the things you want but don’t have time for.”
After consulting a friend who had run a multi-million dollar company and giving it careful consideration, she took my advice and retired. She has never looked back.
But Arlene remains engaged and as interesting to me as she ever was. She exercises, spends time with our grandchildren, volunteers at the synagogue and plans and prepares healthy meals. She also attends classes on various subjects and handles everything in our lives that doesn’t involve earning money. Arlene jokes that she doesn’t have enough hours in the day to be retired.
The past few years I have cut my working hours down from 60 to a more manageable 45-50. I’m still searching for a better balance but I’m not quite there yet. I wouldn’t mind slowing down a bit more.
So I realize the issue of retirement is a personal one. And for me, retirement is just not in the cards. Maybe my reluctance to retire has to do with what Malcolm Forbes once said, “Retirement kills more people than hard work ever did.” I don’t plan to ever find out.