Myth #15: I’ll Retire at 65 (part 2)

There is another reason to consider working past age sixty-five. It stems from the myth that at age sixty-five—at last—we will be able to kick back and do what we want. We’ll have unlimited time to garden or fish or stay at the beach cottage.

We are forgetting one thing.

That’s not what people in our generation are likely to want to do when they retire. We baby-boomers have been raised in a dynamic, goal-driven, and achievement-oriented world that encourages physical activity, interpersonal contact, and accomplishment. I doubt that we’re going to be satisfied just sitting on the porch at the cottage. I suspect that we’re going to want to be busy, active, productive, enterprising, adventurous, and eager to find new experiences.

It would be sad to work thirty, forty, or fifty years so that we can retire, then find ourselves there and say, “Is this it? Is this all there is?” It might be great for a while, but I’ve been told that lounging around gets a little old. I know people who have retired to their condo on the golf course and after a short while tell me, “I can’t just play golf everyday. It’s not enough for me.”

Chances are, you will have twenty, thirty, or maybe even forty years left after retirement.

What if you structured your retirement so that you could stay active, and at the same time earn $10,000 or $15,000, or even $20,000 a year? You could look forward to working part time, or on a consulting basis.

A good friend of mine is retired and now works at an ice-cream shop in a small seaside town. She does this three or four hours a day and earns about $6,000 a year. It keeps her connected and gives her the feeling that she is doing something worthwhile. She enjoys the contact with other people, and she doesn’t think of it as work. To her, it’s fun.

Many people are working later in life by choice. Many are working part time. The bottom line is that many people have discovered the need to stay useful, active, and constantly learning. It might be a small business, teaching at the local community college, a stint with the Peace Corps, or serving as a mentor for a younger person.

Steven is a retired corporate executive who worked for a desktop publishing company. However, his true passion is poetry, and he is currently writing a book of poetry that his wife is illustrating.

He decided that writing could be a vehicle to help troubled teens. He thought it might help some of them resolve difficult issues they have had to deal with in their lives, so he now teaches a creative writing class once a week to kids who are in juvenile detention. He told me that the stuff these kids are being given permission to write is, on one level, very brutal, but on the other hand, very cleansing.

One kid was very quiet during the entire class. As Steven went through a discussion of various writing styles, this kid just looked out of the barred window, bored and distracted.

When it was time to write, he wrote about seeing his parents killed in front of him at age five and how since then, he has never trusted anyone. He knew he had to take care of himself, because no one else would.

Once he started, Steven couldn’t get him to stop. The kid wrote and he wrote. For the first time in his life, he consciously re-entered the pain and the anguish of what he had experienced. From that place, he began to heal.

Steven told me that everything he ever did in his corporate life paled in comparison to seeing that one kid begin to turn his life around. Steven is retired, but he has never felt more alive, productive, and useful. Steven has discovered that in many respects, life after age sixty-five can be richer than before—and it doesn’t have anything to do with money.

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