Sometimes I get a funny response from people when I ask them what their plans are for retirement. It is on more than one occasion that I have heard folks say something like, “Oh, I love my job! I’m never going to retire…I’m going to keep working until the day I die.”
Well, this kind of an attitude is more a hope than a plan. Remember that hope is not a strategy. Hope is a feeling while a strategy is a plan of action. Everyone, I’m sure, would love to imagine themselves effortlessly making boat loads of money in their 60’s and 70’s, relaxing at the office as they enjoy working away, skipping to work with a smile on their face.
But here’s why many of the people who say they’ll never retire are going to find that things didn’t exactly go as they planned. You may not have the physical freedom you think you’ll have. Before I had my first child, I defiantly told my boss that I only needed two weeks for maternity leave. I was healthy, after all, I had run marathons, I had been a personal trainer for heaven’s sake. No matter what anyone said, I was adamant about not missing a beat at work. Well, fast forward to my 36th week of pregnancy when I was sitting there in the exam room and the radiologist told me that my baby was displayed in breach position in her ultrasound. I had to undergo a C-Section. To say that it knocked me off my grind is an understatement…I couldn’t lift a jug of milk for a week. The incision didn’t heal right. I could barely sit down. It hurt to wear anything but loose fitting clothing. Long story short, when I did return to work after two weeks, the best I could do was to work from home and I was such a raging bundle of hormones that half the time I couldn’t even concentrate.
The moral of the story was that as defiant as I was, there are forces of nature that can not be defied. As human beings, we are all fragile and there is no denying that the control we have over our physicality is somewhat limited. If I could have gone back, I wouldn’t have been so unrealistic to believe that I was physically immortal - and made plans accordingly. It would have made things alot easier for my family. Your employer may have other plans. The harsh reality of life is that business is about money and at the end of the day it’s about who gets the most done for the lowest amount of capital investment. You may find it challenging to be on the job market after age 60. You may have someone else to take care of. Grandchildren, children, an ailing partner. Life happens and how would you feel if someone in your life needed your care and attention but you couldn’t be there because you had no choice but to go to work and earn money instead of being with them. Tax rates may be so high it might not be worth it. While nobody can predict the future for sure, most of us feel that tax rates are on the up not the down. Working in years that are not the prime earning years might mean going to work every day only to break even. Your grandchildren may not live close to you. Being able to enjoy working forever rests on two key assumptions. One, that you will never want more time with your grandchildren than time will allow. Two, that you’ll be able to see your grandchildren freely whenever you are not at work because they live close by. Those two assumptions may hold true, but imagine if they do not and you wind up always wanting more time with them because other than the two weeks a year of vacation time all you get is to Skype and talk on the phone. Work may not be the activity of choice anymore. There may come a time over your 40 or 50 year career when you feel differently about getting up and earning the paycheck every day as opposed to doing something different with your time, activities other than spending time with children or grandchildren. Examples include traveling, volunteering, writing a book, taking up a new hobby, or starting a business.
Working forever sounds good, but the truth is that this scenario likens to more of a reverie than a reality. It’s never too late to take control of your future. There’s nothing wrong with working until the bitter end, but consider investing some time in planning out a strategy to fall back on in case your wish doesn’t come true.