Friday, January 09, 2009

20 years from retirement

What are people looking forward to when they retire? What do they expect out of life when they hit that age when they don't have to work any more? How will they spend their time then, and how will they continue obtaining the resources that they need to sustain themselves over the next couple of decades or so, assuming that everything goes according to the best-case biological plan?

For many people, their goal is to slog it out in the here and now so that they can retire and "enjoy life". They'd spend their time then taking care of family matters, which they are too busy to take care of in their working years. They'd have time on their hands, not needing to watch the clock any longer and they can do whatever they want because they are forever free of deadlines and superiors. With the money they've frugally saved over their long careers, they'd have the means to live out their lives as comfortably as they have become accustomed to. Ah, the golden age of retirement... heh, if only.

Just barely 20 years away from retirement age, and already the prospect scares me. I'm an instant gratification kind of guy, and if I wasn't already enjoying life now, I doubt very much I'd enjoy it anytime later. Besides, if we're too busy for those nearest and dearest to us right now, there's no reason to assume that our presence will be appreciated then when they've grown too busy for us.

Well, maybe except as cheap day-care for our grands whose parents can't find the time to look after them themselves. And then there goes the no-deadline, no-watching-clock ideal. Junior has to be in school by 7, fetched and ferried around after-school activities from 3, be home in bed by 8, thanks very much. No mahjong for you Pa, the boy has an exam tomorrow, remember? Oh yah, your Alzheimer's. Meds three times a day after meals, and for goodness sake go change your diaper NOW, ok?

And that's for people with family. Lots of us DINKS today don't even have that to look forward to because of our decision to opt out of that Wonderful Life. If we're going to stay relevant we're going to have to keep proving day after day that we can still run with the pack, pretty much until we can't any more. And at 62-65 I believe we can still run with the best of them, so unless things have gone seriously wrong physically, I'd still feel too young to retire. Ask me again in 20 years.

And as for retirement savings, I think the past year has been a big reality check for us all in that we can't trust in the value of our accumulated wealth. So much that people had stashed away for a rainy day got washed away in the financial tsunami. Cash-rich one day, peniless the next -- and not necessarily due to anything that was of their own doing either. When idyllic fantasy met unthinkable reality, we learned the hard way that financial wealth is merely imagination working overtime on our behalf. Stings, doesn't it?

I think I'll continue working because I feel I should earn my keep, past glories notwithstanding. People today have neither memory nor gratitude so just because I might have been a career whiz before, there is no obligation for others to let me rest on my laurels while they are doing their best to topple my achievements, break my records, and leave me in their dust. Fact of life. It's what we hope for, anyway, every subsequent generation to better its predecessors. That's progress.

I fear irrelevance. I may be a misanthrope raising my fist at everyone around me, but I still need people around me to raise my fist to. I view retirement as an eventuality that will put me out of the game, especially as I don't forsee having a family around me to abuse me in return. No, I don't wanna retire. Heck, I don't even wanna grow up.

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