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Monday, May 14, 2018

Who, Me? Retire?

Occasionally I meet someone or hear from a friend who asks, “Are you still working?” While I’d like to think I don’t LOOK like a retiree, my age is beginning to show. Well, more than beginning.

Ask my wife Rhonda when I should retire and she will answer, “Never.” She’s partially right. That is, if we define retirement as “stop working.”

People who dream of winning the lottery often see themselves as being able to walk in and give the boss a hug goodbye. Or maybe a different farewell message as they skip happily into the future of non-employment. Their dream of freedom has come true.

As has been frequently reported, better watch yourself if the retirement dream comes true. Many have experienced a loss of purpose in life. Their work embodied their meaning. Depression can set in.

Others handle it quite well. I had coffee with a friend of mine in California recently who is comfortably retired. Not wealthy, just comfortable. His mortgage has been paid off. He had income from retirement accounts. Life is good. But like many retirees, he says he’s now “busier than ever!” Go figure.

What if you could make millions of dollars in the next five years? Would you walk away from the work you do? Two New York Times bestselling authors that I know of have done no such thing. One is Pastor Rick Warren. After his book, The Purpose Driven Life became an international bestseller, Rick remains in the ministry and I’m sure his time is in great demand. He also chose to give away a huge portion of the book sales proceeds.

A second author I know personally also amassed a sizable earthly fortune from book sales. But he not only continues his writing, he coaches others. He still works on refining his own skills as well.

Several years ago, I was at the corporate headquarters of Apple. While having lunch with my son, I glanced up to see Steve Jobs speaking with a coworker just a few feet away. Think about it. Did Steve Jobs NEED to work? I’m sure he was focused on developing ideas and future plans.

Whether it was the authors I mentioned, or Steve Jobs, or any number of the wealthy who keep working, why don’t they “retire?” You know, get a cabin and go fishing every day. Or buy a motorhome and travel the country. Or use their private jet to go to every private beach in the world and lie out in the sun like in those beer commercials?

Why? Because retirement usually isn’t all it’s built up to be. A healthy view on aging says that the blessings of growing older should be used for good. Specifically, the good of others.

Make no mistake. I’m not being critical of those who choose to “retire” from their career jobs and move on to something else. I’m just saying that one should not overestimate the value of ending a highly productive work life.

This brings into focus a very important question. Why work at all? Again, if all your bills were paid and you could stop working, would you? This raises some interesting questions about your perceptions of work, your job satisfaction, and to some degree, your calling. I’ll address those issues in my blog next Monday. Lord willing.

After amassing all his wealth through hard work, King Solomon reflected…

“So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. And who knows whether that person will be wise or foolish? Yet they will have control over all the fruit of my toil into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless.” (Ecclesiastes 2:17-19, NIV)

Want to avoid a meaningless end of life? Meet you here next week.

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Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays from 4-6 PM Central. To listen outside the Chicago area, tune to for live streaming or podcasts, or download the AM1160 app.

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