I was on a plane with Academy award winning actor Ernest Borgnine, 93 years old, (202 movies to his credit) as he was on his way to Toronto to shoot a movie with Bruce Willis. We got into a conversation about work and retirement and he said, “retirement will kill you, work gives you purpose.”
The American dream of retiring one day, never having to clock in, golf and beach all day may be overrated. Statistics actually show that retiring could actually be the worse thing a person could do in life and continuing to work, the best! Work gives us purpose, motivation to be creative, the opportunity to solve problems, relationships that we might not otherwise have, and challenges to overcome. Imagine life without problems, challenges, obstacles to overcome, co-workers to love and criticize, customers that you can never figure out and the likes. Just the idea of that depresses me.
Men and women need challenges and are stimulated and thrive on solving problems. Look at any infant 9 months old and watch their interest as they try to consume, manage, control and overcome every challenge surrounding them. Then look at your sixty-five year old grandmother who with no purpose each day, no work, sits home and watches TV with no sense of purpose. She may spend the next thirty years living her life like this. You are observing the difference between living life and just slowly dying from not living life. Consider all the millions of people labeled with depression when they may just have a lack of purpose and motivation. I was labeled with depression in my twenties when the issue was not some immeasurable chemical imbalance but a lack of purpose and direction in my life. Once I clarified my purpose the sense of depression completely disappeared.
Recent research suggests that actually retirement isn’t that good for you:
1. Health – According to findings reported in the October issue of the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology. “Being engaged in some meaningful activity, whether in paid employment or unpaid volunteer activity, is likely to have beneficial health effects when one retires,” says Kenneth Shultz, a professor at California State University-San Bernardino.
2. Purpose – Work and the challenges and obstacles that come with it give life a purpose. Challenges are critical to keeping life interesting. The overcoming of challenges and solving problems gives a person a sense of accomplishment.
3. Marriage – When you promised to stay with your spouse for better or worse, that didn’t necessarily mean either of you signed up for 24 hours a day with that person. Without having challenges at work, you may find yourself actually creating problems with your spouse to create challenges in your life.
4. Delay taxes – Minimum withdrawals from most retirement accounts don’t become required until age 70½. Why not defer taxes for an extra decade if you can and take advantage of more time to compound, tax deferred. Higher Social Security checks. Social Security eligibility begins at age 62, but your checks are reduced by 25 to 35 percent if you sign up at this age. For each year you delay signing up for Social Security between ages 62 and 70, your benefit will increase by 7 to 8 percent.
5. Live Longer than your Savings – Let’s face it. You probably haven’t saved enough to retire. The average Fidelity-administered 401(k) plan held just $60,700. That’s not nearly enough to pay for 20 to 30 years of retirement if you don’t have other sources of income. Only 26 percent of workers age 55 and older have $250,000 or more saved for retirement, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute. Based on these statistics most of us will outlive our finances making retirement fear filled rather than days of golf.
Because of the implosion of retirement accounts and loss of equity in home ownership, Americans are forced to reevaluate the viability of retiring. Each of us should look at whether retiring is just some perpetuated fantasy that is actually not good for our well being, sense of purpose and mental and physical health. Work gives us purpose, challenges, opportunities and relationships that would not be available with retirement. We are all going to die, the question is, while we are alive will be live a life of purpose and direction, motivation and meaning.