A Radical View of Retirement: Work and Retirement (Part 3)

Brent Pittman —  09/14/2012
Senior Citizen Parachuting

What does a radical retirement look like? Photo Credit Woody H1

This is our third installment about work and retirement. Why did we combine the topics of work and retirement? Our beliefs about working inform our view of retirement.

In part 1 we began to unpack our baggage about work. In part 2, we looked at the deeper underlying beliefs and origins of work. We now turn our eyes towards connecting this thing we called work with the American view of retirement.

Our View of Work Informs our View of Retirement

I believe it is impossible to explore our view of retirement, without fist examining what we believe about work (including careers). Work is a good thing and has roots in the beginning of time.

Working grounds us in our humanity and aligns us with the divine.

If work is good intended as an original component of creation, why then does America flee work and look longingly toward retirement?

American View of Retirement

The recent American view of retirement is to work hard in a career, quit working on a magical day, and then begin engaging in what you really want to do. That could be spending time with family, gardening, volunteering, or playing golf all day.

In the American view of retirement a life of work turns into a life of play, until you you die.

How will this retirement be funded? Savings, 401k, IRAs, pensions, and Social Security of couse. Americans aren’t doing a good job at this goal either with 49% of us not saving for retirement. Add on top of this a failing Social Security system and longer life expectancies and Houston we’ve got a problem.

Where did this view of retirement come from? Should we blame Otto Van Bismark or Francis Townsend?

Along the way we have misunderstood the goal of working. The goal of work isn’t to strive towards a life of leisure where we don’t have to punch the clock.

While I support saving for future goals and for our later years in life– the goal of American Retirement isn’t one that I’m aiming at. I propose a much more radical view of retirement.

A Radical View of Retirement

Retirement is a word that I have come to disdain. It implies a retreat and abdication from life. I wrote about this in my article Retire Retirement.

Based on the canvas of our previous discussion on work, I propose a view of retirement based on the fact that work is good.

Yes, work for pay and a deeper meaning of work–a return to vocation or calling as described by Dan Miller:

“…it’s what you’re doing in life that makes a difference for you, that builds meaning for you, and that you can look back on in your later years to see the impact you’ve made on the world.”

Our jobs and career are an extension of our calling, they give feet to how we’re wired, and guide us to making a difference in the world. We’ll have many jobs and careers–but our vocation and life purpose remain constant.

Live a Radical Life and Retirement

With our vocation and calling guiding us, I propose erasing the invisible lines of retirement. Rid your mind of a date and time when you’ll be able to do what you love after you retire. What are you waiting for?

Since retirement now doesn’t exists, you have permission to live a radical life no matter your age. You no longer have to wait until age 65 to pursue happiness. Go ahead and do work that matters today.

Radical Ideas:

  • Make steps to quit your job (Read Quitter by Jon Acuff)  and transition to a life that aligns with your vocation.
  • Begin a business that allows you to do what you love that meets the needs of others. 8 Lessons I Learned from the $100 Startup  will guide you, like it has me on this journey.
  • Engineer a life that isn’t dependent on living in a certain location. The blog Location 180 gives proof that living anywhere is a viable reality.
  • Create a community that encourages others towards positive and healthy goals like Nerd Fitness.
  • Impact and empower the world by creating organization like Charity Water or Fount of Mercy.

Work Until You Die

It doesn’t matter what our age is, there is work to be done. Vocations and callings to be lived out. This world needs our hands and feet to till up change and spread hope that grows like fertilizer.

Some have said they don’t want to work until they die. If you have a improper view of work–then I agree that is a life to be avoided.

I will work till I die. Living a life of faith. Giving hope. Loving others. Living a radical life. 

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Brent Pittman

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Brent is a financial coach and writer looking for the perfect donut. He believes personal finance should be both fun and accessible to anyone willing to learn.
  • Definitely an inspirational post. I need to get my hands on and read the $100 start up…

  • krantcents

    My (teaching) career has changed over the years thanks to budget cuts, increased class size and “no child left behind” legislation. I like my career, but sometimes I do not like my job. I am looking forward to retirement (again).

    • I’m sure you’ll stay busy doing good no matter what your title is.

  • Pingback: In the Beginning: Work and Retirement (Part 2) | On Target Coach()