We all know the old trope about work – you get a job or series of jobs, save money, perhaps get a pension, and retire to lea a nice life in your 60's.
Of course by now we've seen this is an illusion for too many people, and many solid retirements have become mirages in the Great Recession. However, more than this illusion, I think that the idea of work-then-retire has been toxic to people's careers for another reason: it led them to take jobs they hate.
Retirement got so based around the work-save-retire concept that people focused on the money first. It didn't matter if you hated your job (or even were that good at it), as long as you had the right amount of money and benefits for your retirement. People's lives became too easily defined by bank accounts, investments, and the idea that someday work would end.
Of course this didn't work out. The Great Recession came, socio-economic changes came, and a lot of people made bad decisions. Now with many retirements in tatters, I think it's clear the idea of "I hate it but make money" was a shallow farce.
It's also clear why people who do what they like, progeeks like you and I, are better off for retirement.
Here are the reasons:
- Doing what you like removes the deadline of retirement. Without the idea of shutting your life down at a given age you can just embrace doing what you like and enjoying life. It gives you a life, not an expiration date. What's wrong with working until you drop if your work is meaningful?
- Doing what you like gives you enthusiasm and energy because you're not facing a grind you hate. You'll do better, probably make more money, and certainly get more out of your life.
- Doing what you like opens you up to new opportunities. This will give you new opportunities to make money and have a life – which will go a long way to a good retirement (if you ever truly retire).
- Doing what you like focuses you on sustaining your life and what you care about, not an "escape" later in life. You'll build your life around what you care about, as opposed to waiting.
The retirement we knew, the myth, was really a farce for too many. Better to build your life around what you care about and find ways to sustain that.
One size doesn't fit all. In fact, for retirements, I don't think one size really ever existed anyway.
– Steven Savage