Retirement: They Happy Ending?
My father has spent most of his life working, which is not different from most of us. Unlike a lot of us, though, his working years began when he was 12. While his classmates were off to after-school activities and sports, my father was working to help his mom and brother make ends meet. He went right to work after graduating from high school and during his work career was a wonderful provider for his family. He is a good husband, father, son, and role model.
Three years ago he decided to retire, and as a result of making wise financial decisions, they had options. So what’s keeping him busy these days? Work. He takes on consulting projects for one of the largest companies in the world. In this season of his life it’s not about having more, he just likes to work and enjoys the satisfaction that comes from a job well done.
Relatively speaking, retirement is a new phenomenon, only about 100 years old. However, as time has passed and society has changed, retirement has become more of an expectation. The media promotes an idealized version of retirement in our golden years and the need to work hard so we can stop working. There are retirement plans, retirement accounts, retirement income planning, retirement benefits, retirement calculators, and on and on. But what if this obsession with retirement is just another example of society following the herd?
In 2012, I surveyed a number of business owners and professionals who work directly in business transactions. One of the questions I asked was how many business owners who sell their businesses transition into the next phase of life emotionally secure and with healthy family relationships intact. The response was 50%. Money may solve a lot of challenges, but purpose and meaning solve more. As one attorney shared with me, “The most successful folks have an office to go to … even after they sell their business.”
After 15 years and thousands of conversations about money, I have come to the conclusion that the more capable someone is of retiring, the higher the likelihood that person will stay gainfully employed or at least productive. My observations were confirmed earlier this year with a retirement study of 7,000 individuals. Of those with $250,000 or less in cash and investments, 15% were still working. In comparison, of those with $1 million to $5 million, 33% — twice as many — were still working. A client recently switched gears on me when he said he would not be retiring next year. I asked him what changed his mind, to which he responded, “I have too much to offer, and there are too many interesting things happening.”
My father enjoys working, and he enjoys the work itself. Retirement, while great for some, is no magical place that must be reached in order to achieve success. The accomplishment is in making smart financial decisions now so you have the freedom to choose how you spend your days in the future, whether at work or enjoying leisure time.