A few weeks ago, our office celebrated the retirement of a coworker, M. It was a bittersweet event. At 73 years old, M retiring was not unexpected. Nor was it unprepared for; M was known for being frugal, cautious, and an avid saver. When M reached 70 1/2, he continued making contributions into his 401k, even though he’d reached the age of required distributions. He’d set the distributions up to be rolled into a trust for his grandson. He had insured that his and his wife’s needs were covered, and was working to ensure his heirs would be taken care of.
Even though the retirement was expected, there was a certain amount of sadness surrounding the event. M is the type of person who sees his job as a big part of who he is; It’s his identity. He’s been proudly working since a young age. The company was prepared for M to retire at 65 (8 years ago), and even hired on someone to train in his position. After a while, it became obvious that M had no intention of retiring, and the other employee was shifted to a new position. The only reason M decided to retire now is because he doesn’t like the changes that have taken place in the industry over the past few years; There’s too much bureaucracy and red tape.
At 73, M is having a hard time with retiring. He sees retirement as taking him one step closer to the inevitable end. His feelings are definitely understandable. At the same time, at 35, I can’t wait to “retire”. Although I’ve always devoted a lot of time and effort to my jobs, I’ve never been able to tie them to who I am as a person. My job is what I do so I can live the life that I want. I look forward to reaching Financial Independence, when I’ll no longer be tied to a traditional job. I hate being a “cog in the corporate wheel”.
That being said, to me, retirement isn’t an end point, where you just relax and wait out the rest of your life. Maybe the boyfriend and I will start a small business? Maybe I’ll have several little side gigs? Maybe we’ll work on being self-sufficient, living more off the land? The possibilities are endless! To me, retirement is a chance to start the next chapter in life; A chapter where you’re no longer tied to a company for support.
I’ll be honest, I worry about M. I’ve known so many older men like M who retire and seem to “give up” on life. They seem perfectly healthy when they leave the workforce, and a few months later, they’re gone. Hopefully M is able to use his new-found free time to spend time with his wife, daughter, and grandson, catch-up on his golf game, maybe find a new hobby or interest. Retirement doesn’t have to be the beginning of the end. I’m hoping that M has many happy years ahead of him!
– Cindy W.