When Should One Retire? Challenging an American Ideal
When should one retire? We must work hard all our lives so we can retire and relax at a certain age, spend time with the grandkids, and watch more TV. Right? It’s an ideal that seems to be embedded into the American dream. But, I think there may be a better way to plan for retirement.
I think if we are doing what we love and we are making a difference, we should not only continue down that path, but increase our pace as we get older.
Many of you have met my stepdad, Jack. Jack turns 87 in May of this year. He came to me a few weeks ago to tell me he wants to start writing his second book. A few days ago, I sat down with him to work on a book title, subtitle, and chapter outline. I can’t wait to read his book! The working title is The Heart of a Mission-Minded Believer.
When work is only about making a living, it drains us. And once our living is made, we retire. When our work is about serving others and enriching lives, it is fulfilling. And when we are making that kind of impact, we shouldn’t stop because of our age. I want to be like Jack. I don’t want to work until I reach an age when it is assumed I’ll be less productive. On the contrary, I want to be more productive and more effective as I get older.
Until when? Until I die.
I Want to Live Until I Die
I love that statement. Many times we cease to live long before we actually die. We cower down. We begin to feel worthless and meaningless. We give up. We stop. At a certain age, we think we cannot be productive anymore. Even if you can’t do anything else, you can pray. If you have lived a life pursuing wisdom and knowledge, seeking God’s and man’s favor, if you have learned to work well with others, then why stop?
I don’t mean to imply that we shouldn’t slow down physically. If in your twenties you worked 10-hour days using a jackhammer, your shoulder now hurts and you cannot continue in that line of work. My point is you may work less hours, but your impact should be greater.
Some of the Best Leaders Ignore Retirement
During a visit to Chick-fil-A’s headquarters I was blessed to see the desk of its founder, S. Truett Cathy. He died in 2014 at the age of 93, working until the end. He opened his first Chick-fil-A branch at age 49 and built an organization with a soul and conscience. Chick-fil-A has grown as a leader both in the business world and the social dimension of our society.
At age 49, Cathy could have said to himself, “Now that I am 49, I should plan for retirement. I shouldn’t take such big risks anymore.” Instead, he saw his age and experience as an opportunity to be more effective. Likewise, America’s greatest presidents were in their fifties, sixties, and seventies. The Popes, the leaders of the Catholic Church, are usually in their sixties, seventies, and eighties. Leadership is not something we outgrow.
So join me, my friend, to commit to a life of living and giving until the very last day we can. Be fulfilled in what you do. Gain skill and wisdom as you go. Be mindful of your body, decreasing the intensity, but increasing the impact.
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