Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?

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     Glen, my co-worker, was a big guy. Strong as a bull and built like a brick wall. He came home late for supper one night. Work was seven miles straight down a mountain from his house. It was winter and cold. This was in Alaska. His wife asked him, “Glen, where’s your truck?” He shook his head and said that he didn’t know. He had walked home. He had left his truck in the parking lot at work; walked home on ice, and snow, in the dark. Stocking cap pulled low; collar up. It’s a long walk. Three months later he was dead. He was thirty-nine years old.

     This is Del Lowery with, “Retirement – the Rest of My Life”. The question we want to look at in program is, “When do I retire?”

     Glen taught physical education and was a living example to his students of living a healthy, strong life. And yet… without warning; no prevention; no rhyme, or reason: brain tumor. Glen never got a chance to retire. Of course, things like this happen all the time. Lots of people put off retirement. Lots of people put off retirement until it's too late.

     Glen is not the only example I could give that illustrates the unpredictable nature of life and death. Most of you could probably share a similar story. It’s not that unusual. The point is that many of us live as if we don't know we are going to die. We get a job, go to work, and work until we drop in the traces. We work like we don't really believe we are going to die. We work like we think we are going to live forever. This can be a tragic mistake.

      Work is the means by which we provide food, clothing and shelter to us and our families. We have to work but, and this is a big but, but sometimes we work for other reasons.

     Years ago I taught philosophy for a long time. Some might say too long; much too long. Be that as it may, I found then, and I find now, that I am always asking myself the same questions. “What am I doing with my life? What could I do with my life?” I think most people are this way. However, sometimes I wonder.

      “The unexamined life is not worth living,” is a quote attributed to Socrates. Some consider this the beginning of Western philosophical inquiry. This statement of Socrates is always discussed in the open sessions of introductory philosophy classes. When it comes to work - and retirement - and death, I sometimes wonder just how closely people are examining their lives. Judging by their actions, it appears that many people rarely consider what they are doing with their life.

     Nineteen years ago, my employer, the state of Alaska, offered me an early retirement option. This was in the mid 80’s and the oil boom was over. People were leaving the state of Alaska. They needed to cut back on staff. At the ripe old age of 44, I was one of the “older” teachers and they wanted to get rid of people like me.

     Now, I was one of those people who claimed to have “loved” their job. I really did love it, or so I thought. During my early years of teaching, I just hated it when the school term ended. The kids would leave and I would be left standing in an empty hallway wishing I could just teach continuously. But, by the time I turned 44, Glen had died. I knew of others that had met similar ends. Teaching philosophy had made me very aware of “examining one’s life”. I knew that my days were numbered – and I knew there was another big world out there of which I knew very little.

     Up to this point in my life, my life experience had probably been very similar to many of you. I played, attended school and worked under the direction of one boss or another. I had never been “free” to direct and supervise my daily life as I saw fit. At the ripe old age of 44, I found myself with the option of escaping all of the supervision and direction I had lived with my entire life. A chance to experience something I had never yet in life experienced: retirement, or, as I look at it - freedom.

     I know a lot of people who retire and then started working at something else almost immediately. That was not what we had in mind. We wanted to experience something other than work.

     What did we do with our freedom? What could you do with your freedom? What have others done with theirs? We will discuss that in our next show entitled, “What now”.

      In the meantime, sit down with a pencil and paper – or a computer nowadays, and make yourself a list. What more material wealth do you need or want? Draw a bottom line. What more do you want out of life that cannot be provided under the direction or supervision of others? Examine your own life and ask yourself if work is still for you, or if retirement is possible and something you would really like to try. Perhaps, just perhaps, now is the perfect time.

This is Retirement Talk.

For an audio podcast of this go to: http://retirementtalk.org/rt001.mp3

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