Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


566 When do I retire: #1(revisited)

This is Retirement Talk? I'm Del Lowery.

I started doing these podcast over 11 years ago. Since then I have put together 565 of them: almost one each week. A few have been reruns with a bit of an update. Most have been original thought about new topics concerning retirement. I am now 75 years old and some thought have changed and I'm sure some have stayed the same. I want to revisit these topics and see if they still hold and if I can correct or elaborate on each. I don't think any of them are dated but if they are I will correct for that. I'll start with the very first that appeared in the summer of 2007.

The very first one dealt with the question of, “When should I retire?”

Glen, my co-worker was a big guy. Strong as the proverbial bull and built like the proverbial brick wall. He came home late for supper one night. Work was 7 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 39 years old.

I was teaching philosophy at the time and was wrapped up in finding and giving meaning to life. When life was snatched away from my co-worker at such a young age it gave me a real jolt – up close and personal.

Glen taught physical education and was a living example to his students of living a healthy, strong life. And yet… without warning, no rhyme, or apparent 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 is too late. It doesn't happen. Now maybe that is as they wish but many times they just get in a groove of work and stay with it to the end. If that is a conscious choice so be it. But if it is because they just didn't consider other options in life then that is different

Glen is not the only example 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 I want to make 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. Of course this is a tragic mistake.

For most of human history work has been the means by which we provide food, clothing and shelter; to us and our families. We have to worked, but, and this is a big but, but sometimes we work for other reasons.

Years ago I taught philosophy. Some might say might say I taught it 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?

“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 own lives.

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. The schools needed to cut 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 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 who 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 as a child, 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, the option of escaping all of the supervision and direction I had lived with my entire life disappeared. A chance to experience something I had never yet in life experienced: retirement, or as I looked at it – freedom. Of course the usual restrictions of time and place in the universe applied but some little new window appeared.

I know a lot of people who retire and then start work at something else almost immediately. W did not have that in mind. We wanted to experience something other than work.

What did we do with our new 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”.

I think the podcast still stands. Obviously I did not die at 39 like Glen, nor at 52 like my father. I am now 75. I could have worked at a job much longer. Instead I have had an extended period of retirement. And I wouldn't have changed it for anything. Certainly not more money.

In the meantime, sit down with pencil and paper – or computer now-a-days- 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 can not be provided while 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.

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