Retirement

There is one market which I think has the potential to grow significantly over the next few years: retirement. At present, many people believe that you should work until you reach the age of 65 or 70, and then spend the rest of your days “relaxing” because you have earned it based on the amount of work you have done in the past. However, I have trouble comprehending the concept of retirement.

It doesn’t make sense that we believe that we should work during a certain period of our life, and then just stop working and accomplish nothing else. I am not sure where the original notion of retirement came from — and how it became so embedded into our culture — but I am not sure why anyone would think that after a certain year, they should not work again. Indeed, they may have accomplished great things in their life and do indeed deserve a break, but that does not mean that they should retire in the traditional sense and stop working. Saving X dollars and then living a life without work sounds very boring. Indeed, I am still a young person and have not experienced retirement, but I am not sure that I would ever want to stop working because I reached a certain age.

Many people with whom I have spoken in the past — namely family members — are counting down the years to retirement. Upon further analysis, this signals that they are not happy with what they are doing right now: if they were, they wouldn’t be so excited to stop working. I am not sure why people justify their not working in a good job by saying that they will be able to retire and do whatever they want in a few decades. The thing is that our culture believes that retirement is your reward for hard work, and that it represents the best time in your life. You have worked hard for a few decades, and now you deserve the ability to relax. Some people don’t get this privilege — they need to work after they would like to retire — but for those that do, I don’t think retirement should be about relaxing on a beach and letting your remaining days pass by.

As we get older, our capacity to do more ambitious things is reduced. In retirement planning, for example, investment advisors say that the closer you are to retirement, the more conservative your portfolio should be — you don’t want to go all-in in tech stocks and risk losing your money. However, if you are younger, you can afford to take that risk because you have longer to earn back your money. (although you should have a diversified portfolio anyway). I am not going to debate modern portfolio theory here, but suffice to say that we take less risks when we get older. This makes sense, because if we take a big risk when we are close to retirement that fails, we may end up losing a significant amount of our retirement savings. Even though most people are not in the position to do something incredibly ambitious at an older age, that does not mean that it can’t happen.

I think that we should change our definition of “retirement”. Right now, we view retirement as the period where we no longer have to work because we have already given society most of what we can, and we want to relax in our final years. However, I think that retirement should be the point where you are in a good financial position, and are doing work that you enjoy doing. What does that mean though? Work that you enjoy doing is the work that you find value in doing, and would do for free if nobody were to pay you. This implies that we should not stop working after we hit “retirement age”, but rather we should find something that we enjoy doing, and keep working on it. Doing nothing is boring; doing something is interesting; having an impact on the world feels amazing.

What should I do after retirement? Rather than spending all of your time relaxing, retirement should be a period of consistent personal growth. After all, you have the rest of your life ahead of you, and so spending a little time on self-improvement is worth it. In sum, retirement is a great opportunity to build new habits, and cultivate new routines to help you become a better person. I think that after retirement we should also continue to acquire new knowledge. Retirement should be a period of reading, learning about new topics, going to watch lectures at a local college, or doing something that allows you to improve your skills. Constantly learning new things keeps us engaged in our society, and for those who want to retire, it should be no different.

Retirement is also a great opportunity to be creative and pursue projects that you would perhaps not have considered previously. Perhaps you decide to start painting, or write a book. Even if you are not good at these things to start with, you will have enough time in retirement to refine your skills, and create something great. If you want to create a great painting, you will first end up painting 50 good and 50 bad paintings. In retirement, you have the freedom to be more creative, and use your mind to continue to contribute to society. Indeed, you may not be employed in a traditional job, but that does not mean you cannot have an impact on the lives of others. You could write a memoir about your life and publish it. Even if only a few dozen people buy it, you have still accomplished a major goal — documenting your life, and writing a book — and so your time has been well-spent.

Anyway, back to the retirement market. I feel that in the future, the retirement market will grow significantly as people explore new opportunities to better use their time in retirement. Recently, I watched a news video wherein a local college was offering Baby Boomers the chance to attend a course for only a few dollars. The college was interested in helping these people acquire more knowledge, and allow other students to benefit from the differing perspectives of those who have already retired. This provided the retired people a great opportunity to expand their knowledge and continue to work toward meaningful goals. Perhaps more colleges will do this, or private market bootcamps will start to offer courses to retired people as well for a reduced amount. We are already starting to see “returnships” which aim to help older people break into new industries. Education is only one part of the market though.

If society moves from the view that retirement is about relaxing to thinking that retirement is a great opportunity to be creative, a number of other opportunities emerge. Perhaps a job board for part-time retired people, or a platform where retired people can help out in teaching local classes at a community college in their field of expertise, could emerge. Perhaps there will be more online communities that start to give retired people the ability to share their experiences and stay accountable to their goals (this will be more effective as technological literacy increases due to the fact that generations who started to grew up with technology around them get older). These are only a few of many opportunities that I can think of in the market.

Retired people — like everyone else — want to have a sense of purpose. They have access to a large amount of spare time that they can use to pursue a large number of creative projects that would allow them to have an impact on society, even if it is just a small impact. In the future, I think that those who have retired will start to see their newfound time as an opportunity for personal growth — to refine their knowledge and develop new skills — rather than an opportunity to relax. I don’t think I will ever “retire” in the traditional sense of the word; I will continue to use my time to do something meaningful. Retirement doesn’t have to mean that you stop working. Benjamin Franklin, for example, was elected to the Continental Congress at the age of 69, and edited and signed the Declaration of Independence. Ben Franklin was retired from publishing at this point, but he still strived to make a difference.

Retirement doesn’t mean that you should stop; if anything, do more. Learn. Build. Create. Use your time meaningfully.

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