TO RETIRE OR NOT TO RETIRE—THAT IS THE QUESTION
PART TWO: THE RETIREMENT NEGATIVES—REASONS TO STAY AT WORK
Let’s be totally honest: who am I if I don’t have that business card and that work identity? I can’t remember a time when I was ever “just plain me”—without some title or responsibility attached to my name. Candidly, it was always a point of honor for me to differentiate myself with my work persona. And those trappings make me feel proud, accomplished and capable. The thought of being that sort of random person walking the streets at 10 am NOT wearing a business suit is pretty terrifying. That business suit says something…and something very positive about a person. Without it, who in heavens name am I? Uh-oh…I’ve never been a “no one” and I am not sure that I should start now. Work is sort of like a hard-shelled cocoon which gives you this wonderful protection of invincibility and identity and ego satisfaction. Can I survive without that shield?????
Related to that is the fact that when you work, you always have the chance to rack up another A. Let’s face it…I have lived a life looking for the next A, the next good housekeeping seal of approval, the next affirmation that I’m good at what I do. What will I do without that? Is my own self esteem at this stage of my life big enough to withstand no more pats on the back for doing a good job? I mean…I’m a heat seeking missile for approval…and what happens without it? Honestly, I just don’t know and I cross my fingers that I won’t feel worthless and undeserving. The fear of that could make one re-consider this decision, that’s for sure.
For all its negatives, one of work’s biggest positives is that you’re being challenged all the time—in new ways. If you’ve spent your whole life seeking to conquer new territory in some shape or form, what happens when life is flat…without a mountain to climb? I don’t know. And conversely, if I wanted to, could I identify a new mountain? Or not? I mean, Thomas Friedman may think that “the world is flat” is a positive. For my life…I’m not so sure.
And then there’s the mundane question of my day to day existence. For close to 50 years, I’ve gotten up every day and gone to work. I never have to think about what I’m going to do every day. The fact of walking out the door and into an office is predictable—there are people to talk with and things to do. And so I look forward and I wonder…and worry, seriously worry…What will I do every day? How do you schedule or not schedule your time? The office, for all its stresses and strains, is a known and comfortable place to go. What is life possibly like without it? From the perspective of the pre-retired, it could it be a vast and empty wasteland???? I hope not…..
And clearly, many of my office colleagues fit into the category of “work positives”. Despite what I said in my last post about the “others” who I don’t want to see again…there are a ton of people I work with who really are my FRIENDS. I like them, respect them, have fun with them, and will miss them if they aren’t part of my life. I say to myself: Think of the laughs, conversations and friendships that happen at the office. These people are my “office family”. And in leaving, I’ll be walking away from that camaraderie and real FUN. I really care about the people I work with and I will really really miss the day to day office life with them.
And finally, let’s be crass and realistic and down to earth here, how do you live without a paycheck? Spend my savings…now there’s a scary concept. Granted, I’ve been extremely lucky in my career on the financial side of things and I can lead an amazing life with the savings I’ve been able to put aside. But, I’ve spent years watching the pile build up….and now I’ll have to witness the shrinking…sort of like watching the glaciers melt. And unlike the climate change doubters, I don’t believe those glaciers will come back…and neither will my savings.
You know this is NOT a spoiler alert…so you can keep on reading. The Retirement Negatives were not enough to make me change my mind. I ended up on the Retirement Side of this analysis. As I look at all these metrics, I can see why others would choose not to retire. This exercise of focusing in on the reasons to retire vs the reasons to stay working has been fascinating exercise, honestly. And at this stage, I sure hope I made the right choice. As I go through the next year, I guess the answer will emerge, huh?