Hard work and fishing

We really struck a nerve last time when we wrote about how people experience retirement today. While we were mainly concerned (naturally) about how to plan for the new world of retirement, it’s been eye-opening to hear such a diverse range of responses about how readers actually live and think about life after 60-something. To them, it’s as varied, complicated, and unpredictable as any other part of life.

For some people, it’s all about freedom to do what you want. “Working on my own time, for what I choose” is entirely different from “slaving at different jobs for many years.” Many clearly relished the things you get to do, such as travel, family, volunteer and paid work, all the way up to “accomplishing your vision.”

But just as many still appreciated the more traditional freedom from things you no longer have to do. The most common seems to be simply waking up on some arbitrary schedule: setting the alarm, punching the clock, or “getting up at 5:00… and planning my life around the school calendar.”

Unfortunately, some people are fearful about retirement. “Worrying about money,” tops the list of concerns. Since those who responded are already thinking and talking about retirement, we expect that a much larger share out there has the same fears, and a grim parade of statistics agrees. Others are worried about non-financial concerns such as boredom and a “loss of purpose.”

Some readers were more philosophical. One offered the wisdom that “opportunities open and close depending on my thirst, desire and design,” noting sagely that the design part begins a good 10 years before retirement age.

We could not agree more. To follow a traditional “glide path” toward retirement, financial advisors typically begin tweaking the balance of security and performance 20 or 25 years in advance, or even from day one. Half of that seems like a good timeframe to start adjusting all the non-financial aspects of one’s life.

If you think you don’t have much in common with your kids (or grandkids), think again. Erasing the lines between work and life, channeling our energies toward things that satisfy us more deeply than a paycheck – these are ideas that millennials seem to get instinctively. They just want to live this way throughout a career, not after one. We wonder, when these people begin to reach retirement age around 2045 (or maybe closer to 2055), will they even notice?

Perhaps the best comment comes from Billy Lawson of California, who describes life at 74 as all about “hard work and fishing.” He still does plenty of physical construction work, but balances that by catching plenty of fish, too. It’s not about the money, and really, it’s not even about the fish. It’s as simple as this: “when you sit down and do nothing, you won’t be around long.”

Image courtesy Joseph@Flickr via Creative Commons; respect to Mark (shown) for 50 years of practice on the water