By Younas Chaudhary
It was the early seventies; I was in my twenties, and I had moved to Canada and just started working. I met Stan, my coworker and mentor at a government job in Edmonton. Stan was nearing retirement age and at lunch breaks, he would regularly take out a tiny notebook, scribble on it, then twist and turn it with a smile while staring at the wall in front of him. He would look at it closely with a twinkle in his eyes and, if I looked at him, he would hide the pages or simply close the notebook!
One afternoon, out of curiosity I asked, “Stan why are you looking at that notebook so often?” Stan hesitated for a bit and said he had two more years left to retire. He used the book to calculate all that he had in savings to plan his post-retirement life.
Stan told me about his plans after retirement. “I have around $70,000 in my account. I will buy a nice car, travel around, collect coins, and enjoy life,” he said. Stan asked me what my plans were, and I told Stan that if I could make $100,000, I would retire the next day!
It is quite ironic; I reached the $100,000 mark quite early in my life but that made me increase my goal to half a million. And when it hit that mark, I shot for one million and beyond. The word retirement has never come to my mind as I am quite passionate about my work, and I strive to excel.
Currently, even I have slowed down considerably at work over the past five years or so. But I have never thought about retirement. A decade ago, I was quite active and aggressive, eager to work to make money and expand my businesses. Today, it is different. I work to stay active, sharp, and to keep my mind occupied.
In business, I have seen coworkers retire, with some regretting their decision. I had a co-worker who wanted to retire to enjoy life, live on a lake, buy a big RV, and travel around North America. So, he retired. He accomplished his goal of buying a lake house, purchased a RV, and started traveling. However, his adventure stopped after a few trips. His health started declining, and he reached a stage where he could no longer drive and finally had to spend his days at home doing nothing. I feel that he could have been doing both at the same time, gainfully employed and living a better life.
On the other hand, I am witnessing co-workers who love their jobs so much that even at an advanced age, they do not want to retire. Instead, they slow down but continue to work fewer hours because it keeps them occupied. It keeps their mind sharp, and they continue to make money and their life fulfilling.
Retirement is an intensely personal decision. You are forever shutting down an opportunity to lead a productive happy life and make money. The current pandemic has seen millions retire because of fear or the notion that they have had enough and want to stop working. Yet, our capitalistic society encourages us to work until we die, and, in fact, our own individual identities are based on what kind of work we do!
I disagree with the notion of working forever just to make money or to live in a state of constant insecurity. Instead, one should find purpose in doing what one loves, have a passion for it, and continue doing it happily as long as one can.
I can retire any day without any issues, but I will not do that to myself. Instead, I prefer slowing down because retirement is not in my vocabulary. Once you slow down, you see the world in a different light. These days I work for a few hours to stay sharp, productive, and I enjoy doing that. But my priorities have shifted. I am more in tune with my natural surroundings as I walk daily, do yoga, and live a disciplined, happy healthy lifestyle.
If you run a small business and have reached the stage where you feel it is time to slow down, try to train a coworker to take more responsibilities, or try to bring in a partner. Keep what you enjoy doing every day and let the other person run the day-to-day business. There are so many ways you can configure your plans to semi-retire these days.
A sudden stop of lifelong work after leading a remarkably busy life for decades can cause a host of problems, both physical and mental. Your productive mind slowly falters, and a feeling of emptiness can creep in if you put a sudden halt to your work life. Therefore, I always continue to encourage people around me, and I even entice my older coworkers to stay active and working to keep both their mind and body busy to live a happy and healthy life.
The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this article are my own and do not represent the opinions of any entity with which I have been, am now, or will be affiliated. Further, I make no warranty regarding the accuracy or effectiveness of my recommendations, and readers are advised to consult other advisors as well as their own judgments in making business decisions.