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I'm sitting in a cheap motel in Detroit, waiting to go visit some family and watching the insipid morning "news" shows. One of them is all in a tizzy over the fact that many couples now have to defer their retirement because the bummer economy is harshing their financial buzz.

What struck me is how differently most people look at retirement from how I look at it. The traditional way to look at it is that they work like a dog all their lives to earn the freedom to sit on their asses - perhaps in a golf cart - and wait to die.

My view is to work like a dog at work that is not of my own choosing in order to earn the freedom to work at something that is of my own choosing. The magic "65" is completely irrelevant to that.

Take my dad, for instance. He's retired now. He no longer has to hang off the end of a boxcar swinging a lantern in between jumping off and on the moving train to throw a track switch. Instead, he now gets to work in the wood shop in the garage building an amazing home interior. It has hand-laid wood floors and wall trim, custom cabinetry and some furniture, and hand-painted artwork on the walls.

It's not what most people call work, but he's nonetheless amazingly productive, especially given the recent heart attack that could have provided all the excuse he would ever need to just sit on the golf cart every day waiting for the next heart attack. He doesn't have a schedule, doesn't have to think of an excuse when he wants a day off, and still gets to golf whenever he decides the fresh air, exercise, and a day with his friends is more productive than more woodworking.

That's what I think of as retirement. I can sit on my ass with the best of them, but sooner or later, ideas and ambitions start popping into my head. The problem I have now is that I have no time to execute on them. Retirement means that I'd have the time to work my ass off on my own ideas, instead of somebody else's.

I love the work I do, and I would probably still do some of it if I was retired. What I don't love is alarm clocks, commuting, and living on clock time. Those people deferring their retirement don't realize that it's probably the best thing for them. Their vision of retirement seems like hell to me. I don't really ever want to stop working like a dog, I just want to be off the leash.


I couldn't agree more! Thanks for this story. I was thinking of applying for another job but coming across this post makes me stop and think!

Posted by Lee at Tuesday, April 06, 2010 03:25 PM

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