On Retirement

Published on Jan 15, 2019

When we are young, typical advice on career / financial planning goes like this: 

  • Don't spend more than you earn. 
  • Save money and invest prudently
  • Most importantly, plan for your retirement

There is always a romantic notion of retiring early, unshackling oneself from the daily doldrums of work. Many even invest in farms/ranch in rural areas to settle down after retirement. 

I have a different opinion. 

My dad, after a minor health problem, retired early from his service. We, myself and my family, convinced he will be able to spend more time with family and do things that he really liked. But guess what, it was a terrible move. For close to three years, it was tough for my dad. He couldn't come to terms with not having to have a daily routine of going to an office. But I realised it is more than that.

My dad worked for a huge insurance company. He started his job at the age of 23 and retired when he was 58. He worked in different departments and different cities but in the same company. Like many in the previous generation, work gave his identity. He loved interacting with people, and he was very gregarious. All of this was shaken deeply because of retirement. It took a long while to find a community of friends outside his office network and also an identity. It was like a process of self-discovery, which was painful at the same time insightful to him and the family.

Taking a lesson out of this experience, I realised that my work and the company I worked for could not be my identity. It was then I started to look out for finding meaning in my work, what makes me happy and all other mission/values hunt associated with it.

Life is tough at many levels. But expecting a state of nirvana after one stage of life is absurd and might be disappointing. Best thing to do is to find happiness in whatever way we can in day to day of life. Travel, gratitude journaling, meditations, getting married, having a kid, being part of a tribe and helping others are a few things that can change our outlook to life. 

Finding happiness in things that are meaningful to us may be the best antidote to the seduction of retirement.