Should Retirement Be Retired?
Does the idea of retirement make sense anymore? How should an artist think about it.
I was chatting with my parents recently – one of those wide ranging conversations about life, love and family – when the topic of retirement came up. I explained, in a slightly provocative way, that I have no plans for retirement.
I still believe in saving for the future. But, I’m not sure if my generation (and the generations that follow me) will even be able to retire. In many countries (I count Australia and the US amongst these) the Baby Boomers could be the last generation that can afford to retire in a conventional sense (given the rising gap between cost of living and retirement benefits).
The Industrial Legacy
Retirement, as we know it, is a legacy of the industrial revolution. Or, perhaps more accurately, of the labour movement that arose in response to the injustices of the industrial revolution. So, the codification of retirement at a fixed age, say 65, is very much a mass-market solution to an industrial problem. Namely the limits of human strength and endurance.
But, for those of us who work in knowledge and creative industries, does retirement actually make sense? OK, we slow down as we age. But, for a writer, or even a visual artist, 65 is not old. It is far from being too old to work.
I Might Be Ahead Of Myself, But…
I admire what my parents have done with their retirement years. They were not sitting on a giant nest egg of savings when they entered their 60s. Emigrating in mid-life eroded their savings. But, they have built a wonderful, active life for themselves – post-work. I see them as examples of how to approach old-age with dignity and honesty.
In many ways, I’d like to do what they have done (and be as healthy as they are), but continue to work. I can’t imagine stopping work at 65; it’s not enough time to give everything I have to offer. My life has had too many fits and starts. It has taken too long for me to find my voice, artistically, to starting dreaming about shutting down.