Select Page

Photo by Ethan Robertson on Unsplash.

“Why are you working when you don’t have to? You could retire!”

I heard that question during a webinar on motivation.

Andrew revealed that he had the financial means to retire. However, he liked working and wanted to continue. He’d encountered some obstacles. Parts of his work were tedious and annoying. He wanted some creative ways to stay motivated, organize his projects, and get things done.

The host blew past his immediate challenges.

“Why not just retire?” she said. “Why work when you don’t have to?”

This question seems so reasonable on the surface but in fact, it’s packed with stereotypes and assumptions.

1 – No matter what you do, you’ll find annoyances and frustrations.

Even if you move to a tropical paradise, you won’t have perfect days, every day. You’ll have headaches, irritating people, mosquitoes, trouble finding your favorite brands in the local stores, and even more serious stuff, such as illness and loss.

Anything worth doing comes with obstacles.

When you’re just coasting along, you’re not being challenged. I generally enjoy working out…but some days I admit it’s a struggle to get to the gym.

2 – Work gives you challenges and rewards you won’t find anywhere else.

Setting up an offer and getting no response. Figuring out what went wrong. And trying again.

Doing a great job for a client and getting asked to do a follow-up project.

Hearing from a reader, “Your book changed my life.”

Some people might get those satisfactions from volunteer work or hobbies. But for some of us, nothing says appreciation like getting paid at market rates.

3 – Not everyone needs relief from a hateful job.

The truth is, in today’s world, a lot of people enjoy their work. They’ve gone to career counselors and life coaches. Or they naturally gravitate to doing something they enjoy.

They don’t associate retirement with escape. They want to keep going till they find something that’s even more meaningful.

Ironically, the more fulfilled you are, the more likely you’ll have trouble finding a meaningful way to retire. You get “been there, done that” syndrome.

In my book on stereotypes of aging, I wrote about Travis McGee, a fictional detective created by the late John D. McDonald. McGee carved out an unusual career for himself. He was a special sort of detective, specialized in recovering lost treasures. He got into dangerous situations and risked his life regularly.

McGee took lots of time off between jobs. He knew he might die young, so he took his retirement in chunks. I followed his example, although I wasn’t doing anything dangerous. I couldn’t see the sense of being miserable for years before bursting into the “golden years” of retirement. I traveled. I took a year off. I read a lot and took art classes.   I did a little volunteer work here and there.

So when someone says, “Why don’t you reward yourself for the sacrifices you made I have to say, “I didn’t sacrifice that much.” I’ve always mixed work and leisure.

And I’d hoped to keep on doing it…if I didn’t have to fight all those stereotypes.