Ah retirement! The rewarding final episode of life, the well-deserved rest after some forty years of hard work, and something many have saved for and look forward to. Retirement age varies across countries, from 62 in France to 67 in Norway, and politicians sometimes argue to raise it because of the pressing cost of an ageing population on the government. Yet that remains a very touchy and controversial topic that is more often than not buried under protests of raspy voices and bony fists, even though it is a very reasonable argument.
I believe retirement is an outdated (pun intended) concept. The concept of a welfare state was introduced by Otto von Bismarck in the 19th century, and along with it came the idea that the state would support those over 70 years of age. However, people did not live much longer than 70 at that time, so this was not a big burden on the government. Yet today, retirement age has dropped down to an average of 65, and life expectancy is close to or beyond 80 years old in developed countries. This creates an increasing welfare burden on the state that will eventually require a change.
I believe it makes sense to have the retirement age coupled with the average life expectancy of your country, with allowance of a 5-year-gap. For example, if the average life expectancy is 78, you work until you are 73 and have state benefits for 5 more years. You might live longer, you might not, depending on the lifestyle you had before. Above idea would not only decrease the burden of the ageing population immensely, it would also help with the health of the population, thus lowering medical costs. I say this because I strongly believe an active lifestyle contributes to health. It also explains the title of this post. I genuinely want to work until I die, because this implies I do work that I love. Why would I want to stop doing something awesome? And if you do not like the work you do, a higher retirement age might be an extra argument to think about whether you want to continue what you’re doing or at least think about changing something to lead a life you’re happier with (see my previous post).
Another argument in favour of not retiring is that, even if you can save some money in these tough economic times, it’s very unlikely your savings will amount to much when you retire in a few decades. Unless you invest in a retirement fund that consistently beats inflation, you will end up with less money than you started with. If you want a meagre 5% gain on your savings, you will need a fund that has an average annual return of around 7% if inflation is 2%. And that’s not even allowing for a higher inflation or for a few bad years of the retirement fund. In the 21st century, I believe it has become increasingly impossible to just have no more income and rely on your savings. And let’s face it. Off the top of my head: Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Clint Eastwood, and so on. I cannot imagine them not working anymore. Sure, they might move into more philanthropic careers, but they continue to contribute to society, because they love what they do. And that’s what it’s all about. Find work that you love. Do not wait for retirement, but make it irrelevant.