It seems to me there’s a bias for work, as though work is inherently better than leisure, and unless we figure out some sort of livelihood after we retire, we’re headed toward doom and demise. The headlines are all about having no time to retire or reinventing oneself for your next act. I’ve used some of those words in the past. But now I think it’s more complicated than that and have been thinking about different type of people and their relationship to work as they age.
True Believers – They love their jobs and can’t wait to tell you about it.
Worker Bees – People who simply want to work, even at what many of us would call crappy jobs, but they are still jobs that matter, and these dedicated souls are proud to do them without much fanfare.
The Walking Wounded – Maybe they like their jobs OK, but maybe they don’t. Either way, they aren’t particularly happy or unhappy, but they can’t quite let go. What else is there? They will be there to turn off the lights.
Endurance Athletes – Those who keep working partially because their careers are gratifying but partly because they don’t have the financial resources to survive without a job. They do what they have to do.
Happy Retirees – We left the workforce hopefully on our terms and hopefully with enough money to make it to the end. Some of us will find other work because we want to or because we need supplemental income, but some of us are done with paying gigs.
While these archetypes are just simple generalizations, and I don’t claim to have captured everyone’s relationship to work, there’s a broad spectrum of people getting older and thinking about retirement. We all have different resources, different expectations and different personal demands. There’s no magic bullet.
And that is my long way of saying how much it annoys me when people proselytize about working or staying busy or whatever it is they think we need to do with our time.
Busy is not the gold standard of retirement happiness. As an official ambassador for the Happy Retirees, I enjoy a peaceful pace of life that engages my brain and body without a boatload of stress.
I win! No reinvention required.
Donna Pekar is an aging badass (for real) who lives in California and writes Retirement Confidential.