It is surprising that some issues strike a responsive chord and others do not. Of the columns I wrote this past year, the topic of retirement evoked the most response. I have tried to determine why. Is it because the Mississippi Business Journal has more readers in the age range that are contemplating retirement, because the concept of retirement is changing, or is it some other reason?
To embark on a successful and rewarding retirement phase of life, there are several things that we must have accomplished. We must have established meaningful relationships that continue into our retirement years. We must feel some sense of satisfaction and accomplishment in our work life and we must have interest that we can pursue. It is also true that man has a psychological need to work. However, work can be totally void of earning money and still meet this psychological need.
I have a theory that some of us fear retirement because we associate retirement with being near the end of the life cycle. It is true that in our recent history, the average life expectancy only exceeded the Social Security retirement age by a few years. Today, the average life expectancy is 77 or so years with many persons living healthy vibrant lives into their 90s. How many times have you heard stories of persons who retired and lived a very short time after retirement? Often the conclusion is, don’t retire or you will die.
Our culture does not deal with the cycle of life in a healthy manner. Death is as much a part of the life cycle as is birth.
To paraphrase Bill Moyers, it is an unchanging ratio — one death for one birth. Cosmetic surgery or hair dye doesn’t increase the life cycle. In the beauty and mystery of God’s universe, we each have a biological clock that determines our life span. This biological clock is controlled by our genes.
Our life span is predetermined. We can short-circuit the length of our existence by poor health habits and risky behavior. Through healthy living, we can live our lives until the clock runs out. To a degree, we can reverse the negative effects of our past excesses and unhealthy lifestyles. The extra time provided by retirement affords us this luxury of taking care of oneself.
An acceptance of this life cycle is paramount to enjoying all stages of life including the last stage of being old and retired. Embracing the entire life cycle enables us to fully enjoy each stage and each day of our lives. To deny our mortality robs us of living an abundant life.