I recently read an article in The Walrus that postulated that nobody should retire -largely because they either can’t afford to or the future is too uncertain.
I found this a bit strange, to be honest. Maria and I retired early and at the time I felt we were OK to do so financially. We were fortunate enough to have pensions; we had been careful and had additional savings set aside. After some years away from the workplace, I still believe we can be OK – even if our health care costs increase a lot. And I have no interest in getting back on the bike, thank you. There are many reasons for this:
I don’t miss the job. When I retired, I had pretty well lost interest in my career. I enjoyed some of the technical aspects, but I was tired and burned out – depressed even – with the politics, performance management, and endless meetings that were part of my life back then. I left after my final day and never went back. Never wanted to.
I took a couple of years to taper off. When we moved to Almonte I volunteered as a tech officer/production worker with a small local coffee roasting business. I probably made a difference, but after a couple of years I wanted more time to travel, work on computers, learn about Linux. So at that point I just shut things down.
I never really identified as a person with my career. Sure, I was a chemist and food scientist – I still remember a lot of my training and practical experience. But that was never who I am – I didn’t disappear as a person when I didn’t go into the lab any longer.
My former job has disappeared. Unilever had two factories in the Toronto area where I worked. They closed one and sold the other one along with the spreads business. As well, Unilever phased out local product development in Canada. So even had I wanted to continue working, there wouldn’t be any job for me to do. Any termination settlement for me would have been in the form of a retirement agreement.
I have no desire to be a WalMart greeter, Tim Horton’s barista, or McDonald’s burger flipper. I did plenty of McJobs in my early years; right now all they would do for me is keep me on my feet for hours, and raise my marginal income tax level.
I am not minimizing the problems of many who want to retire and are faced with low income or economic uncertainty. Nor am I ungrateful for our good fortune in having decent jobs and benefits in our working years. However, I think the author of The Walrus article is a bit ingenuous to expect all seniors to work an additional 20 years after the traditional retirement date – because it’s good for them. In many cases it isn’t.