Work can be a curse or a blessing. The Genesis story recounts work being a curse as a source of the fall (Genesis 3:19), but Paul writes of work being a method of worship (Colossians 3:23). Those that are far from retirement seem quick to note that retirement (with the exception of priests) is not mentioned in the Bible. However lifespans have greatly increased since the time the Bible was written.
In the modern era, age 65 has become the de facto “proper” time of retirement. Yet this age was, in a manner of speaking, an arbitrary number determined by the Roosevelt administration when the Social Security system was instituted in the 1930s. Social Security owes, at least partially, its creation to the over 50% poverty rate among seniors as a result of the 1929 stock market crash. As medical advances allow people to live longer, this age is in question (for example, the “full” retirement age for Social Security is now 67). As noted on the Social Security website,
… the average life expectancy at age 65 (i.e., the number of years a person could be expected to receive unreduced Social Security retirement benefits) has increased a modest 5 years (on average) since 1940. So, for example, men attaining 65 in 1990 can expect to live for 15.3 years compared to 12.7 years for men attaining 65 back in 1940.
I have noticed younger clients, maybe as an excuse to not save, say they are not going to retire. Some are blessed to be in jobs that fulfills their passion. In my blog entitled “Are We Living Longer?”, I mentioned the Halftime ministry that helps people to move to more fulfilling professions.
The lesson is this: When we discuss work-life balance, we are tacitly stating that work is not part of our “lives.” That work is a chore to be tolerated because we must do it, because we weren’t born rich and we haven’t won the lottery yet. That work is the price we pay to have a life on the weekends and vacation two or three weeks a year.
How does that sound to you? Does that sound like a trade-off you’re willing to make, or one you have to make because you have no alternative, because that’s just the way it is?
Coiné makes the case that if you are going to work such a large percentage of your life, you should do something you enjoy or are passionate about.
Yet, working in the job of your dreams for the rest of your life is sometimes not practical. Our bodies just get tired in our 60s. Sometimes we lose our job and, like it or not, age discrimination is very real. And sometimes for health reasons, we just cannot work anymore.
The problem with a “career” is not just financial. Anne Case and Angus Deaton (Nobel Prize winner in economics) found a rise in morbidity (i.e. deaths) of non-Hispanics in their 40s in the last decade (2015). They referenced an increase in prescription pain medicine addiction (which was also outlined in a CNBC article that can be found here). The connection, which is very tentative at this time, links these problems with financial stress.
Financial planners often times discuss “human capital”—the ability to earn money. An inexact term, but something that deserves attention. Are you in the right job? Could you improve your skills? How would an increase in savings decrease the importance of the aforementioned questions. We can help answer some of these questions.