I believe I speak from a position of “been there, done that,” when I advise you to stay where you are, as you are, and continue to live a life in which your hard work is rewarded with a bi-weekly check automatically deposited into your joint checking account. No recognition of your toil can be more satisfying than that electronic transfer of funds and no better barometer of your value as a human being can be found than your value as a good employee to your bosses.
The reasons for continuing to work at your job and avoid the temptation of chucking it all and trying to find a comfortable existence in a foreign country are numerous, but here are my top three.
You LOVE your job.
Come on, just admit it: you love your job. It has become your social network, your basis of self-worth, your very identity. What would you ever do with your time were it not for the challenge of the to-do list you embrace every morning? Oh, sure, you could take the huge step of substituting your daily work efforts with those of learning a new language, making new friends and adapting to a new culture, but I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s very hard work and, since you’ve been at your job for decades and can almost do it in your sleep, why take on a new intellectual challenge and push yourself? Just sit back in the comfort of your life and, whatever you do, don’t take those kinds of risks. Pay no attention to Eleanor Roosevelt who unwisely said, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” I find myself faced each day with a new challenge–speaking a language that I am not fluent in, dealing with a culture with which I am unfamiliar and eating foods that are, well, different– and it is uncomfortable. I’m no longer a “vice president” or an “executive.” I just have to be me and that’s scary. I yearn for the days when I could simply show up at my office, take up my position behind my desk, look and feel important and read and respond to emails all day. Now THAT’S living.
You can’t afford it.
Be honest. You can’t afford to retire. No matter how much money you’ve saved, regardless of the size of your 401(k) plan, and despite your stock portfolio that’s growing by the day, you’re silly if you think that you’ll ever have enough money to hang up the ol’ spurs (assuming you’re a cowboy) and ease into a life of leisure. You have been raised to acknowledge that you must work until you have not only enough money to support yourself post-career, but you must then die quickly enough to ensure that your children can live the life that you might have had you been less responsible. You should ignore the fact that there are many places in the world, absolutely amazing places, where the cost of living is lower and the quality of life is higher than where you are now. And the mere thought of, perhaps, changing your life in ways that would allow you to live a less-costly life, is ridiculous. Why should you sit on a beach at sunset, spread a blanket on the sand and dig into the bread and cheeses that you packed, washing them down with a crisp white wine, when you can go to an expensive restaurant and let someone else do the work, right? And who would have the nerve to suggest that you resign your health club membership and, instead, get your exercise by riding your bicycle to the local market? Trust me, it’s better that you work for a few more years and a few more years after that and, if you’re lucky, you will one day have almost enough money to begin to live before you die. I made the mistake of retiring when I COULD, not when I should have. Another “couple a mill” in the bank and I could fly to Croatia instead of taking the ferry and I could still be drinking wine from expensive bottles instead of out of plastic jugs. Forget that we can go to Croatia or Greece by ferry or go just about any place in Europe by car or, after just a half-hour flight, be in Malta. And nevermind that the wine we buy by the jug comes straight from the producers and is the same stuff for which people in the US pay $20 a bottle. I just wish that I had stayed at that desk and made more money so that I could spend it on those $20 bottles instead of having to buy the same wine for the $1.50 I pay now.
You’ll be bored.
If your retirement is anything like mine, you’ll be spending it sitting on your butt, just thinking, sometimes with your mouth hanging open. Your mind will become undisciplined and wandering and you will find yourself constantly trying to figure out what to do with your newly-found leisure time. For Jessica and me, our typical day begins late in the morning since we stay in bed until we feel like getting up. Our first hour is spent drinking a cappuccino under the span of a 200-year old olive tree that spreads just outside our front door. Boring. After a cappuccino, there’s really nothing to do but to have another one, so we do. Sounds exciting, huh? After that, just to kill some time, we might take a drive to one of the medieval hilltop towns scattered about the Pugliese countryside and wander aimlessly around its historical center, looking at buildings that were old 500 years ago. Yawn. Or, if we’re desperate, we might go down to the sea–Adriatic or Ionian doesn’t matter, they’re all the same, right?–and have lunch. Okay, the fish is pretty good because, you know, we actually watch them bring it in off the boats but it still makes for a pretty dull day. Afternoons are the worst, though, with all of the shops closed and everyone either napping after a big lunch or lying on a beach. Oh, to still be sitting at my desk! Sometimes things get so incredibly, mind-numbingly dull, we get in the car and just go. A few weeks ago, we drove to the Amalfi Coast (At least it was a change.) and next week, just to avoid the excruciating boredom, we’ll be going to Rome for a few days. In the evenings, there is just nothing at all to do so we just go into town, sit in a little piazza and eat local foods or maybe a pizza and drink local red wine. Anything to make life interesting.
So, please, do yourself a favor and keep your day job. The life of a retiree just isn’t for you. Or, is it?