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The Importance of Work—And of Knowing When to Retire

Article-The Importance of Work—And of Knowing When to Retire

Cultura Creative RF/Alamy Stock Photo Construction workers reading blueprint
Human beings thrive on having a purpose, and our jobs often tie closely into that feeling. Here’s how to find a balance when considering retirement.

In his terrific book “The Happiness Equation,” author Neil Pasricha devotes quite a bit of space to the subject of retirement. In fact, I would argue that he spends more time, more pages and more ink on retirement than any other subject. 

Retirement has been around since the 18th century and began to be adopted as a government policy by countries in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Before this time, there was no such thing as a “normal” retirement age.  

On the topic of retirement, Pasricha makes three key points: 

  1. Retirement is a new concept in the context of human history. 
  2. Retirement is a Western concept that does not exist in most parts of the developing world. 
  3. Retirement is a broken concept. The idea that we can go from being hard workers until age 65 and then suddenly transition to 100% leisure is flawed. Furthermore, the idea that we can be retired for decades and afford it is another.  

Pasricha also said the most dangerous two years in human life are the year you're born and the year you retire. If that's true, it is a very scary concept for those nearing retirement age. 

Working: much more than a paycheck 

Plenty of leading figures in history have addressed the importance of working for people to feel fulfilled. A few examples: 

Pasricha also notes that work gives us many gifts, which he argues are worth more than any numbers on a paycheck. “The freedom you feel from a satisfying job,” he says, “beats the oppressing ache of emptiness any day.”  

He posits that meaningful work provides the “Four Ss”:  

  1. A built-in social network. 
  2. Structure for the 168 hours in a week.  
  3. Stimulation for the mind, so you are always learning something new.  
  4. The feeling of being part of a story bigger than yourself.  

Pasricha’s point, in case you think I’ve been too subtle, is don’t retire from life! “My recommendation is to dig deep into your natural passions to find a second act that aligns with your values,” the author wrote on his website. 

It is critical to your business and to the success of others in your business that you understand when it is time to consider retiring (or at least ramping down your role in day-to-day operations).  

If you're the CEO, and you're 65 or older, you almost certainly have other people in your organization ready and able to take on more responsibility and leadership. It will benefit the business, its customers and its employees if you can create a transitional plan that favors and makes use of the skills and energy of those ready to succeed you in leadership.  

But if you can’t retire (for whatever reason) and you still want to set your business up for further success in the coming years, what do you do? You must retire to something. There must be some charity, company or cause that you can be excited about every morning. Perhaps you could take on a different role in your business; instead of doing, become a teacher and mentor. Find something in your life that can stimulate your passion.  

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