Retirement. Ah those lovely years of endless free time and no responsibility. My wife and I can travel, spend hours partaking in the hobbies we never had time for, learn to play the piano…enjoy life to it fullest without the damned alarm clock going off at 5:50 AM. Quite frankly, retirement scares the hell out of me. What I see is ever increasing decrepitude, ever increasing prices, and ever increasing expenses on a fixed income leading to an ever increasing level of poverty. I don’t really care for the notion of my wife and I running a foot race with our meager assets. Can we make it to the grave before they run out? It is time to buck up, stiff upper lip, fight the good fight, and not belabor my mind with silly notions of retirement.
Looking into the crystal ball of what lies in the near future of my employment, a series of business trips lasting for months…and when I am home a delayed project finally going into production which will be just one crisis after another. For the next two to four years, I see pretty much an endless diet of 12 + hour days seven days a week, much of it spent away from home, and all of it conducted with “the sky is falling” attitude from management. That is probably a pessimistic exaggeration on my part, although not the travel, that it is real. The pessimistic exaggeration is the endless part, surely it can’t be endless. Yet that is what I see and I am seriously asking myself, is this how I want to spend the next few years of my life?
Part of me is ashamed. When I drive into a Wendy’s at 7 PM and see the same gal at the drive thru who rang up my groceries 9 AM that morning—a gal whose haggard look leads me to believe that she is probably 5 to 10 years older than me, my unhappiness seems absurd. When I read of the unemployment, of the people who have lost their homes, of the ever increasing numbers of people living in poverty, I feel a sense of shame. I have been blessed with a decent job, why do I want to part with it so badly?
Shame not withstanding, I feel the finite quality of my remaining years starting to close in on me. If I follow my father’s foot steps, I have four years left. Do I want to spend them working? I am getting tired of the rat race, tired of the problems, tired of the dithery-dithery the sky is falling--when are you going to have this done questions and telephone calls from management. Tired of being told this is the number one priority…this is the critical path…this is a billing…. Tired of being told this is the hottest job on site, but oh by the way your people have to go to some inane training for the first two hours of the shift…but we still need to get this done.
The question “Will I have enough?” is always one of the great philosophical questions regarding retirement. One of the great philosophers on the factory floor told me several years ago on the eve of his retirement…”When you have had enough, you will have enough.”
It is time to go check the numbers. What I hope for, and sincerely doubt, is that the numbers will show that I am a damned fool to continue working. A second possibility is that the numbers will show that I am a damned fool to think I can retire. Most likely, however, the numbers will be far murkier. Why should I be entitled to clarity on this decision in my life? Most likely the numbers will show yes I can retire, but at a significant sacrifice. Then the decision will basically be…when I have had enough, I’ll have enough.
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