Putting Things Off Till “Retirement” May Not Make Sense

Author: judyjudy

Putting Things Off Till “Retirement” May Not Make Sense


At Harvard Business School, a student told Warren Buffett that he was looking for a position in a management consulting firm because it would be “perfect” for his resume – even though he didn’t really want to do it. When would he start doing what he wanted to do? “Well, I’ll get to that someday.” Warren said “Well you know, your plan sounds to me a lot like saving up sex for your old age. It just doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

Are you doing the same thing?

Society is corrupting the meaning of retirement. In 1935 Social Security Act, popularized retirement from a ‘career” of physical labor in factories and farms, when the average life span was around 60 years,  so they could use the few remaining years for leisure. Retirement had a clear meaning; as Oxford notes, it meant “the action or fact of leaving one’s job and ceasing to work”. The gift of longevity continues to extend lifespans: more and more people are living past 80 today; our children are expected to be the first generation leading a 100+year life. 

So ,what do “third act” retirement advocates say we should do with the extra 35 years of adulthood? They place them during this third act: after retirement around 65 years of life; These are the years “for the pursuit of wisdom, self-actualization, and leaving some kind of legacy”. While, thankfully, more and more older adults are sufficiently healthy, financially secure and can do so. 

However, if you pay attention to adults in the initial phases of this stage of life, they don’t want to just spend these “golden” years, as Google notes pursuing “wisdom, self-actualization, and leaving some kind of legacy.” As Buffet said ”(i)t just doesn’t make a lot of sense.” Increasingly they realize they are totally unprepared for how to spend the next 20-40 years of life; e.g., they spent more time planning for weddings and parties than the 10,000+ days in front of them! What they do know, based on their experience so far, is they want to use some of the time being productively involved in their passions and purposes, and often continuing to earn some income to support a lifestyle that may cost a lot more money than they thought.

Age Brilliantly members believe in a life without limits imposed by restrictive stages or conforming to antiquated norms. Instead we view the 100+ years as an elongated life – offering adults 80+ years during which we can have richer lifestyles with multiple jobs/careers, in multiple locations and/or multiple families. We can stop working at a specific job when we so decide, take time off for leisure, learning, recharging, rewiring, and then move on to the next set of life adventures. Most importantly, we can start pursuing passion and purposeful activities, as well as declaring our legacies through actions and role models throughout our adult lives. Think about the great legacies that Bill and Melinda Gates, Wendy Kopp (Teach for America) and Greta Thunberg (environmental activist) are creating.

Remember, we’re knowledge and wisdom workers, not manual laborers, who choose one job/career not just to earn a living, but to lead a fulfilling life to satisfy passions and purposes, as well as nourish supportive relationships. Throughout our life adventure, we’re constantly learning and continuously improving. As we age, at work and in their community, we become SharExers™ who share experiences and expertise with others.  Are you a SharExer who mentors, teaches and coaches others? Welcome to the club.

People who “age brilliantly” invent their own life cadences; FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early) advocates try to maximize earnings and savings as early adults, so they can stop working for income, and focus on passion and purpose project for the rest of their lives; Stefan Sagmeister created a system where he takes a one-year sabbatical every seven (7) years in order to travel, learn, etc. In other words, we design our own elongated 100+ year life-journey as we want. We know that, as First, as Confucius said “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Today’s economy allows us to find work throughout most of our lives which allows us to earn income while also pursuing learning, passions and purposes. Each time, we choose which of these goals is most important to the next job/career decision.

That’s why so many professionals are still working into their 80s and beyond as lawyers, fashionistas, marathon runners, doctors, etc. (We celebrate many of them on our website; if you know someone who should be celebrated here, share the information with us!)  

Finally, it’s time to upgrade our mindsets and stop using the term “retirement-from-work” as defining a stage of life. Doing so implies a “fixed” mindset – since it focuses on a past event. “Age Brilliantly” members have a “growth” mindset – always looking at where they’re going in the future.  Aging is a natural developmental process that starts the minute we’re born.  As humans, we’re always looking forward to our next life-adventure. Think of it: when you graduate kindergarten, you tell people “I’m going to first grade”; no-fourth grade calls her/himself a “kindergarten graduate”.  When you graduate high school and enter college – you describe yourself as a freshman in college, not as a High School graduate.   When you take a job in a company, you focus on what you do and the possibility of growth. Supreme Court Judges are law school graduates; but they describe themselves by their current position: Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court. “Third act” advocates are living in the “rear-view mirror”.  

In sum, maximize your potential for a fulfilling 100+ year life, now!  Join the movement.