“You mean like in the movies with the old country doctor?” Tom said as he pondered whether to make a move out of the business world given General Electric’s departure from Connecticut. Tom does not work for GE but has been in a business that has relied on GE’s Fairfield County presence.

At 48, Tom had a mixed view of his next stage.  One part of him wanted to just chug along on the same path and retire as soon as he was able.  Another part wanted to recapture some of his youthful ambition and do something “great” or at least interesting. 

Tom was discovering what many people in their late forties and early fifties are learning: the retire at 65 path doesn’t work out as it once did for most everyone unless they have a rock solid and big pension.  In Tom’s case, he and his wife were reasonable savers. Three kids in private colleges made retirement savings a lower immediate priority. The retire “as soon as he was able” didn’t look like 65 and probably didn’t look like 70 either.  Thoughts of doing his current type of work – even if he went to a different business that was not GE dependent – brought on a feeling of deep malaise.

That’s when I discussed work as an empowering force for some.  There are plenty of people who like their work so much that thoughts of stopping work are actually sad. The country doctor, while not as common today, is actually a pretty solid example. If and when that doctor can’t practice anymore, he will be unhappy.

“Let’s find you work that you can be happy doing forever.”