Retirement – Why Liking Your Work Is So Important

by Daryl Capuano

retirementFor mid-career workers, there is a new reason to find work enjoyable.

You might need or desire to work well past 65.

Most everyone who started working at any time prior to the financial meltdown has been culturally programmed to lock in age 65 as the retirement end zone.   There are certainly statutory requirements related to social security and tax deferred retirement accounts, that make 65 a number of real consequence.  But, otherwise, 65 is now an arbitrary age.

Why? Here’s some good news: 65 was created as a retirement age based on long outdated actuarial calculations.  Governments thought that people would die before or not much after 65.   You are going to live a lot longer.  Fantastic!

The downside is that many people will not have enough money stashed away by 65 to live in reasonable economic conditions for 20 to 30 more years.

This means that most people will have to work until 70 at least in order to maintain a reasonably comfortable retirement.  If you hate your work, this is terrible, gut wrenching news.

If you like you work, then you are either happy that you won’t feel societal pressure to quit at 65.  More importantly, if you like your work but still wanted to retire at 65, then you might unwittingly be compelled to do something that is ultimately good for you: keep working in a job that you like.

It turns out that most healthy people should keep working past 65.  Good work is good for you.   Perhaps you will choose to do so in a less demanding way.  But, having work that is productive and purposeful is great for the mind and the soul.

A friend of mine was recently interviewed for a demanding job in a corporation that was known to treat its employees poorly.  The interviewer was bizarrely candid.  He opened up an application on his computer that showed the current amount of his 401(K) and the amount that he would have by retirement age.  “That’s the reason I stay.”   The interviewer was in his mid-forties.

Even if this guy survived 20 more years in an increasingly less secure corporate structure, his pot at the end of the rainbow still might not be enough for him to survive until 90.  He might be forced to work another 5 years.   Imagine hating your job for 20 years and then being told you have to work another 5 years.

But, you are facing a challenge.  If you are in mid-career, you likely have the trappings of mid-life.   You can’t just quit a job when you have a mortgage and children.  However, you owe it to yourself and to your loved ones to find happiness.

You are not being selfish.  If you find happy work, you’ll be a happier person.  That means you’ll be a better parent, spouse, friend, and person.  And, you will end up doing something practical as well: finding work that you are willing to do well past 65.