The linear lifestyle conditions us to think that we get on the treadmill of life and work our butts off in the pursuit of lifestyle at some distant point in the future called "retirement."
If we define the pursuit of retirement as sacrificing ourselves now in favor of a potential future reward, then we've been duped.
Most of us underestimate how long we will live and assume we'll walk this planet for around the same time as our parents and grandparents. But better technology and healthcare education these days allows us to live on average eight or nine years longer than our parents, and sometimes by as much as 20 years. Children born today can expect to live to 100.
Aside from the financial consideration of whether you can afford to have saved up enough to fund a retirement of 30 or so years (assuming you retire at 65), there's a more burning question: what will you do with this "extra time?"
At the other end of the scale, I see proponents of the FIRE movement (Financial Independence, Retire Early) sacrifice a few years of their lives (usually at significant personal cost) to pursue a lifestyle that gives them more freedom, options, and choices.
Whatever the merits of the FIRE movement, it implies that retirement is a moveable feast. Its timing and nature are becoming more flexible, and the retirement experience can be spread throughout one's life rather than being saved up for our final years.
As our lives become increasingly nonlinear, the idea of spreading retirement throughout our lives is appealing. As more and more people are extending their careers into their 70s and even 80s, who can contemplate one long career run of 50 years without breaks?
The days of once-in-a-lifetime reinvention are over. The challenge these days is to keep rearranging our lives to suit the conditions around us, our changing motivations, and the lifestyle we want. And that means striking a continual balance between relaxation and productivity, enjoying well-deserved periods of rest while pursuing new, challenging, and fulfilling projects.
It is said that longevity has an impact on all of our lives, not just the end of our lives. I suggest we treat retirement the same way.
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