Larry Burkett and Ron Blue’s book, Your Money After the Big 5-0 is thought provoking. Chapter four especially pushes the envelope of conventional wisdom. It is entitled Retiring Conventional Wisdom About Retirement. They view retirement through a biblical and historical lens and they aren’t too impressed with our modern approach. In this chapter, also called, “Retirement is a terrible thing to waste” they are speaking of the original definition of retirement: drop all productive activity or paid employment. Nowadays people have much different notions of what the word even means.
They discussed the case of Mr. Truett Cathy who could have retired at 50 after 20 years of running a successful restaurant called the Dwarf House. Instead he started a new business – Chick-fil-A. At the time this book was written Mr. Cathy was 82 years old and working as the chairman of this billion-dollar business. He started a youth camp, a foster home system, teaches Sunday school, and enjoys motorcycles & vintage cars. He gives away scholarship money and testifies before congress. Nevertheless, it is his work that he loves the most in life – saying, “Learn to love your work, and you’ll never have to ‘work’ again.”
They contrasted Mr. Cathy with Mr. Darton who was born in the same year and town. He counted down his days until age 60 when he would be able to completely retire from his job as a purchasing agent. He told everyone that he couldn’t wait to “be free” and “do what he wants” in his upcoming retirement. He disregarded his wife’s advice to keep working (she was concerned he would become bored). He also didn’t allow himself to admit that he liked a lot of aspects of work: the people, the mental stimulation, the occasional conferences out of town, and the benefits.
He thought they would travel a lot, but money was now limited. Also, his wife didn’t want to leave their grandchildren and her aging mother. Within a couple years he finished the “honey-do” list, watched all the TV he could stand, read all the books he wanted, and played so much golf that it too became boring and expensive. His yard looked perfect but he was bored. His days became an endless string of drinking coffee, complaining about his pension, checking the mail, and working on his yard. By eighty years old he was still in good health, but still without much meaning or structure in his day. He found himself getting annoyed over minor things, worrying about running out of money, and depressed about the prospect of up to another 20 years of this monotony. He longs for those past working days when he was active, earning, learning, being challenged, and contributing.
Why did Mr. Darton so look forward to retiring? That is what he asks himself. If you retire, will you be more like Mr. Cathy or Mr. Darton? Those aren’t the only two options obviously, but it is useful to reflect on this contrasting case study.
The authors of this book propose a solution and here it is: W-O-R-K!
“Keep working. Change careers and begin another. Work as a volunteer or work for pay. Work part-time. Work full-time intermittently at various jobs. Work in the winter, play golf and fish in the summer. Get attuned to the idea of continuing to work.”