May 122011

The day that you decide to surrender your dreams and have no concrete goals is the day that you become old.  Dreams and goals, with sincere determination to achieve those goals, are the fountain of youth.

Forced retirement should be outlawed.  Retirement kills.  Everybody knows somebody that went from firecracker go-getter to listless and irrelevant in that first year or two after retirement.  If traditional retirement doesn’t kill a person, it definitely maims many people’s psyche.

Who invented retirement and why is it set at 65 years of age?

Doing a bit of researched revealed something quite startling.  A German chancellor — Otto von Bismark — invented social security in 1884 AND he decided that 65 was the right age in his estimation, given that very few people at that time lived much past the average life expectancy of 46 years (in Germany in the 1880’s).

Conveniently, Herr Bismark, in this one brilliant checkmate move, also eliminated his closest competitors for the position of chancellor, but I’m sure this had nothing to do with picking that random 65 number 🙂

65 a silly number to fixate upon!

Life expectancy has soared WAY past 65 in the last century. Many people are very capable at 75, 85, and 95 years old — remaining productive and valuable in society. Being productive and valuable, striving for personal and organizational progress is what keeps a person vibrant and young. Yet almost everyone is brain-washed into hanging up their six guns and spurs just when a lifetime of experience is hitting full stride.

Let’s rename retirement to one’s Personal Financial Independence Day.

What we should strive for is our next chapter, our next project, the one that really makes our eyes sparkle with hope and intensity.

Everyone has missions at different phases of life. In today’s model during our short time on earth, we grow up from students to young singles to young families to empty-nesters to retirement to home-locked.  I think those last steps should be renamed to “financial independent and creating my great legacy” phase, not the golf, fishing, sitting, and TV is all I have phase.

A wise person can choose to make the golden years the greatest chapter in the book of one’s life. If a person that achieves financial independence at an early age, she just earns more years to make a outsized difference in the lives of others.

Just as importantly, if you keep your goals alive, you will find that you live — really live — those final chapters and not get stuck watching TV for 40+ hours each week (yes, the survey I found say that the traditionally retired watch more than 40 hours per week, on average).

Be spry and prosper,

I.M. OptimismMan

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