I’m not bashing people who save for their retirement, or who want to enjoy their old age. Far from it. However, it struck me when a co-worker died that one of the tricks the culture of death plays on us is by making us work in expectation of stopping work.
By putting a limit on people’s working lives, the culture of our economy distances work from the final end of man. When a colleague dies on the job, it makes you sit up and take stock of your life and what it’s all worth. When they die a few years after retirement, pottering around in the garden, it seems distant from their life’s work, their vocation, if you will (I don’t want to get into an argument about whether a job is a vocation, but work should have a holy element, an apostolic element, as St Ignatius, St Josemaria, and the Church’s teaching on the Lay vocation would agree). If people were working until the end of their lives, we’d have to think those thoughts more regularly.
A healthy vocational attitude to work sees it as something we do because the work itself adds value to our lives. An awful job with a good retirement plan can turn work into something pointless that we do for the sake of not working in the future.
I think it was Newsweek Magazine that published an article a few months ago that said, essentially, that this is probably the last generation that will see a real “retirement” from work.
My husband and I were saddled with ungodly taxes throughout much of our married, working life to pay for a huge government under both Democrats (especially) and Republicans.
Because the public schools in our city were hit in the 1990s with a discrimination lawsuit that put them under the power of a “Master” from out-of-state, we (and many other concerned parents) put our children into private schools that took most of our earned income to pay for. We should have just moved to a decent city, but we didn’t know. We kept thinking that the nightmare would be over soon. Instead, it still continues for the people in our city, even though our children graduated several years ago. We can’t attract any corporations or businesses to our city because of the “social experiment” that our schools have become, so our extremely high property taxes (at one time, highest in the nation) pay for these awful public schools.
And because my husband and I are foolish parents, we got our entire family involved with the beautiful sport of figure skating, a sport that has been called “The Queen of Sports.” Again, we should have moved, because in our city, the discipline of synchronized skating was spurned by the coaches, who actually told their students not to get involved with it. So our family commuted into Chicago (65 miles one way) for seven years so that our kids could be involved in an elite team. They travelled all over the worlds to represent the United States in competitions.
We don’t regret the figure skating at all. We would do it all over again. In fact, my husband is more involved with ever, and he commutes almost two hours to practice with his ice dance partner. And my younger daughter coaches singles and teams.
But it did cost a lot.
The gist is, we didn’t save anything much for retirement. If any one of those three things above had not been present–(1) high taxes (2) private schools (3) figure skating–we could have invested in retirement. But with all three of these money suckers, we just didn’t save.
It’s our own fault.
So we’ll probably end up working until we die. At this point, we see no other option. Because we didn’t do a lot of the home remodeling that we should have paid for with the taxes, school tuitions, and skating bills, we have to do it now. I’m talking about things like sagging floors and leaky windows and wet basements–not just decorating, but structural. If we don’t do it now, while we’re in our 50s, our house will fall apart around us when we’re in our 60s.
And according to Newsweek Magazine, a lot of people in the U.S. are in exactly the same boat as we are. Due to excessive taxes and the expenses of being parents in the 1990s and 2000s, people just aren’t saving money for retirement.
The other option is that the government will put all of us in “camps” and provide us with the minimum needs for life until we die.
And there’s a third option. I’ve always said that I plan to die by the time I’m 65. We’ve tried to stay in good health, but working until we die is stressful, especially for my husband in his line of work (systems administrator in computers–lots of call, lots of competition from India for the jobs). And my knees and feet are in such bad shape, I honestly don’t see how I will be able to keep walking for many more years. I’m guessing we won’t live long enough to worry about retirement.
Yes, I agree with the OP that we should enjoy our work. I don’t hate mine. But c’mon, there’s nothing fun about digging through poop to look for bacteria. As for my husband, there’s nothing particularly wonderful about being awake for 48 hours trying to fix a crash that has taken out hundreds of servers, and working with people who speak better Farsi than English, and who tell you what you want to hear instead of the truth because that’s what their culture is like.
Frankly, I think if our government at all levels–federal, state, and local–would stop trying to provide Americans with “utopia” (and failing to do so), and just tax us for the things that are described in the Constitution, everyone would be healthier, happier, and have more money to spend on things like figure skating and home remodeling and retirement investments. It was the government that wrecked up the public schools in our city and turned them into laboratories for social engineering. If they would keep their butts out of our schools–in other words, I don’t believe in public schools at all–we would have good schools.
There’s a part of me that is looking forward to when my husband retires, the children are grown, and my husband and I can travel to a few places like the Vatican, Ireland, and Alaska.
In all seriousness, though, we save for “retirement,” but we’re a one-income family, so just in case something happens to my husband, I have a little extra money available (aside from life insurance). It’s nice to have a little cushion, in case the worst happens, so that I could stay home with my kids for just a bit longer should my husband pass away.
I feel totally blessed to be able to afford this kind of plan.
American capitalism is made so that there’s no amount of money you can’t spend and it’s impossible to save much. Thank goodness, I’ve got over $100,000 USD in Polish Banks. Saving for over 40 years has really paid off. I also have a home and land in Poland that I plan to return to upon retirement.
I know many Americans who took their savings to Mexico upon retirement so that it would last them over 20 years.
I suggest you look for a place to move to outside the U.S. upon retirement to save money and have it last you. I’d suggest Cyprus, Poland, Mexico or France.
My point isn’t so much about savings, which are a wise idea.
My point is the way retirement allows employers to make us do what we hate, instead of doing something that has purpose. Now, all jobs have nasty elements, but there are jobs where you can put up with the hard parts for the sake of the good you can see coming from them. What I’m talking about is the really pointless work we’re forced into, because of the hope that we’ll be able to stop doing them. By being able to divorce work from man’s final end, compulsory retirement age helps employers to deceive us into never thinking about these things.