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What If?

What if the idea of retirement is a scam?

Have you ever noticed that by the time most of us get to retirement age, our bodies are so beat up and broken down that we spend most of our time and money trying to fix them? You’re even likely to spend your endmost years in a skilled nursing facility or retirement home,

Retirement was meant to be glamorous – the reward for 40 years of stressful phone calls, back-breaking work, and long hours. It was supposed to be nice vacations, a new sporty car, and the senior citizen discount at your favorite daily breakfast spot. You poured money into your IRA your 401k, social security, and your pension to support the traveling and hobbies that you [said] were going to love.

But it’s never enough, is it? Between grandchildren’s birthdays, knee replacements, and medications for your cholesterol, blood pressure, & anxiety, the well dries up quick. Add in the potential cost of that retirement home down the road and it seems like those winter trips to Florida might need to become an afterthought.

And even if you do make it to Florida, your hip arthritis makes it difficult to do anything beside sit on the beach.

What if the idea of retirement is a scam?

What if retirement is an idea perpetuated by owners of big business in order to get you to work longer days and more hours so that they can make better profit? It gives them an “excuse” to kick you out at 65 years of age and bring in new blood – fresh employees that have more energy and are more proficient with modern technology. Much like the weekend, retirement is the idea that if you can just work hard for a few more minutes, a few more hours, a few more days, there will be a reward at the end.

Speaking of hours, let’s do a little math.

The average American adult works 47 hours per week. Now let’s add in another hour each day for commuting, two hours for eating, and six hours for sleeping (because my anecdotal research tells me that this is about the maximum amount of sleep that any working adult is willing to attempt to get).

Now we can add in other things, like the five hours of television that each American watches every day. Wait, we need to add in time for your cell phone. The average American spends something like five hours on their phone every day. But we’ll allow for some overlap with work & television and push that down to two hours.

When you add all of this up, you reach 157 hours of occupied time. That only leaves 11 other hours to workout, shower (which I didn’t include for some reason), find some “me” time, and spend time with your friends and family.

Obviously your friends and family take precedent, so you spend two hours on Friday night grabbing dinner with your family and a few hours on Saturday chauffeuring your children around to various youth sporting events. Oh, and you take a shower every day, so there’s a few more hours.

So when do you take care of yourself?

Here’s the answer: you don’t.

“Me” time? No such thing. Unless you count wrangling your children as they scamper through crowds at Disney World on your yearly vacation as “me” time.

So then this magical 65th year comes along and your blood pressure is elevated, your knees hurt, and you’re looking to lose at least 25 pounds. All those things you wanted to do? Now they’re going to take a backseat to your health.

What if the idea of retirement is a scam?

What if retirement is being sold to all of us and we’re buying it without even thinking? What if we’re literally dying from the stress of working toward this idea that might never be able to live up to the 40 years worth of expectations that we’ve built into it? What if the “payoff” is actually the problem?

Retirement is supposed to be the goal. Work hard for 40 years or so and you’ll be compensated with 20 years of freedom. But along the way, you’ll need to work long days and longer weeks in order to afford your mortgage, car payments, college tuition, and health care while still managing to leave a bit in your retirement accounts.

Even then, it’s not guaranteed that you’ll have enough. You may not have enough money. You may not even have your health.

You’ll spend all these years working a job that you hate to save enough money to finally retire.

But what if we were able to take more vacations, longer vacations, and more long weekends? What if we were able to take more time to destress? What if this lower stress level helped us prevent chronic disease? What if we were able to workout more, take care of our bodies, and reach retirement mostly intact instead of barely held together? What if we were able to spend more time with our friends and family and less time at the office? What if we worked jobs that we loved doing?

The opposite doesn’t work anymore. Because although 65 and retired sounds like a nice finish line, what if you don’t make it?

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