Work and retirement

Retiring has been on my mind a bit. Thanks to the circumstances of the last couple of decades we don't exactly have a choice - we survived, but with nothing left over and costs going up. So any income we earn can be used on much-neglected maintenance - or moving (probably both). However, many thoughts I had earlier in my life (when I still knew everything) have proven woefully shallow.

I've been intrigued by the concept of retiring early - not for me (too late for that) but after learning about the FIRE (financial independence, retire early) movement. To be clear retire early is not at 50, but at 30-40. I can't see it catching on - it requires incredible discipline - in particular, self-denial. Young people today want the world - but now. Generally, they don't understand the significance of deferral. Choosing to spend nothing but necessities (including cheap rentals)

There are several people who testify to its effectiveness, and such an option certainly sounds intriguing - who wouldn't want financial independence? And independence from what - to what? As usual, starting to think more slowly about things leads to more questions.

Many of the negative articles are American and feature issues unique to their environment. My question is bigger than that. If you live an extremely disciplined life, suppose you can retire early. What do you do with the rest of your life? Freedom to retire sounds great, but probably more than should are attracted to shallow meaningless lives. But enough people throughout history have shown life without purpose can be a burden. Even Solomon - the richest and the wisest king of ancient times - was puzzled by life, before boiling it down to the simple things.

We all identify with Chaim Topol (If I were a rich man) - none of us ever seems to have "enough". The problem is when we value things above people. And I believe we don't value work highly enough, Of course, I must point out that "work" and "employment" or "business" are not the same things.

IF we have the money to do as we please, lazing on a beach in the tropics doing nothing more than going for swims and eating and drinking sounds appealing - for a while. But "work" is about so much more than bringing in the dollars. When so many are left with work just to provide for themselves, there is little point in work - and it's no wonder we have reports on the economic cost of hangovers. Alan Sillitoe's "Saturday night and Sunday morning" comes to mind.

Today we have the situation where employers can't find workers (at the right rate - a whole separate subject)  and yet people are still unemployed or under-employed. Even worse a large number (anyone's guess) are working but not receiving much fulfilment. As computers, robots, AI and so on  become more capable, people should be freed for more productive work. This brings us back to redefining work and income distribution.

Imagine we needed only 10-20% of the current workforce in what is currently paid work. Lawyers and accountants already have their work reduced - AI can make sense of many things much faster than humans - drawing on a vast array of data. Bartenders and caregivers could to some extent be replaced by robots. Creatives (poets, musicians, artists, actors and the like can also be replaced to some extent. A daughter sings with her late father is easy. A dead actor features in a new film. And so on - it's really just starting. Managers are yesterday's people. I could go on, but if you're not convinced get a job as a blacksmith - once a common trade.

While we're waiting for the world to catch up, how do work and retirement fit in? As with most questions, there are many answers. Governments only deal with averages and rules. Since most of us aren't "average", we're better off forming our own answers.

 

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Last modified: 28 November 2020.