Monday, August 9, 2010

The myth of retirement

Since I semi-retired, I’ve gotten out of my morning routine. I used to get up, start the coffee pot and take my shower while the coffee brewed. Now, I make the coffee and read my emails, check the news sites, read my blog feeds and later in the day take my shower and run my errands.

I commented to my wife that I should get back into a routine of showering as soon as I get up. She said, “That’s why you retired, to not have that routine”. I answered, no; I retired because I couldn’t find a job!

This exchange caused me to think about retirement and some of the nonsense put out by the press, specifically about social security. The biggest piece of nonsense is that horse pucky about people living longer so we should raise the social security retirement age.

This shows the speaker’s lack of real world experience. Yes, if you are an economist, you can work till your 70 or 80, if you’re an electrician, try wiring a house or crawling through an attic at 65. Think about a carpenter, or a waitress, or any storeowner trying to do the physical labor involved at 65 or older.

I’ve worked as an electrician and a carpenter, my hobby is woodworking and while at 65 I can still do most things, I don’t have the stamina I would need to keep doing that all day, every day. I can still lift a full sheet of half or three-quarter inch plywood, but after the 3rd sheet or so, it really eats me up!

I got laid off when I was 59 and started a handyman business because I couldn’t find work in my regular trade, writing technical manuals. After about a year, we decided to sell our house in the city and move to a weekend home in the mountains with the idea that I would continue my handyman business. When I moved, one of my last employer’s customers ask me to work some projects for them and since it pays a lot better than handyman work I jumped on it.

I still tried to find handyman jobs to fill in for the gaps in writing projects and found over the next 5 years, I was less and less capable of doing the heavy lifting involved in many of the projects. A self employed friend (just a year to two younger than I am) who also does handyman work between his regular gigs has also seen a real change over the last few years in how much he can do.

The next time some fool tries to tell you that we should raise the retirement age, remember that the only reason they believe that is because they don’t spend their days bent over under the hood of a car, digging a ditch, driving a tractor, or standing on their feet.

Sure, you can work long past 65 if the only thing you have to “work” is your jawbone!