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The Retirement Life

Bob Goldman on

Recently, it has come to our attention that there is more to work than work. There is also retirement.

Retirement is a quaint custom that used to be the rainbow's end of every worker's career path. In the good old days, after 40 or 50 years on the job, workers would receive a gold watch and a pension and live happily ever after.

(A "pension" is another quaint custom. Employers no longer provide pensions, but workers are free to save as many pennies, nickels, bottle caps and paper clips as they want in an empty Bran Flakes box. This is known as a nest egg.)

One important question about retirement today concerns longevity.

"The Connection Between Retiring Early and Living Longer" is the title of a recent article by Professor Austin Frakt in The New York Times. The good professor does not mince words. "You may not need another reason to retire early, but I'll give you one anyway," he writes. "It could lengthen your life."

The basis for this intoxicating claim is research done in the Netherlands, where a study showed that Dutch civil servants who took early retirement were "2.6 percentage points less likely to die over the next five years than those who did not retire early."

Of course, all of the Dutch workers had those pension thingees, plus, the only health problems they ever faced were splinters from their wooden shoes. Still, the conclusion is significant. If you think your job is killing you, you're probably right.

Interestingly, some experts believe that working actually makes you healthier. As Frakt points out, "work provides income and, for some, health insurance -- both helpful for maintenance of well-being."

How anyone can see your paycheck and have a feeling of well-being is certainly a mystery, but your company's health plan definitely prolongs life. Getting a free bottle of mercurochrome and a box of cotton balls every Jan. 1 should keep you alive and kicking, no matter the health threat. Though the 50 percent co-pay on the cotton balls is a little annoying.

Work also promotes health by providing "purpose and camaraderie." This is very important since "evidence is mounting that loneliness and social isolation are linked to illness, cognitive decline and death."

Forgetting for a moment that many of us are counting on cognitive decline to help us stay at our jobs, you can get isolated at work, especially when you spend most of the day hiding under your desk. The solution is to attend as many meetings as possible, and don't leave before the last doughnut is gone. You'll be miserable, but you won't be isolated.

If retirement gives you more time for physical activity, that will certainly be a plus. Being active is "associated with prevention of disease and reduced mortality in older people." The gym may be fine in your 50s and 60s, but when you hang it up, workwise, it's time to take it up a notch.

The physical activity I suggest for retirees is skydiving. Jumping out of a plane at 20,000 feet really gets the old heart pumping. And if you buy slightly used World War I parachutes on eBay, it's not expensive. Skydiving might sound scary, but it's a lot safer than getting called into HR to receive the results of your annual review.

Until scientists can nail down the facts, the work-retirement conundrum will be with us. My idea is to combine the two.

When you retire, ask management for a time clock instead of a gold watch. Every morning, leap out of bed at dawn, punch in, and get to work on your stamp collection. Give yourself a deadline. For example, if you don't replace the hinges on your Angola commemoratives, no Metamucil for the rest of the day. In the afternoon, it's crunchtime, with extreme bingo and catching up on "Golden Girls" and "Dancing with the Stars." (Caution: Do not practice the pasodoble at home.)

Evenings you devote to milling gruel for the next morning.

Before you turn in, send a sharply worded email putting the aqua aerobics teacher at your assisted-living facility on a formal performance-improvement program. He has six weeks to turn it around, or you're stripping him of his nose clips.

Now that is a retirement regime that makes a lot of sense. After all, you always acted like a retired person at work. Why not act like a hard worker when you're retired?

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Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He now works out of Bellingham, Washington. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at bob@bgplanning.com. To find out more about Bob Goldman, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

 

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