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Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Thoughts on Retirement

Twenty years ago I mused that people were facing retirement. I was a young consultant and was making my way up in the world. Part of my job then was to train people and get them ready for imminent retirement. I mean a few months or less before they were bumped off the employment ship. I did not think much of it then. But then what did you expect. I had things to do and placed to go. Retirement was on someone else’s radar.  But I did make a mental note to be careful about how I lived. Today two decades later what was a mere aphorism has struck reality. As the Americans would say “pay dirt”. To those who don’t understand what I am saying retirement has come calling.

Well then what do I make of it. I have some advice for one group of people and some thoughts for another. To one group I say 20 years is not as long as you might think. To the other “retirement” is not a new in the English vocabulary. It may have changed meaning over time, but it does suggest moving away, de-linking or becoming de-listed from something like demobilized from the army. Interestingly, at various points in our lives we retire from school, home, college and variously from any number of jobs and employment engagements at one time or other. Given this truth we should all be familiar with the term retirement - getting ready for the nest assignment in life. That’s it! Getting ready for the next phase of life!

Nonetheless, retirement attracts an ominous echo when it is attached to a relatively senior age. It sounds like the “last chance”. Having observed those who have gone before and around me I realize that retirement presents three challenges. The first, associated with employment, is to secure a means of living. Notice I did not say “means of income”. Enough to live on. The second concern which is related to being delinked from employment is to have something to live for. Employment gives people something to do (not necessarily something to live for). When facing retirement one has to set their own agenda and keep to it. Being your own boss is not as easy as many people make it sound especially if you have not done it all your life. The third joy is to engage in creating a legacy to pass on to your great grandchildren. I love this one. While the first may be provided for, the second depend on your personal discipline. However, the third I find liberating – working on something to gift the world gives one energy to face the world not just another day but every day! These three things are what I consider retirement or whatever you want to call it to be all about. There are those who would say that these three are the same thing. But then they are not facing retirement.

Allan Bukusi

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