Tuesday, 1 September 2015

08:36 – The final countdown commences. Barbara retires in 30 days, at the end of this month. I’m sure she’s looking forward to it, as I certainly am.

Not that “retires” means she won’t work any more. She’s retiring from the law firm but will be coming to work for our own company, to which we’re both looking forward. What this really means for Barbara is that she’ll have control of her own time. She’ll work when she wants to, or when we need her to. She’ll take time off to do her own thing when she wants to, whether that means taking a long weekend to go to a craft fair with one of her friends or taking a couple weeks off to go on a bus tour with another friend. But mostly she’ll be working for our own business.

All of which got me to thinking about what an odd concept retirement is. The idea that at a certain age, one simply stops working and takes a multi-year (or multi-decade) vacation. Our parents’ generation was the first in human history to take the idea of retirement for granted. Before then, most people worked until they dropped. Everyone who wanted to eat had to work for their food. People who were too old to do hard physical labor worked at tasks that were less physically demanding, like watching children or shelling peas or darning socks or sharpening tools.

When the first Social Security checks were issued in the 1930’s, they were to retirees aged 65, who could be expected to continue living and drawing checks for a couple of years. And those checks were just enough to keep the retirees from starving or ending up on the streets. They were intended to provide only a basic supplement to whatever the retirees had saved on their own. Nowadays, it’s common for a retired couple to draw SS checks of $50,000/year or more. Our children are paying for that, and they can’t afford to do it. The American population over 65 is bankrupting our young people, who are just barely able to support themselves, if they’re lucky. We’ve gone from about 30 working people minimally supporting each retiree in the 30’s to a ratio much nearer to one worker supporting one retiree in style in 2015. That’s simply not sustainable. It never was, and it never can be. That’s why Barbara and I will never really retire. We’ll keep the business active as long as we can physically do so.