"My philosophy on retiring is ... don’t," a friend said in a text recently. "Because our days should be spent doing what we think is important. If what we are doing is important, then we should keep doing it. If it wasn’t important, then why did we do it every day from 20 to 66.5 years? That seems silly to me."
Tom, a friend of mine, sent me these words after I asked him about his philosophy on retirement. I'd heard him speak about it in the past and wanted to hear it again.
When he was a young Christian, he wrote a daily schedule of what he thought a good day in retirement would look like and then he tried to live that way every day while he was still working, rather than waiting until he'd reached the age of retirement to start living.
I asked him to send me that schedule. It included:
- Breakfast with family or friends
- Working out
- Time for walks, wine, ice cream, board games, etc.
- Reading in bed
This isn't his entire list. He included time for work and other obligations. But the point is, even though he was working, he incorporated elements of a good retirement day into his schedule long before he ever reached retirement age. That way, he could keep on working (and seeking opportunities for spiritual influence), while still living out his dream day.
I asked him to expand on this. And here's what he shared with me:
"Why would I take time when two sons are mere toddlers to think about life in retirement ... to plan what retirement would look like? I suppose, in a word, perspective. I wanted to live my life with a long-term perspective. By 'long-term,' I think I mean, what will my life have looked like after I'm gone?
"I want the things that matter to be important, so that I will live in such a way that those things are important. And, those things that seem important in the moment, but are not, will be treated as if they are not.
"So, what is important? For one, people are more important than things. Spend time with family and friends and those people who need someone. As much as you can, stay healthy because the days are long if your health is no good. Work, because it is good for a man to do meaningful work. It's not good to be leisurely all day. Read and keep learning new things. Remain 'green and growing.'
"Enjoy some favorite foods and spirits in moderation. These are gifts from God. Worship the Creator, so that you get outside yourself – to see yourself as you really are – a creature, loved by the Creator."
The schedule he envisioned didn't include time for television (watching other people live their lives), but he often invites others over to watch TV with them – usually those who would otherwise be sitting at home alone.
I'm much older right now than Tom was when he determined what his best days in retirement might look like, then began to live that way, but his intentional way of living is inspiring. He intentionally jumped off the hamster wheel and made his family and others around him a priority. He even left a lucrative career many years ago because it was taking up too much of his time, energy, and focus, in favor of a job that would allow him to live good "retirement" days.
I appreciate his perspective and find it challenging. And maybe it'll prompt you to ask the same questions I'm asking myself: What would a good day in retirement look like? And how can you start living it right now?