Whoa, everybody, wait a minute. This book says it’s a bad idea to retire…. Maybe I should shut down the blog?
It would be churlish of me to ignore a book with this sort of title in the library, when I spend a fair amount of time each day writing about why and how you can retire early and why aiming for financial independence is a good thing. So here goes..
I actually agree with some of the arguments made in this book…..
Firstly that the elderly population is increasing massively every day, and the tax burden on the remaining working population is fast becoming impossibly high. It simply won’t pay the pension bill of the growing armies of people entering their sixties.
As a result, each of us must take responsibility for our own financial lives to the absolute best of our abilities.
They also make a good point with the following:
‘’The catch, is that the system, not the worker determined where the end of the road lay, and has made fools of us all’’
I agree it is absolutely crazy for anyone to let a culturally constructed date or age dictate when they should retire.
We are free to work for money for as long as we are alive, just as we are free to become financially independent much earlier on.
After that Bogan and Davies sort of start ranting and repeating themselves….
They imply that to stop working for money is akin to insanity or living suicide. (The forcefulness of their exhortation pretty much negates their earlier view that no external party should have the power to boss someone else around on the details of their professional life…but that’s a another argument)
On various pages they describe retirement as being;
‘’A crisis; removed from view; withdrawn from society; a nightmare; a sudden use by date; slow death, shrivel up and wait to die; vegetate; become useless; being thrown from a moving train.’’
Okay, let’s not get hysterical gentlemen. Time to take a proverbial chill pill.
Their only insistent solution to this seemingly devastating predicament is to remain in paid employment, as they claim it is the only way to maintain usefulness or purpose as humans, and avoid become living zombies.
This is a shame, a massive assumption, and a huge insult to retired people!
It is also a failure of the imagination. For example, Bogan and Davies neglect to mention several other extremely important forms of purposeful work (all typically unpaid):
- Caring for family – Being there and providing ongoing regular commitment to children, grandchildren or aging parents, takes a big time investment and considerable effort.
- Volunteering – Extremely useful, fulfilling, socially active and by definition, unpaid.
- Perfecting a skill or hobby - Hard work! learning to draw, make music, learning a language, learning to bake, rock climb, code, knit, act in a play, build a treehouse, etc etc. We underestimate the importance of these non-commercial activities at our peril!
- Housework - gardening, DIY home improvements, maintenance, cleaning, etc.
- Education – Whether self taught or formal instruction, it makes us better people who can think critically and solve problems.
- Travelling – not work exactly but still confronting, challenging and life affirming.
- Personal projects – starting a social movement, going into politics, becoming a thought leader, inventor, mentor, or social entrepreneur. All of these things are not tidily advertised as paid positions, but require ground level imagination, unconventional thinking, drive and huge amounts of work.
Financially independent retirees (at any age) have the power and luxury of considering all of those options. Surely that is something to aspire to?
What also bothers me is that Bogan and Davies dismiss the usefulness of personal savings or investment by claiming it is too risky and pointless to even consider. They even say relying on a private retirement fund is ‘’probably a forlorn hope’’.
I think this sort of argument is pretty emotive and reckless. Investment and saving do carry varying degrees of risk, yet there is also a risk in assuming you will always have the circumstances, full health and desire to hold down a job indefinitely. Shit happens. Hopefully we are all sparkly-eyed ancients who toil happily away and then die in our sleep. But we can never say that for sure….
Strangely, they then contradict themselves by saying:
‘’Give up your job by all means, but don’t stop working’’
So, what, like….. retire? From paid work? Apparently that is no longer an option if you follow their advice and reject the idea of building up a savings/investment pot.
Fundamentally I get what they are trying to say, and it’s an invigorating call to action for someone worried about how they will financially survive their later years. It’s just unnecessary fear mongering for the rest of us.
Here is the crucial difference. Imagine you are sitting down to a nice meal. You are about to pick up the fork, when someone leans in and whispers in your ear…..‘You must eat this whole meal – you have no choice’
The meal might still be delicious, but possibly your enjoyment will be slightly tainted by the knowledge that you have to eat every last mouthful.