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Front Page » June 21, 2012 » Opinion » Dreams of retirement and reality
Published 770 days ago

Dreams of retirement and reality


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By RICHARD SHAW Sun Advocate publisher

Like most people when I was 20 I figured I'd be a millionaire by the time I was 40 and would be able to retire.

Didn't happen.

Didn't happen at 50 either.

Since I turned 60 this year, I look back on those days of optimism about my financial state with the 20/20 vision of experience instead the myopia of youth.

I have no illusions now. I will not be a millionaire today, tomorrow or when I'm 90. It ain't gonna happen.

That's okay though. When you get to a certain age there is something that becomes much more valuable than money ever was.

Time.

Time to do the things you want, time to spend with your kids and grandkids (and great-grandkids), time to be with your spouse and time to take on some of those life long dreams you have always wanted to pursue.

In a sense money can buy you time. If I had been and was a millionaire, I could be retired. But I would be just as busy, maybe more so.

I have met people who tell me that they don't know how they got everything done they do before they retired. Some seem to fill their lives with projects, volunteering, life long pursuits, etc.

One friend who has been retired for a few years told me just a few weeks ago that there is only one thing wrong with retirement.

"You never get a day off," he said.

I laughed, but I can kind of see what he means.

In the late 90s I ran my own business, and did it all alone. I had an office at home and traveled a lot of the time. Sometimes I would be on the road for a month at a time. Other times I would be working on projects at home for a month. When I was traveling and working with clients, I always knew what day of the week it was, because I had to work around their schedules. And since many of my clients were government employees, I seldom had to work on Saturdays and Sundays while out on the road. I found myself hanging around my motel, looking at some sights and watching a lot of television if there was no other big project coming up I could doing development work for.

But when I was home I lost track of time. Weekends became almost meaningless, except that my wife and son were home. Sometimes I would get up on Saturday morning early and go into my office to work. At 10 a.m. my wife would walk in and say good morning.

"Aren't you going to work today?" I would ask.

"It's Saturday," she would answer and I would be surprised.

As much as I enjoyed the freedom of having my own business, I found that it can consume you. Hours don't matter, since it's right on your front doorstep, so to speak. And I missed two things about being in a workplace with other people.

First I missed the social aspects of work. For instance, while there is a lot of stress in the newspaper business, that stress and tension brings our staff here all together, kind of like a family. When one of us fails at something, all the rest work to make things better for that person. When I was on my own and someone yelled at me on the phone over something all I could do is kick the walls and yell at the dog. Now I can kick the walls and yell at co-workers. They in turn yell back and then we all laugh knowing that frustrations are just part of the job. There is a lot of camaraderie in that.

The other thing I missed, and have already alluded to, is that schedule of working on hours and certain days. Now in the newspaper business there are few nine to five jobs. But once the Thursday paper is out the door, we all can relax a little for a couple of days. Not a lot, but some. Weekends here mean work for someone, but usually not the same people time after time. So when Friday comes, it is nice to know we do sometimes actually have a weekend. I really missed that when I was on my own.

So when it comes to retirement I have to wonder: will every day be a Saturday, or will I even care?

I won't know that for some time unfortunately. Unless the company fires me or I die at my desk, it is going to be awhile.

Remember when you were five and had no real responsibilities? I hope to think that retirement will be something similar to that.

There I go being myopic again, thinking I might know what something I have never done might be like. I just hope I am a little more correct about that than I was about being a millionaire by the time I was 40.

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