Retirement is a relatively new concept. In olden days (pre WWII), people worked until they could no longer do their jobs. Even the concept of retirement has fostered an epidemic foisted on us by (well meaning?) people to either provide for citizens in decline or to make room for the next generation. And, it can mean a number of things. People retire and then find that they need more to keep them busy and involved than golf and bagels with the boys (or girls) every morning at the local diner. And, people choose not to retire, either due to need or because they simply love what they do. This is my personal story.
My Grandfather was a dentist in New Haven who practiced until his mid 70s when he had to retire for health reasons. He didn't really need the money and his practice had dwindled, but he went in every day. It was his place and he only retired when he was physically no longer able to go in.
My father-in-law was an attorney. He had a general practice in Boston and I can remember visiting him in his office when he was in his late 70s. There was stuff piled all over the place, old matters, current cases, and who knows what else. We'd clear a space, sit and chat for a while and then go to lunch. By then, he wasn't really very busy, and he didn't need the money either, but he continued to go in to the office every day.
But, my favorite story is about Roy Neuberger, (not related), founding partner of Neuberger Berman, a financial advisory and investment firm, still going strong today. Mr. Neuberger was an inveterate collector of fine art and his company's walls were festooned with art from his collection and worth millions of dollars. In his late 90s, (late 90's), Mr. Neuberger still came into the office every day and died in 2010 at the age of 107. Maybe he would have lived to this advanced age anyway, but I chose to believe that it was living the life that he wanted to live that contributed to his longevity.
The other side of this is what often happens to people who, after a long career, collect their due deserts and retire. And, 6 months later, we are reading their obituary.
But, I said that this was about me. In 2009, after a long and (I think) productive career in IT, I started a face-to-face, business-to-business networking service. I was 67 and I had already failed once at retirement. I love what I do and I don't see retiring. I'm lucky. Not only do I love what I do, I get to give back, too. My health is good (we have better drugs now), and I believe that am still competent enough to do my job in a relatively professional manner. I don't plan on ever retiring. My fantasy exit is during a networking round-table (also at 107). "Bresler's not talking," says someone in the meeting. "Wait, Bresler's dead."
The long and short of it is that we have to be productive. And, it doesn't matter what we do or how much money we earn. Work confers value. If you are doing something that you love to do, you are a happy, successful person. (That is, after all, what you want for your children, isn't it?) It doesn't matter how old you are or how long you've been doing what you do. All that matters is that you feel productive. You don't actually have to be productive; you just have to believe that you are productive.