So, today is my birthday. I’m 25 now. In one way you could say that I have 40 “productive” years left before retirement. 40 years to work, save money for pension and dream about the things I want to do when I finally get free, and have both the time and the money. I think that’s a load of crap.
I don’t really believe in retirement as an institution. Most people are happy to sit quietly on the ride that has been decided for them. They accept that the only way to live their lives is the norm of the society, which goes something like birth-childhood-studies-work-retirement-death. But who said that this is the way it should go?
If I remember correctly, the modern pension systems were born after industrial revolution to ensure that factory workers can support themselves after they become too old to continue working. This, first of all, means that the pension institution is relatively young, and the birth-childhood-studies-work-retirement-death pattern is not a norm in the history of humanity. However, I don’t see people challenging it. I don’t see people trying to improve it or rethink what would be a better way to celebrate human existence and to enjoy the limited time we can spend on this planet.
It’s almost as if after you’ve spent your whole life making money for others, that you’re allowed to enjoy the fruits of your labor and truly focus on your own interests and passions. How can it be, that the society expects this from you, and if you want to break the pattern and actually pursue your dreams younger, you will be frowned upon, thought as an eccentric or in worst case purely crazy.
As for me, I want to break the pattern. I need to do it. I don’t know how, but figuring out ways to escape the 9-to-5 is on the back of my head constantly. It is one of the main motivators for me to go and study entrepreneurship in Helsinki School of Economics this fall. And by escaping the 9-to-5 I don’t mean creating a life that would allow me to lie on the beach drinking margaritas until I grow old. That would become boring quickly. No, I mean getting control of my own life and doing the things I enjoy doing. If I could work on something related to e.g. photography and image manipulation – or snowboarding or motorcycles – I don’t think I would even want to “retire,” because that is something I already enjoy doing for free. The whole concept of retirement loses its value if you can figure out how to live your dream.
When retirement is not seen as freedom waiting at the end of a long narrow tunnel, you can start to think of ways to have the experiences you desire earlier in your life. Tim Ferriss talks about the concept of mini-retirement, which basically means taking an extended time such as few months or a year off-work to do whatever it is you want to do; travel the world, build a house, drive a motorcycle from Europe to Asia etc. Now, wouldn’t it also be more enjoyable to have these experiences while you’re still physically in good shape, instead of when you are over 65 and even playing checkers can make your heart pound in excitement.
So, what are your plans for life? Have you ever even thought that you don’t have to live the life of birth-childhood-studies-work-retirement-death? It is just a pattern that has been very strongly imprinted on you by parents, teachers and society, but in no way can it be proclaimed as the “right” way to live a life.