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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Why Keep Working?

The Great Recession knocked down the stock portion of my retirement accounts by almost 50% and led to the firing of the three tenured French teachers. In a panic, I discovered the Firecalc site (Financial Independence/Retire Early??) and learned from their easy to use calculator that even with my much-diminished accounts and even if both Mr FS and I  were let go because our program was eliminated, we WOULD NOT END UP DEAD in the STREETS. We would have a very, very, very  humble retirement, to be sure, but we would NOT DIE in some Dickensian institution for the impoverished.

That comforted me. Fast forward, and--though no raises in all that time--we are still working and our equity portions have, as they say, recovered. Also we now have a combined age of 124, rather than a combined age of 110. Our life expectancy has--perforce--gone down. So a fairly humble retirement probably looms, but not as humble as it looked in 2008-09.

The people who post on Firecalc are either eager to retire ASAP or ecstatic to have done so. Many seem to be or have been highly paid folks in IT, engineering, and so on. Some even had a stock option windfall. WORK is a dirty word on the site and is humorously typed as w*rk.

Then, while goofing around recently, I read some blogs that I don't usually visit. A common theme was  the lack of structure and meaning in retirement. And that is precisely why I keep working: not just because of the structure and meaning (teaching is meaningful work however you slice it), but because of the goofing around.

I should mention that because of serious budget issues (Great Recession again), there are no classes on Friday--to save on energy. Hence our schedule. We teach two VERY LONG DAYS a week, and can then do the rest of our work at home. And, since we don't teach in the summer (we are FRUGAL), we have a lot of flexibility there too. I think if we were working 50 weeks a year, 5 days a week, I would be longing to retire.

Another thing: teaching is like a mortgage. When I began, I was always in a panic. I would read twenty articles to figure out how to teach a little sonnet. Now I know how to teach many, many things. And teaching new things is not an occasion for so much anxiety. The time I spent in preparation a long time ago has "paid off" after all these years.

So why keep working? If I retired, I would have to find meaningful pastimes. Every day. I would goof around too much. I would feel guilty.

As it is, the meaning and purpose are taken care of by my job. In between tasks, I can goof around without (too much) guilt. I can even write a blog post. 


Anonymous said...

I often feel there are not too many of us who find meaning in work. I enjoy my job and take pride in it, and I would be hard-pressed to find just-as-meaningful activities without employment. Sure, it is great to relax and have a flexible schedule (or lack thereof) but I wouldn't want it 24/7! (and I am saying this as a 50-something who will be working 14 more years full-time before retirement)

Janice Riggs said... is exactly right - there are a lot of people who work only to make money, and who don't derive any sense of satisfaction from it. In 35 years of work, I only had ONE job that afforded me any feeling of pride, until I started The Vivienne Files! Maybe the answer is to find ways to help people find the employment that would be most meaningful for them.


Frugal Scholar said...

@Exacting and Janice--We're the lucky ones as it turns out.

Shelley said...

It sounds as though you are happy enough at work to continue there, for whatever reasons. I don't regret leaving my job - it was increasingly toxic for me - but you are right that one has to search for meaning in retirement and this can be hard for people at first.