Is Early Retirement Selfish? Unpatriotic?

A while back, I saw an article that labelled early retirement as "selfish and unpatriotic." I didn't pass it along at the time, as I felt that people shouldn't be made to feel guilty about checking out of the workforce and living the traditional retirement. I want the Platinum Years Network to be about helping people pursue their passions, and ultimately that is a much better motivator than guilt.

But this article keeps popping up here and there, and often generates some pretty passionate responses, and tonight I came across another such article, so I thought I would open it up for discussion. The first and older article is called, "Early retirement is an act of selfishness," by Andrew Yarrow, vice president and director of the Washington, D.C., office of Public Agenda, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization. Yarrow urges the nation's 78 million baby boomers to forgo traditional or early retirement and work for a few more years, for their own sake and the good of the country.

"When I hear my fellow baby boomers gleefully talk about their elaborate plans to retire ASAP, head for the Tuscan hills or otherwise continue their lifelong quest for self-actualization, I have to bite my tongue."

"Dropping out of the workforce while still in one's prime means ending one's contributions to America's strength, mortgaging our children's and grandchildren's future and leeching trillions of taxpayer dollars from the economy."
Now I have to admit that I sometimes bite my tongue as well, especially when I hear someone paint a picture of an "all leisure" retirement, but rather than criticize, I try to draw out what, beyond golf or whatever, they are passionate about... and there's usually something. But certainly people who have worked hard all their lives certainly have the right to do anything they want, and they shouldn't have to feel guilty about it.

And that's probably why, even though Yarrow's main points ring true, his article generates an emotional response in many people. Guilt is such a poor motivator... Not that it doesn't work. It just generates a grudging response, as anyone with an Italian or Jewish mother will attest ... but I digress :-)

The second article, which pushed me to bring up this issue is from, called "Is Retiring Early Unpatriotic?" The author, Jay MacDonald, quotes Yarrow extensively and then examines some of the demographics and trends in play as boomers begin to exit the workforce. MacDonald also quotes Ben Stein, economist, actor, and author of, "Yes, You can Retire Comfortably":

"I don't ever expect to stop working," he [Stein] says. "I love my work. I don't believe there is a meaningful life without work. You're not a whole person without work."
In this context, I would define work in its broadest sense, encompassing volunteer work, part time, full time, you name it. I think one of the reasons people react so strongly to these types of articles is that they feel "guilted" into a continuation of negative work experiences.

So I want to use these articles as a jumping off point for a couple of things I've been working on. First, a review of the book "Don't Retire, Rewire!" that I promised you a while back, and second, with an article about some of the fun "side jobs" that my friends and family, and I have had over the years. The kind of jobs that get you jazzed to go to work.

Hopefully, we can prime the pump to get us back on track and thinking positively about work in retirement, so we can all "chill out" with the guilt articles. - Bob


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