Another extreme approach, in addition to those we saw yesterday, is to see work as something to avoid at all costs.  It’s not a new sentiment – many have seen work as a necessary evil in history.  The Greek Philosopher Aristotle saw the ability to live without having to work as a primary qualification for a worthwhile life.

Some try to work themselves as hard as possible to get to retirement, financial independence, partner, or some other goal as quickly as possible.  Unfortunately, life is seldom forgiving of such imbalance.  I once met a recently retired school bus driver.  He’d worked hard at a number of difficult jobs in his life, and had just retired to live the good life.  Unfortunately he discovered at the same time that his health was failing, and he was going blind and deaf in the process.

He’d worked himself so hard, thinking the promised land was coming, ignoring his children and grandchildren by his own admission.  All that time, he didn’t notice he was supposed to live life and rest along the way, not just at the end.  No one ever promised or owed him a certain kind of retirement – yet he’d gambled his health and youth on just such a fantasy.

Work isn’t fulfilling, without work in balance.  Rest isn’t fulfilling, except in balance with work.

That isn’t to say there won’t be seasons of busy, hard work when rest is hard to find.  Starting a busyiness, residency, apprenticeship, times you need extra cash, all need hard work.  But we need to balance those times with seasons of rest, as well.  Don’t expect it will always come later.

For example, at one time a goal for early, luxurious retirement was a million in assets – but inflation means that a million isn’t worth what it used to be.  Look at Toronto real estate.  If that had been your goal, it quickly inflated out of reach.

Another example is retirement age – many people thought they just had to make it to age 65.  Now suddenly the normal retirement age is two years later, at age 67.  By the time I retire, who knows where it will be!  If that age was my goal, it only took an act of parliament to snatch it away.  Such numerical goals keep changing, and can’t be our true purpose in life.

Question: When will you know it’s time to retire?  How much will you need to save, what will you need to accomplish?  Will you ever retire?  

Acknowledgements: Tim Keller, Every Good Endeavour and Work & Rest

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