Opinion

Looking at early retirement | Linda Hoye

Last month I wrote about my return to the local library and, after reading the column, one of my readers was prompted to share with me the story of Mr. E.

Mr. E started working as a salesman after returning from World War II when he was 21 years of age. He supported a large (10 children) family over the course of his sales career and retired at age 60.

After retiring, Mr. E decided to go to school to fulfill a dream he had of becoming a librarian; his mother had been a librarian and had instilled a love of books and libraries within him from an early age. Mr. E worked as a librarian, at a job he loved, into his 80s. Today, he is 84 years old and in excellent health.

The other day I read an actuarial report that said that for every year we work past age 55, we lose an average of two years from our life expectancy, in part due to the health problems resulting from putting too much stress on our aging body and mind.

The conclusion and recommendation of the report is that whenever possible, we plan our careers and finances such that we can retire at age 55, thereby increasing the changes that we will live a long and productive life well into our 80s.

The retirement lifestyle of the individuals in the study who retired early and lived longest was one of doing part-time work at something that they loved, with minimal stress, and at a more leisurely pace. Something like Mr. E chose to do in his retirement years at the library.

A number of years ago I heard someone reflect upon what a tragedy it would be to spend one’s entire life climbing the (corporate) ladder only to get to the top and find out that it had been leaning against the wrong building.

As I get closer to age 55, I find myself thinking about retirement and my plan to hop off of the ladder I’m on as soon as possible after that milestone birthday. My retirement plan is not for me to sit in a rocking chair on my porch with my knitting and a cup of sweet tea (although I hope there will be some time for that, too). My goal is to jump onto the rungs of one of the ladders I contemplated climbing earlier in my life, but for one reason or another chose not to.

This ladder I am on today is a good one that has supported me for many years; the building it leans against is equally first-rate. But I have found recently that I am able to see the shape of another ladder ion the horizon. It’s polished and shiny and the reflection of the sun off of the rungs catches my attention often. The building it leans against is familiar in many ways to me and is filled with books I love.

The story about Mr. E’s second career inspires me to keep my eyes on that second ladder, and to believe that when the time is right I will be able to step onto the bottom rung and, with minimal stress and at a leisurely pace, begin to climb the ladder of my next career.

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