Second thoughts on early retirement

How NOT to enjoy early retirement.

How NOT to enjoy retirement.

I’m having second thoughts on early retirement.

Not that kind of second thoughts.

I hear the buzz. They — the ubiquitous “they” — say we should work longer because we live longer these days.

Define “living.”

I’ve seen the ravages of age, even felt a few twinges here and there. Face it, most folks living into their 80s or 90s aren’t out there doing cartwheels and tripping the light fantastic. Tripping over the light fantastic, maybe.

I’m in pretty good shape for my age. Not as good as I could be but far better than most 61-year-olds. And I plan to stay that way. 

But you never know what will happen in five years, let alone one. That cramping I sometimes feel in my hands while paddling down the river could turn into full-blown arthritis. And who knows what’s going on with the organs I’ve abused most of my adult and part of my adolescent life? (Get your mind out of the gutter; I’m not talking about that organ.) For all I know, my liver could look like a chanterelle mushroom.

When I work Sundays, one of my duties at the paper is editing obit copy. I see way too many people dying in their 60s or early 70s. That scares me.

The prospect of dying doesn’t frighten me. Many years ago, I resigned myself to the fact that I’m not going to live forever. Working at a newspaper, the things I see on a daily basis reassure me of that.

I want to do the things I enjoy doing while I’m able to do them.

I’m entitled to that. I have worked and paid into Social Security since I was 14 years old.

“Entitled.” There’s a loaded word. “Entitlement,” a political buzzword, a dirty word, a word we’ve been conditioned to dislike. By who? The ubiquitous “they,” the folks saying we should postpone retirement until we’re 70.

After all, we’re living longer these days. And they are entitled to squeeze another five to eight years out of us before they cast us aside.

The more I think about early retirement, the more I like the idea. If I’m having second thoughts it’s whether to canoe to New Orleans or hike the Appalachian Trail.