The Retirement Conundrum

I sat down across from Camp who was already halfway through his pint. Not that I was late but he was unusually early. Nine out of ten times I was the early one, since I did not have a job or a schedule to follow and had time at my disposal, something I’m trying to take advantage of. We’ve been meeting at ‘Gramma’s Pub’ on the Gibsons Harbour most Thursdays but especially ever since I’ve been officially retired. Camp of course doesn’t just frequent the pub on Thursdays. It’s part of his daily routine since ‘Coast Books’ – a non-profit business as he calls it – is only a few steps from the pub. “The advantages of owning a book store are threefold,” he told me once. “First off: stellar working hours, from ten til four; secondly: literate and usually intelligent customers and thirdly: books don’t go bad. If I only could add: and it makes money.”

I felt today was as good as any to broach a subject close to the top of my mind. “Camp, you’re a man in his prime with a business and political career, single again and healthy. Now, I know that you always sneer at retirement like it was some sort of disease people succumb to,” I said. “That’s ok if you have a passion for your work or a proper ascending career but people who toil for wages and rent out their bodies and minds for somebody else’s scheme or project, have a different view. I’m one of those who couldn’t wait to stop working for the man, even if the man happened to be the film industry.”

“I’m happy to lend you my ear,” Campbell or Camp as even Vicky, the waitress addressed him, said. “But first off: What is the definition of retirement?”

I figured this was a rhetorical question and we both paused while Vicky set two cool pints in front of us.

“To be able to do what you like, and have enough money to do it, is my take on the whole issue. Not to have to worry about money and spend your days doing the things you love, that is surely the prescription for a happy, fulfilled existence,” Camp said, “except it is never as you planned and different from what you expect but retirement is not for everybody.”

I couldn’t agree more and I knew where Camp was going with this. “I get it, people like you and for that matter, Clare, love their jobs and see no reason to quit because your work is also your passion or even calling. For the rest of us minions who are working for the weekend, as one old pop song pointed out, and the never-ending stream of bills to pay, have a different view. I couldn’t wait to say no to the next job, until every day was the weekend.”

Camp took a healthy draught and then said: “Retirement is a trap for many people who first off can’t afford to quit working and secondly, have no idea what to do with their long days ahead. Just being put out to pasture like an old nag who has no practical use anymore is not a future one looks forward too. Retirement is only desirable for those who can afford it. Lucky for me, I can’t neither afford it nor do I desire it.”

Camp had a point. To be old and poor is not an enviable option and to be of no use to society except as a statistic is definitely not cool. I feel very fortunate to be part of a generation, the boomers, which is the richest generation ever and which enables many of us to look forward to a designer lifestyle at an age where we’re still active, healthy and engaged.

“Here is what a retirement counsellor pointed out to Clare and me at a seminar we attended last year: There are three stages, of retirement, each stage roughly ten years in duration, which correlate directly to how you should invest and use your money.”

“If you have any,” Camp said dryly.

“Well, yes. Anyway. First come the go-go years. That’s when you travel, help out your grand kids, visit friends and family, finally purchase that season ticket for the ski hill or your favourite sports team. In other words: it’s when you spend. Then come the slow-go years, 75-85, when you stay home a lot more, read those books on your bed side table, a page at a time before you nod off, walk and talk slower and drink and eat less. Then you enter the exalted stage of the no-go years. No need to elaborate here.”

“Go-go, slow-go, no-go. I like that,” Camp said.” I’ll drink to that.”




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