A-List Blog: The retirement myth
Recently I spoke to a friend of mine who’s retired – something I can’t imagine ever doing.
It sounds nice in theory, especially if you have – as my friend does – an alternate vocation to turn to. Wendy has always been involved in theatre on the side, and now she’s free to pursue that passion all around the state without that pesky school principal job getting in the way anymore.
Sometimes, though, retirement isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Take the case of Arthur Winston, who retired from the transit authority in L.A. on March 23 and died April 13 after 21 days of retirement. Mr. Winston, as they called him, is something of an exception, since he believed in “keeping busy” and worked at the MTA for 72 years – retiring the day after he turned 100.
I imagine my experience will parallel that of Mr. Winston. I don’t know if I’ll make it to 100, but like so many Americans with little in the way of savings or pension plans, I guess I’ll be writing until my fingers no longer move. Sure, I’d retire tomorrow if I could and wile away my days writing plays and novels, but the checkbook says no.
With a busy household full of kids, it’s hard to imagine what “retirement” would look like. Not having to race off in the morning, dropping kids at school, getting to work, fitting stuff in between and all that, what’d it be like if all I had to worry about was getting myself dressed in the morning? Then sitting around listening to the clock tick.
It’s such an alien concept, so hard to imagine. My own parents seem to enjoy it, though. With the benefit of wise savings, a NYC fire dept. pension and Social Security, my folks hang out in the Nevada desert with their seven dogs and mostly take it easy. But they also get out. How I love it when I call them and find out later they weren’t home because they were off seeing Kenny Rogers in Primm or at a slot tournament in Laughlin.
I kind of wish Mr. Winston had taken it easy more in his later years. Would it have killed him to call it quits at 90? Maybe so. Robbed of his raison d’etre cleaning buses for the man, would he have succumbed to congestive heart failure in his sleep a decade sooner?
Perhaps that kind of work ethic no longer exists. Me, I’d be happy to retire at 50 and spend the rest of my days traveling the world with my wife, writing stuff on my laptop and taking tours of dusty museums and cathedrals.
Well, at least I’ve got some 401(k) action going. Maybe by the time I’m 80, we can afford a second-hand trailer home in Arizona. I can eke out my last years riding an oversized tricycle around the park in winter and cowering in the A/C all summer long watching the Sundance Channel or something.