Early Retirement is a Myth for Most

My dad was about my age when the company he’d worked for most of my life until that point decided to screw him over, effectively forcing him out. I wasn’t there when he got home, I was at my after-school job at Black’s Camera in Trafalgar Village. He had been, for all intents and purposes, sent into early retirement.

When I was a teenager, “Freedom 55” was a sales tactic with London Life, which became an enduring part of Canadian advertising culture. When I was young, it seemed possible, attainable, “why not?”. I was also young and stupid (I didn’t even qualify for “naive”) and had no idea of what was to come.

Oh, if only I could talk to myself at that age… Ah, I probably still wouldn’t listen.

My dad didn’t entirely retire, of course. He started a small company selling “green” things (like a specially-treated peat moss that could clean up oil spills), a bit ahead of his time, but the stuff at least worked. Eventually he slipped into not needing to work, and doing only things he wanted to do because they were fun.

I know I’m in my 50s (52 this year in July). It’s a rare moment when I stop and realize that “holy crap, I got old” and that maybe I should pay a bit more attention to things. I won’t be retiring in 3 years – that’s impossible, short of a lottery win – but there are things I probably should start planning for better than I am.

Alex and I have talked a bit about what we might do after the kids move out. Monkey’s 16 and entering her final year of public school in September, post-secondary life has been part of discussions for a couple of years. Choo Choo’s 14, so she’s still at home for another four years. I’ll be 56 when I start to become an empty nester. And then, what?

I plan to live forever, of course. That’s about the only reasonable way for me to consider my longevity, as while the females in my family can truck almost a century, most of the males in my family have had comparatively short lifespans. My Uncle David has bucked the trend significantly, doing quite well at about 80; my father died at 63, his father died when my father was a mere 18. How long I’ll live has some pretty wild variance.

I think the question is not “when” I’ll retire, it’s more “if”. With luck, I’ll hit the legal age and I’ll be able to collect from various funds, but none of that will support me long-term. I’ll definitely need to keep working for as long as I can, or find other “professions” to supplement my income to keep me going.

I just hope I can teach my kids a bit better, so they’ll be better prepared for this age, and not have to worry about how to survive the second half of their lives.

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