Deciding When to Retire

Have you ever been out for a late autumn walk in the closing part of the afternoon, and suddenly looked up to realize that the leaves have practically all gone? And the sun has set and the day gone before you knew it—and with that a cold wind blows across the landscape? That's retirement.

—Stephen Leacock

Leacock's bleak perspective on retirement has been shared by other luminaries in the arts and music worlds. Ernest Hemingway observed, “Retirement is the ugliest word in the language.” The American comedian George Burns quipped, “Retirement at 65 is ridiculous. When I was 65, I still had pimples.” And French writer and philosopher Simone de Beauvoir declared, “Retirement may be looked upon either as a prolonged holiday or as a rejection, a being thrown on to the scrap-heap.”

Artists, scientists, and musicians don't care much for that prolonged holiday, and many reject the idea of retirement entirely. Picasso was still painting when he was 90, Einstein pursued the Grand Unified Theory right up to his death at 76, and Pablo Casals practised his cello three hours a day at 93. Now 76, movie director Woody Allen shows no signs of slowing down. And Mick Jagger can't get any satisfaction from contemplating retirement. Show business is filled with senior citizens who refuse to stop working. Visit Las Vegas and you'll find no shortage of septuagenarians who are still milking their hits from the 1960s. This theme extends to the business sphere as well. Billionaire ...

Get The Real Retirement: Why You Could Be Better Off Than You Think, and How to Make That Happen now with the O’Reilly learning platform.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from nearly 200 publishers.