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Until Retirement

My uncle passed away a few weeks ago- he was almost 80. He was a man who worked almost everyday, fished often enough and grinned a lot. At his country funeral service there were no musical instruments; no piano, no guitar, no pre-record music, but there was lots of singing. The music leader, a solemn farmer with perfect pitch and a rhythmic hand, led family and friends in a few of my uncle’s favorite hymns. The final refrain was, “We’ll work ’till Jesus Comes”.

“At age 28, I am fully prepared to work until my dying day,” says Tim Eavenson a Chicago labor attorney with too many student loans and too small an income. “I’m not bitter,” Eavenson says. “Honestly, the concept of retirement seems a little selfish to me. I mean, expecting to retire is a luxury just a few generations old–it’s not exactly the entitlement people like to call it.”

Entitlement seldom lives up to its grand expectations. You may know some people who retired early thinking they had won what they always wanted and realizing they had lost what they always needed. A 2005 study that followed 3,500 well- pensioned Shell Oil employees found that those who retired at 55 were twice as likely to die during the next ten years as people the same age who continued to work.

Although there is no absolute predictor of longevity, a 15 year study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services concluded that the strongest predictor of longevity was work satisfaction. The second predictor was overall happiness. “These two socio-physiological measures predicted longevity better than a person’s physical functioning, use of tobacco or genetic inheritance. Controlling all these other variables statistically did not alter the dominant role of work satisfaction.”

If your 401K is now a 4.01K you know all too well how the Wall Street tumble has extended or erased many personal retirement dates. If you really enjoy your career, this new work reality, although initially disappointing, may actually give you a longer and happier life. If you don’t have much work satisfaction, this reality could be really depressing or then again you might see it as a clear trumpet call to take account and design a meaningful career. Finding a good career fit may be more important than ever before, since it looks like we may all be working until Jesus comes.

Working Journal Entry: List what you consider to be your gifts, values and passions. From this list choose the top 3 or 4 qualities which make you feel most alive. Do you need to redesign your career to improve your future chances for a more cheerful and healthful leadership and life?

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