You are never going to retire.
I just had it smacked in my face over the weekend, seeing what my projected 401k value would be. And that value is assuming I stay in the same job for another 20-odd years. Assuming wages don't crash. Assuming I don't get laid off. Assuming, assuming, assuming…
I think any of us who have been adults over the first decade of the 21st really do not put a lot of faith in assumptions like that anymore. We've seen too many people who did make that assumption end up having to work while they drew retirement.1
I'm actually okay with that. Sitting and reflecting is not my speed, really. When I do have time off, there's lots of other things I want to do. I guess those are the things I'm supposed to put off until I retire. Which is why people want to retire - to get to the stuff you actually wanted to do.
Well, screw that. If I'm going to have to keep working, then I'm going to continue working doing things I want to do. If you're in a craptastic job that you can barely stand, why would you spend your whole life doing it?
This is going to be complicated, of course. I have debts and obligations. I'm not sure how I'm going to balance that with doing other kinds of work that (probably) pay less, but are more fulfilling. If I were 19, I could keep my life simple, but I got sucked into the white-picket-fences of Obligationville (on the suburbs of Debtopolis).
I've been reading Cory Doctorow's Makers, and listening to the audiobook version of Metatropolis. There's a lot of interesting ideas of how we'll get out of the economic messes we've built for ourselves. They're inspiring, just by presenting the possibility of there being another way of doing things.
Maybe the white picket fences will go away, becoming something that was a 20thcen relic.
But it's a matter of priorities, isn't it?
1 I really hope disability will be enough for when people are completely unable to work; medical advances have kept most of my grandparents alive, for which I'm thankful, but they're largely incapable of independent work at this point. But that's not the same thing as "retirement".