“This spending of the best part of one’s life earning money in order to enjoy a questionable liberty during the least valuable part of it reminds me of the Englishman who went to India to make a fortune first, in order that he might return to England and live the life of a poet.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

This quote from Thoreau’s Walden captures a primary theme of my blog, The Financial Philosopher: To lead one’s life on the basis of abstract concepts, such as retirement, freedom, and success is, at best, to lead an inauthentic life and, at worst, one of slavery.

Here are a handful of observations I’ve made in the past on this topic:

I have noticed a recent increase in news articles, in the alarmist fashion as usual, proclaiming that a growing number of Americans will not be able to retire. While the articles often cite statistics that may be informative and truthful, they also perpetuate the unhealthy and untruthful social convention that freedom can only be procured through financial means. And if this financial freedom is not obtained, it means a life of imprisonment—one where you must “work until you die!”

This is because, in America, retirement generally refers to the latter years of life where the retiree has escaped the hellish workforce and has survived decades of sacrifice to graze in the proverbial pastures of relaxation and travel, and to complete whatever bucket list items have yet to be crossed off the list. But retirement is simply a social norm or convention; it is a financial concept disguised as a personal quest and achievement.

Retirement can be anything you decide it to be; but it must be defined by you; the abstract concept must be made into the concrete; otherwise you have inadvertently formed a life philosophy that is based upon a false premise; you have defined your life to reflect the definition of a word, idea, concept, or convention.

“Man acts as though he were the shaper and master of language, while in fact language remains the master of man.” ~ Martin Heidegger

With the prospects of a financially secured retirement extending beyond the grasp of more and more people, it may be time for a more realistic and healthier definition of retirement. Rather than receiving the work-until-you-die news as a prison sentence, a healthier message is one of a change in perspective: Working until you die can be a gift of a lifetime if your work is meaningful.

Saving money for decades may not be your best path to freedom. If your definition of retirement is simply to do what you love, and accomplishing this goal by financial means is not likely for you, or money can only accomplish a portion of your retirement goals, there is only one solution to this challenge (and fortunately it may be the best choice of all): Start looking now for ways to make money with work that you enjoy. It may not pay as well as the job you hate but it can cover the financial shortfall of your conventional nest egg.

So when you hear the news that you must work until you die, you can become relieved and overjoyed that you are free from the slavery of saving money to procure an illusory freedom. Furthermore, it is doing nothing that hastens death. Many who have already retired find themselves bored and detached from life if they are not doing something that is meaningful.

You still have time to do what you love, to discover the joy and freedom of working until you die. But to do this you must free yourself from the bounds of social conventions.

Kent Thune is the blog author of The Financial Philosopher. You can follow Kent on Twitter @ThinkersQuill.

Category: Philosophy

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

48 Responses to “The Joy and Freedom of Working Until Death”

  1. Joe says:

    I recently retired after 40 years of mostly physical labor. I made some serious dollars and a few stuck to my fingers. I also used up my body by pushing like I was in my 20′s for 30 years past my 20′s. Would I work another 40 years? Hell Yes!!!! Just make me 20 years old again. Failing that…. the party doing these kinda deals has a bad rap… I’ll find something else to do. Something that won’t take a job someone else needs to put bread on his family’s table and no, I won’t start a business that ruins someone else’s because mine doesn’t need to make money.

    So if I choose to work until I die it’s cool. It won’t look like work to a lot of people. But I don’t see it. If I had to, that would be another issue. Would I make the best of it? Damn right. Would I plan my life so that would be the outcome or be satisfied if that was where I ended up? I don’t see that either. I see working until you die is a rich man’s conceit/privilige/choice or a poor/unlucky man’s predestined doom. There is some room in the middle, but I don’t see a lot of it.

    Just my view. Ya play the hand yer dealt. Being foresightful sucessful and well adjusted or just an optimistic realist in a non optimal situation is a good way to live. But rationalization is neither necessarily the key to happiness nor always a virtue. And working for a charitable non profit or as a lecturer for a living wage is great if you can get the work…. but there are more “opportunities” for geezers having to work for the rest of their lives, or at least until they are unable to perform, flipping for Mickey’s and chasing carts at Walmart. And that is a tragedy regardless.

  2. Kent Thune says:


    Thank you for your insightful and outstanding perspective. I was especially drawn to this point:

    “I see working until you die is a rich man’s conceit/privilige/choice or a poor/unlucky man’s predestined doom. There is some room in the middle, but I don’t see a lot of it.”

    I can see your point that a “privileged” person may be able to continue working in a career with low physical demand, whereas your “unlucky man” has only skills that can be applied in his younger years.

    But that “room in the middle” is the space to which I am speaking here. I believe the vast majority of human beings, primarily in the Western hemisphere, are sold the idea that freedom can only be bought. If there is not sufficient financial capacity to achieve this, the person is condemned to slavery in some form of choiceless labor. This is too deterministic to be true.

    People have choices but they are not aware of them. It may not be easy but it is possible to learn a new trade while working another. Learn something that can be done in the 60′s, 70′s and 80′s or beyond; learn something that society can use; and learn something that is rewarding beyond financial means. But begin this learning in the 40′s or 50′s or 60′s. It is likely more achievable for most than saving millions of dollars to replace income for 20 or 30 years.

    Thanks again for sharing your views. I’d love to hear more if you have the time…


    • Joe says:

      I’d very much like to continue. For personal reasons and time constraints, it can’t happen for a coupla days. I’ll make every effort to get back to here when I can free up some time.

      I would love to live in the world you posit. But I find it likely to be a much smaller world than you expect and way too related to the world you would reject. I have done what you propose, and I reject it. There are technological, medical, demographic and personal reasons for that, but the discussion of those matters is way too time consuming without social lubrication and too ponderous in print.

      I find the following comments worthwhile and touching on items and issues that I would like to

      Stay tooned and we’ll see if it happens.

      Check out the COFGBLOG and my website.

      • Joe says:

        I got a few minutes…

        Lets take a look at some actuarial tables. The one I’m looking at http://www.ssa.gov/OACT/STATS/table4c6.html
        says that you’ll lose around 20% of your seniors between 65 and 75. That is a very steep mortality rate for employees, around 20%, which is ’bout 2 and a half times greater than between 50 and 60, which is around 8%. In that rate increase is undoubtedly a differential in medical and health conditions, i.e. neural degeneration, early onset Alzheimer’s, cancers, heart issues, orthopedic issues of the elderly, general frailty etc, vs the kind of mortality that takes you unexpectedly in the prime of life. Think about the physical and mental deterioration that is very much a part of aging.

        What kind of employer make a rational choice of drawing from such a population (two and a half times greater mortality and age related degeneration leading to reduced employment skills) if there is the choice of hiring a younger person without these issues. And assuming you get a useful geezer, does it it cost a younger individual and his family his opportunity and create a burden for society?

        If you can get two cashiers and one can’t put a box up on a shelf or has been getting a little vague lately, which ya gonna take unless you are a charitable organization or government subsidized with a specific goal of employing the elderly. Let’s ignore the customer service issues and the emphasis on excellence which business is all about nowadays.

        Now, the whole thing changes if the elderly are employed at something where there aren’t employers or where the actual work is primarily highly skilled and cognitive in nature. Say like a self owned business enterprise or a consulting or law practice or some other well compensated job. Exactly the kind of business we should NOT be talking about. ‘Cuz it sounds like to me like a rich man’s conceit/privilege,choice.

        Stay Tooned.

      • Kent Thune says:

        Good points, Joe. I readily admit that my post can be interpreted as idealistic. However, another philosophical perspective that may be more accurate is anti-deterministic. Too many people follow the conventional birth-school-work-death path and don’t realize it until it is too late to change the path.

        In my work as a financial planner and money manager, I see firsthand how most people have not defined retirement for themselves. For example, if I speak to a room of 50 people and ask them, “What is your definition of retirement?” at least 80% of them will respond with a definition that has come from a convention of some kind. The common answer usually has the age 65 in it. Why is that? Of course the answer is that the government (Social Security) and employers (pension plans) told them!

        Returning, at least partially, to your implied point that it is unrealistic to “do what you love” until death, I fully realize that there are exceptions to this idea. In fact, I have advised clients and written on the idea that retirement is best planned in three stages: Stage 1 is more like semi-retirement, where the individual is in the “do what you love” phase and probably earning much less than they did in their peak earning years; Stage 2, where the individual is working much less (or volunteering a few days per week) and no longer relying on earned income of any kind; and Stage 3, which is when the individual needs assistance to carry out some portion of daily living. My idea (and hope) is that Stages 1 and 2 are the longest.

        This does take planning and action to achieve, which is why I urge my readers, clients, friends, and family to constantly take steps toward the next phase of their lives. For example, a 50-year old still has plenty of time to begin learning skills required for the “do what you love” stage in retirement.

        On a related note, the “meaningful job” that I discuss does not need to be one that seems only accessible by dreaming and fantasy. What provides meaning is relationships. Therefore, even if the work is not glamorous, working in an environment of mutual respect, where you enjoy the company of others and they enjoy yours, is much more rewarding than allowing yourself to be put out to pasture.

        Perhaps the bottom line, if there is one, is that procuring the conventional “financial freedom” is becoming less and less obtainable for more and more people. But this does not need to be received as a doom and gloom scenario. Working for a longer portion of life can be enjoyable.

      • rd says:

        I have been particularly concerned about the well-above inflation rate increases of employer-based health care and college tuition over the past 20 years. These costs occur during the peak earnings period of households and suck a lot of income that could otherwise be used for retirement savings. Instead, they are diverted to a small class inside society, many of whom are doing very well. For college costs, what the boomers haven’t paid the kids have taken on as debt which is a big reason they are not buying houses. Our family has been putting four kids through college over the past decade. We made the choice to focus on that and retirement savings. As a result, we didn’t participate heavily in the consumer activities that George Bush and others so wanted us to. As a result, we have decent retirement savings but a shortage of flat-screen TVs in the house.

        Similarly, the marketing sector kicked into high gear a decade or so back to sell people on the idea that your home is an investment. One of the advantages of living in a Rust Belt community was that nobody in our area bought into this hype and so we totally skipped the housing boom and bust. Our houses are very reasonably prices and don’t make up a huge percentage of our cash flow or our net worth. However, much of the country got hammered by this myth right at the critical point in boomer’s wealth-creating years.

        Gravity has finally started slowing college costs and healthcare costs, just as it slowed housing costs a few years ago. However, that is too late to help most of the baby boomers.

    • rd says:

      I have been seeing a lot of tripe recently from the ultra-rich who claim that they are rich because they work harder than other people.

      I think Joe would disagree with that.

      I think the ultra-rich are rich because they happen to be effective in a discipline that society has decreed will have signficant monetary value. Sometimes it will also have moral or ethical value. Luck also plays a major role because they were born at a time when the particular skill set that they possess has a high monetary value. They might not even have physically survived in a previous era, nevermind become rich..

      • Kent Thune says:

        I completely agree, rd. I often say that people prefer illusion. Therefore those who are the best illusionists tend to be the most successful. However, this is another illusion. To me “success” is not defined in monetary, material and social terms. Yes, I do need money to pay bills but the utility of wealth diminishes once “enough” has been reached.

        It is probably because of my lack of love for money that I myself am not “rich” in material terms. I don’t like chasing money and I don’t like casting illusions. For this reason, most people who live in what I call reality are usually not “rich” in conventional terms. However, there are a few financial rich people who do not care for money; they were true to their authentic self and the money followed.

  3. mdanda says:

    i greatly enjoy Thoreau’s perspective…until I remember that he never had children. Once you throw them in the equation, all this talk about following your passions and forgetting about money goes out the window. I won’t take career risks because, if I fail, my kids may lose the stability so critical to their development, or–if I’m lucky enough to succeed–they may never know me because I’d be hyper-focused on following my passions (and not on them).

    So, sorry, I have to stick with the boring, stable, soul-numbing job because I chose to reproduce and I chose to play an active part in their lives. Maybe later, after the kids have left the nest.

    • Kent Thune says:

      I can relate, mdanda. I started my own business 8 years ago for the exact reason you state: Like you, I wanted to spend more time with my children. When my then 4-year old was asking why I had to travel so much, I said, “Daddy has to earn money to pay for our things.” He quickly replied with “I’d rather have my Daddy than money.”

      Although I know I am fortunate to have a career that can be done mostly out of my home, I willingly took the financial risk to give it a try. I still have debt from financing my business and, adjusted for inflation and my health insurance expenses, I still earn less than I did 8 years ago. But I have no regrets because I received the wealth of time with my children.

      You definitely have the right priorities. Your job is “what you do” but it is not “who you are.” At some point later in life, those two aspects of existence may align.

  4. jbay says:

    Theory and reality may overlap from time to time but statistically speaking the two meet less often then two neighbors should. How many youth have the good wisdom to reject social convention and simultaneously question there own conventions, norms and heuristics? I’d wager to guess the number could dance on the head of a pin.

    For the rest of us our decisions throughout life dictate future decisions and actions. Deciding to major in art history instead of engineering. Deciding to get married. Deciding that you want to be an investment banker or you don’t. What human knows what these decisions will bare before entering into them and once these decisions are made they tend to dictate future options. Sure I could give up my job and go pan handle across the world doing odd jobs to get from here or there but I’m pretty sure my wife wouldn’t be much pleased with my decision to be a ascetic and devote the remainder of my years to listening to the birds sing. No as much as an ascetic life appeals to me that is no longer an option. I am a slave to the choices I make and until I decide to stop eating food I’m a slave to the food and the life to which I cling. Absent that the worms are slaves to there lot and we are slaves to ours, I see no idealistic fantasy in which my souls purpose is to watch the grass grow. Something I might add, I’ve been meaning to do!

  5. This is really great. Was glad to see it posted here. I can’t imagine running out of things I like to work on (back of the envelope calculation leaves me needing at least a millennium…ha, fat chance of that), but you’re right that it’s really about being able to choose which things to work on.

    Also, it’s great to keep in mind that many productive and/or creative endeavors require some sort of legitimization; so there will always be things you have to “work at” in order to “work on” the things you love.

    • Kent Thune says:

      Old Book Advocate: Thanks for the comment. You sound like me, at least in regard to having “things to work on” and my “back of the envelope calculation.”! The vast majority of my resources (time and money) go into living life now and to funding my business or writing ventures. This makes for a lack of financial resources available for the conventional retirement but it does add equity to the businesses.

      Like you, I do have be skilled at allocating time to “work at” things in order to “work on” the things I love later and longer…

  6. willid3 says:

    i am thinking that for the vast majority of people, working till they die isnt going to be pretty. with an average household income of 50,000 or so (be sure to note thats household incomes, not individual income, and it most households, both parents work). so they dont really make enough to retire in comfort, if at all. and most will jobs they work in, will not be meaningful. and the vast majority are in that 99% not the 1% or less, the really wont have an option to not work. and of the 99%, most will not have meaningful work. they just wont have that as an option. and in the US we are ‘sold’ that we must buy our ‘retirement freedom’ and we see a lot of ‘leaders’ pushing to either shutdown or ‘privatize’ social security. after all they have been so successful at shutting down the only other successful retirement plan that we had, which was pensions. so living on investments is the only remaining option. along with working till we die. at wally world or mickeydees

    • Kent Thune says:

      willid3: As I stated in a previous thread with “Joe,” much of the US population is lead through the deterministic “birth-school-work-death” existence and are told that the only escape is through financial means. Hopefully, now that more and more people will be forced to look at other means beyond financial to “retire”, they will awaken to themselves and realize that conventions and government institutions were wrong all along.

  7. A says:

    It all starts with goals: defining what you want, what will bring happiness, and what is needed to achieve this. Sadly, defining goals is a challenge to most of us.

    Life is a gift, but most people seem to lack the ability to unwrap it.

    • Kent Thune says:

      A: I love the idea of “unwrapping” the gift. That is the central purpose of this post — to help people unwrap the gift:

      “Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. And today? Today is a gift. That’s why we call it the present.” ~ Babatunde Olatunji

  8. MidlifeNocrisis says:

    I retired in 2011 at the age of 55 and while I cannot say that I hated my job, it’s just there are things in life more enjoyable than a job. I always enjoyed sports. In my younger days it was competitive softball for a time, archery competitions, motorcycle racing, and then NASCAR Sportsman and alcohol Modified short track racing (1984 to 1996). I was lucky to have a well-enough paying job that I could participate in these other hobbies while still a part of the “real” working world and still preparing (financially) for retirement.

    I took up golf after the car racing ended. I still enjoy competition (but not the 9am to 5pm variety) and thought that golf might be fun. I fell in love with it. So…. I have a passion, just a different passion. I’m not good enough to play on a professional tour but I can shoot below par on a good day on some of the local courses. There is league play, traveling tournaments, and enough competitive events around to keep the interest and competitive juices flowing. There are plenty of like-minded people to meet on a golf course, even if we’re geezers.

    I realize my ramblings here are just my own personal anecdote but the concept of having to work until I die would absolutely scare/depress the hell out of me. There are too many other things in life that can bring joy and excitement. Retirement “Defined by You”…. no truer words ever spoken.

    • Kent Thune says:

      MidLifeNoCrisis: You speak well to the idea of balance. There are many things to enjoy outside of the world of work to maintain one’s overall well-being. The only risk here is when people hate their work and they are constantly looking for “an escape”. They look to the end of the day, the end of the week, the vacation, and the retirement. Therefore their mind is always on the future. They never really live; they only hope to live.

  9. Greg says:

    You have got to be kidding me! Arbeit macht frei?

    • BennyProfane says:

      Yup, this is a first. Probably be hearing this more and more over the next few decades. Internet philosophers tying to sooth the pain of working until one drops at a job one hates, because so many will have to. And, trust me, all my life, I have read survey after survey telling me most people hate their jobs.

    • Kent Thune says:

      Greg and BennyProfane: This is not an expression of “Arbeit macht frei”, at least not in context of Nazi work camps. It is actually the opposite. This post speaks directly against the false idea that one must sacrifice the majority of their life to “earn” a few years of happiness in retirement.

      It is better to have less money and be happy than to have more money and be miserable. Do you recall the old “three-legged stool”? A retirement plan once consisted of 3 parts: 1) Social Security, 2) Pension, and 3) Savings. For most people, only one of those legs exists now and for some there are no legs at all.

      My idea of the “joy and and freedom of working until death” is simply one of replacing one of those “legs” with a career that is rewarding in some way other than financial. For example, if you were 50 years old and a financial planner told you that you could not retire until age 75, they would mean retirement by financial means. But what if you spent 10 years learning a new skill or if you spent time researching jobs that you could do between the age of 60 and 70? You could then spend the first phase of retirement actually enjoying what you do.

      I now defer to a person who actually lived in a concentration camp:

      “Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life; everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated, thus, everyone’s task is unique as his specific opportunity to implement it.” ~ Viktor Frankl

  10. Apinak says:

    What percentage of jobs do you imagine are both enjoyable and can be done by the very elderly, and what percentage of the elderly are physically able to work until they die? Next multiply the two and you will see that the odds of someone who is not now earning enough to retire being able to work at an enjoyable job until they die at an old age are very small.

  11. Tim says:

    We are continuing our professional careers which we mostly enjoy. Based on our genetic/ancestors history, we can probably expect to live into our late 80s early 90s in reasonably good health. We continue to save and have/will have modest savings, plus Social Security. When I return 70, we’ll “retire”, downgrade to a modest city apartment, take modest Winter vacations — there are many semi-hidden bargains in places like the Caribbean, and spend May thru October mostly at the 30 acre farm we bought just a little less than 2 hours north of the city, and enjoy nature. That will include an expanded raised-bed vegetable garden, a flock of chickens and a small goat herd, hikes, swimming, some social service volunteering, and whatever else comes along. You can have it all, but it depends on what you like, want, and can afford. It’s what makes you happy that counts. For me/us, that’s a toehold in the city for culture/arts, etc. a whole lot of nature, and some pleasant Winter adventure escapes. Netflix, good books and magazines, and, oh, the internet, and hopefully Barry’s continuing, but perhaps “Smaller Big Picture”.

    • Kent Thune says:

      Tim: You summarize well the (intended) main idea of this post and the potential implementation of the idea: Define retirement for yourself and don’t rely on conventional ideas for life.

  12. Biffah Bacon says:

    I see Joe’s point pretty clearly.
    The mode of today seems to be dooming the majority of Americans to Morlock status and the Eloi will continue to tell us how awful and foolish we were for not having been born to the right parents in the right places, attending the right schools and investing our nonexistent capital in their vaporous enterprises.
    It sure looks like dying in the saddle is the only option besides being discarded after being used up or replaced by software, robots, or human chattel working in sweatshops overseas, even if you went to school for years.
    Morlocks always eat, though, so there’s that.

    • Kent Thune says:

      Biffah Bacon: Like I said in several other threads here, the conventional means of retirement is not accessible by a large portion of modern society. But this need not be a deterministic fate, especially if one can awaken to the truth (hopefully sooner rather than later in life). The problem with defining one’s life and making plans based upon conventions is the “dying in the saddle” existence.

      “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

  13. wally says:

    “…has survived decades of sacrifice to graze in the proverbial pastures of relaxation and travel, and to complete whatever bucket list items have yet to be crossed off the list.”

    Hey, not me. I retired to stud.

  14. Bob is still unemployed   says:

    If you’re working and enjoy what you do so much that you do not consider it work then, by all means, work until you die. You are not working you have a hobby that pays the bills, enjoy it.

    If you are working at physical labor that has worn your body down until it is little more than a bloody nub on the floor, well you may have a different opinion about working until you die. Or maybe not, since work has probably for all intents and purposes already killed you.

    Each person should be able to plan for and experience the retirement they want to have, without worrying about societal norms. Some may want to work, others may want to use their nest egg to sit on a porch and whittle. It is their choice.

    If I may proffer a quote I like:

    You imagine what you desire;
    You will what you imagine;
    And at last you create what you will.
    – George Bernard Shaw

    Create the future (retirement) you want to live in.

  15. KB says:

    I’m not in the financial bracket to pontificate on the solution to the reality of working until death as just a matter of changing my perspective, that once I really see the light, I’ll have more freedom, like a mind over matter kind of thing. I think it’s very easy for those who don’t have to work until death to explain to those who do what they need to do. That would be like me trying to tell the 1% how to live. I have no idea what their life is like. I can’t even imagine.

    I think many Americans are in deep shit financially and those who aren’t have no idea what it’s like. In the end, everyone is responsible for their own attitude. Personally, I don’t like what I’ve been through the last five years, and I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to survive the next five. Each day I give myself an Al Franken self-talk and pray, then go out to do work that is really meant for the young. But I’m still able to work, and that’s a good thing. When I see articles like this, I have to say my bs meter goes off. Nice writing though. :)

    • Kent Thune says:


      “I think it’s very easy for those who don’t have to work until death to explain to those who do what they need to do.”

      I’m not sure if your statement is directed at me but based on my current financial position, I will likely have to work until death unless I change something dramatically now. I happily gave up a good-paying career in financial services and used a combination of savings and debt to start my own business. I was not forced to change my perspective — I chose it.

      With that said, I expect many readers’ “bs meters” went off like yours after reading my post. But it’s not “bs”; it is actually the opposite: it is real. With that said, I don’t expect any random person reading this post has the current capacity to simply choose a different life and begin living it at will.

      However, I do believe it is possible to begin walking a realistic path that can lead to a better life — one that does not depend entirely on money to accomplish. Changing one’s perspective is only the beginning.

  16. davefromcarolina says:

    “Working until you die can be a gift of a lifetime if your work is meaningful.” And suppose you are denied the luxury of “meaningful” work. What then?

    Elites embrace the “do what you love” mantra. But it devalues work and hurts workers.

    • Kent Thune says:

      davefromcarolina: Perhaps I am delusional but I do not accept the word “denied” as a decider of my fate. Also, I believe, like the word retirement, people tend to accept a conventional definition of “meaningful” or the idea is so abstract it almost has no meaning at all.

      Ask people who are actually in retirement about “meaningful work” and they will tell you that relationships are central. This is not a fact of enjoyable work but one of an enjoyable life. You don’t have to find what others may call a “dream job” or live some kind of fantasy life. You simply work in an environment where you can form and maintain rewarding relationships.

      My article sounds like idealistic crap to some but I can attest that it is real and that it works. It may be true that “elites embrace the ‘do what you love’ mantra” as in the article you shared but I am certainly not elite in any sense of the term. Also if the so-called mantra devalues work and hurts workers, it would only be because those workers chose a poor perspective.

  17. ilsm says:

    Clips from Henry David Thoreau:

    “It’s better to live rich than to die rich.”

    “You never gain something but that you lose something”

    “What’s the use of a fine house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on?”

    “Progress toward a true respect for the individual.”

    “But the rich man is always sold to the institution which makes him rich.”

    “Absolutely speaking the more money the less virtue. For money comes between a man and his objects and obtains them for him.”

    “Why should we be in such desperate haste to succeed, and in such desperate
    enterprises? If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is
    because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he
    hears, however measured or far away”

  18. Neildsmith says:

    There seems to be a pretty good test of this whole retirement is bad theory. For me I just need to compare my state of mind waking up on Saturday morning (start of weekend off work) with my state of mind waking up on Monday morning (start of 5 day work week).

    I like my job… it is moderately fulfilling and not too stressful. Still… I much prefer Saturday morning to Monday morning… hands down.

    • Kent Thune says:

      Neildsmith: Great points. Balance and perspective are integral aspects of freedom. Not every moment is joy and bliss. But if there can be enough great moments to balance the not-so-great moments (and a healthy perspective to improve upon those even more) you are doing well.

      Thanks for commenting…

  19. Kent Thune says:

    Thank you everyone for your comments. I will respond to everyone Monday morning. This is an important topic and I look forward to more dialogue.

    “I put forward formless and unresolved notions, as do those who publish doubtful questions to debate in the schools, not to establish the truth but to seek it.” ~ Michel de Montaigne

    • Joe says:

      I found another moment or two…….

      “People have choices but they are not aware of them. It may not be easy but it is possible to learn a new trade while working another. Learn something that can be done in the 60′s, 70′s and 80′s or beyond; learn something that society can use; and learn something that is rewarding beyond financial means. But begin this learning in the 40′s or 50′s or 60′s. It is likely more achievable for most than saving millions of dollars to replace income for 20 or 30 years.”

      Writing code is what we do ’round these here parts. So I asked my middle kid (he works for a Major Tech Name) about what it would take for me to get a job as a code monkey rather than retire. Why not? I graduated from Berkeley, BA with Honors With Distinction; area of interest neuropsychology. I owned and ran a high end audio manufacturing company in the 80′s while doing my trade. I also was a widely recognized motojournalist back in the 90′s while I was racing. I’m intelligent and widely experienced. How hard could it be? What could there be not to like? He was not encouraging.

      I’d be competing with newly minted grads with shiny new degrees and fresh classes in coding. Say I took the same classes and leaned on my 40 year old degree. How much more of a load would I as a 60+ year old be on their benefit system compared to a 25 year old? How many 70 hour weeks could they expect to get out of me for 40 hours worth of wages? I’ve already done a lifetime of long hours including months of 7/12′s. But I was hourly and was compensated for it. Marathon code writing on salary is a young mans game. Say I got a fresh degree along with the classes on writing code in my 50′s. My sanity would be in question. Forty to sixty K simoleans in debt acquired and a coupla three four years spent to maybe work 10 or 15 years if I could get a job?

      I could try the back door, maybe. I could audit code classes from a college or take courses from the matchbook cover university system (Am I showing my age?). Then I could join an open source project and contribute work for a year or two and get a reputation as a competent writer of code. When a job opened up at a company where someone else on the project worked, maybe I could be recommended for the opening. And earn something for my two years of contributed (uncompensated) work. I’d be back to competing with the young graduates with shiny new degrees and my same two years code writing experience. Would I really fit in with the other team mates?

      Above all, could I compete with the young kids in my 80′s and beyond? What ‘chu smokin’ Willis?

      Don’t even think about leveraging my time in journalism or high end consumer electronics. One’s in upheaval and the other has largely gone corporate. The best way for a geezer to make a living wage in either is to already be financially secure; i.e. retired.

      Figure it out. It is far easier to save a million dollars and retire for 30 years than to “Learn something that can be done in the 60′s, 70′s and 80′s or beyond; learn something that society can use; and learn something that is rewarding beyond financial means.” if the main reason you are still working in your 80′s or 90′s is that you work or starve.

      • Kent Thune says:


        Thanks for taking a few more minutes to expand on your thoughts and experience. I believe there is a balance to be struck. I do not propose an either/or approach where you have the choice of living off of your savings or doing what you love until death. Combining the two is achievable and perhaps preferable.

        As I said in a previous thread, a transition into “semi-retirement” first. This is where there is either a reduction in hours or a step down in pay and into work that is less stressful. At this stage, the individual does not deplete their life savings in their 60′s and keeps enough remaining to support the latter stages of retirement where working may not be a choice.

  20. SumDumGuy says:

    Meanwhile, the corporation that you’ve been working for, has recorded record profits and has a record amount of cash sitting on the sidelines… Lol!

  21. [...] Kent Thune, “Working until you die can be a gift of a lifetime if your work is meaningful.”  (Big Picture) [...]

    • Joe says:

      Let’s regroup here. Barry’s site is something of a select group. If your riff is something to lay down on a small business owner or a Green Peace activist who seeks retirement advice too late, it works. If it is career advice to someone who is very successful in a well paying job but is not really sure if it is allowing him/her to truly express their self actualizing (showing my age again) potential, nothing wrong here.

      But as a prescription for the world in general, it smacks of a Monty Python routine. (World peace? First you figure out a way to cure cancer and make a lot of money and get people to pay attention to you. Then….)

      And it is the world in general where what you suggest is ludicrous.

      Preface the post appropriately and I have no problem with it.

      But if this is advice in general, it sucks. Especially for those parents of the generations raised on “You can be anything you want to be” and “Work at what makes you happy and everything will turn out OK in the end.” I sold my labor for a right nice price and I’m comfortably retired and I can help out my kids when they need it, spend to keep those who are working (especially geezers like me who have no choice) fed and sheltered, and if I have a dollar left over, spend it on “socially and personally rewarding beyond financial means” causes. Or buy a round for the house.

      • Kent Thune says:


        I appreciate the dialogue, which is a healthy and expected outcome of philosophy, at least since Socrates, Plato and Aristotle began what they called dialectic, which is not designed to prove anyone right or wrong but rather to seek truth.

        Yes, this was a philosophy piece, which is why it was categorized under “Philosophy” (as can be clearly seen at the end of the post). Therefore this was not “advice” and has no need for a preface. Although I do humbly suggest that the Thoreau quote served well to that end.

        In fact, I would venture to guess that at least 95% of the material ever published on this site is absolutely not advice. Most of Barry’s readers are intelligent enough to know this without any disclaimers or disclosures. Barry himself is like a modern-day Socrates that helps students think for themselves and points out the folly of the “Athenian Aristocracy” of today. (By the way, Socrates died doing what he loved.)

        With that said, I also humbly admit that I cannot accurately define the demographics of Barry’s readers. But no one really can. Less than one-tenth of 1% of his readers make their opinions known in the comments on a regular basis. Also, people who comment tend to be a different breed than the 99.9% of those who just read, absorb a few thoughts, then move on without commenting.

        Furthermore, philosophers make abstract observations about the world and guide anyone who will listen to make the abstract into the concrete (notice that a major theme of the post was to urge readers to form their own concrete definition of retirement, an abstract and misleading concept).

        In summary, there is no one-size-fits all solution for mastery of life. And certainly a 500-word blog post is not the venue to put forth such a solution. However, if more people learned to recognize the illusion of social conventions, language, and materiality and began thinking for themselves, self-awareness and authenticity could replace herd behavior; and mastery of life, at least for the individual who mindfully and willfully seeks it, may then ensue. Then there is no reason to seek “advice” except from oneself.

        This is the aim of philosophy.

        “I do nothing but go about persuading you all, old and young alike, not to take thought for your persons or your properties, but and chiefly to care about the greatest improvement of the soul. I tell you that virtue is not given by money, but that from virtue comes money and every other good of man, public as well as private. This is my teaching, and if this is the doctrine which corrupts the youth, I am a mischievous person.” ~ Socrates

  22. Kent Thune says:

    Thanks to all for your comments and thanks to Barry for keeping the door open for me here at The Big Picture.

    My own “meaningful” work is helping others accomplish their goals, whether they may be financial goals or life goals.

    As I transition into my 50′s and 60′s my own plan is to do more writing. So if anyone has a need for philosophical-finance type, let me know!