There are many aspects of career and employment that have changed over the years. No longer does anyone expect to spend their entire working life at a single company, moving up through the ranks to receive the gold pocket watch when they retire after thirty plus years. It has been my experience that you need to move around, from job to job, company to company and in some cases from career to career. I myself have held more jobs than I can count though I have spent the last twenty at one company. They famously tell the story of Colonel Sanders who failed at every job he’d held until at the age of 65 he opened a Chicken restaurant. The rest, as the saying goes, is history. I guess that proves that needing to keep moving around and being willing to take changes in order to succeed isn’t so new after all.
There is a new trend on the horizon. It’s one which I don’t see catching on but it is intriguing. Rather than work until you’re old and tired and then rest in your golden years, spread out your retirement. The thought is that every five years you take a year off – a “retirement” year – to for example, travel, pursue volunteer work, engage in hobbies – all activities which are normally reserved for later in life.
The family which NPR featured (by now you shouldn’t be surprised that I picked this up on NPR being the addict that I am) had two young children, so school wasn’t an issue, and the husband had very marketable skills. Nevertheless, it takes real guts to walk away, especially in this job market, from a well paying job to, essentially, play hookey for a year.
And what a year it was – they went to live “on a small granite island jutting from the Norwegian Sea north of the Arctic Circle.” They chose that location because they wanted to “do something completely different.” My idea of getting away for a year would be renting a home in Granada, Spain and gazing at the Alhambra for 365 days while learning to speak Spanish. Or hiking the PCT with a team of Sherpas toting a tent, a kitchen, a foam mattress and my wardrobe. The husband in this story kept himself sane during the hours and hours of darkness writing an iPhone application that reads text aloud (now I do have a reason to get an iPhone 5!) His ap, available at the iTunes store, is Voice Dream. So while the income from the ap hasn’t exactly replaced his salary for the year, they did have some income while off the work grid.
I can see the appeal to taking installment retirement but I never would have risked disappearing for a year. I would not have been willing risk everything – you lose your contacts, you lose you job, you lose your edge, you lose what you’ve worked hard to build. This new take on retirement might be something the uber wealthy could take advantage of but they are precisely the driven, work-a-holic, “A” types who would loathe to spend a year not working – as it is they are often forced out of their jobs at retirement age complaining that it’s too soon.
Yes, I’m afraid this is a trend which I don’t see catching on anytime soon.