Monday, August 31, 2015

Wayne Dyer’s Advice on Retirement

When I think back over the life and work of Wayne Dyer, for some reason what I remember first is his advice on retirement. Perhaps it is because it was one of his farthest forays into my chosen field of economics. Retirement, Dyer insisted, was not something to aspire to, but a fraud that you were better off not participating in. It was a concept that powerful commercial interests would try to enroll you in, but your own interests lay elsewhere. At the risk of trying to quote from memory, he said something rather like, “Take the word ‘retirement’ out of your vocabulary.”

I was skeptical, but in the end, I became convinced that he was right. Mortality and disease statistics back up what he was saying. So many people die the year after they retire that it would seem you will live a happier life if you find a way to keep working in your old age regardless of what the institutional forces around you say you should be doing. If you are forced out of one job because of your age, you can take another. If no employer will have you, you can arrange for work on your own terms. Statistically speaking, that is the most reliable way to stay healthy and happy. But if the best strategy is to maintain and protect your ability to work for as long as you can, then what is the use of retirement?

Dyer himself never quite retired, though he lived to be 75. In his recent interviews, his message and advice continued to evolve as it always had. His web site lists 11 upcoming events, appointments he won’t be keeping. The last listed is a conference near me in September 2016, a keynote address that I surely would have attended. When I reflect on this, I ask myself, why wouldn’t you want to live your life such that your death represents not merely an occasion of sorrow but an actual, practical loss to the people around you? I think this is something to aspire to, rather than the commercial idea of an endless vacation. It you are inspiring people, solving problems, doing some kind of useful work that not just anyone can do, then after your departure, you will be missed in more ways than one.