Wednesday, June 15, 2022
Harrisburg, PA, USA

ave you ever heard the saying, “a good actor leaves the stage when the ovation is loudest”? Keep it in mind as you read through this article. I will get back to it later.

I was chatting with a contemporary of mine a few days ago. He was contemplating retirement after many years of service. I was somewhat befuddled that my friend was talking about retirement gloomily. It was as if he was preparing to die soon. He will “downsize this”, “put away that”, “check that”, “review that”, “need a room where he does not have to climb stairs”. Haba! To me, nothing he said in his planning sounded like fun thing to embark on. In other words, after all the time and effort he spent training his children, instead of preparing to enjoy life as should for the next many years to come, he was talking as if it was time to get ready to die. I was surprised he did not talk about buying a coffin too. LOL

My friend is only about three years older than I am so naturally, the discussion got me thinking about myself too. You see, I have been working for as long as I can remember. Right after graduation from a long 6-year architecture program (I think that program could have been cut down to 5 years but that’s for another day), and after my youth service program, I started working right away. All put together, I have been working for the past 38 years of my life! As far as retirement is concerned, I see things differently from my friend. I was one month shy of 28 years when I got married and right away started a family. Now that the children are done and on their own, the last thing I want to do is docile or somnolent retirement. To me, having paid my life’s due, retirement should be a time to unleash and enjoy myself to the fullest. This is the time to take those vacation times that I may not have taken when I wanted because I had to be around for the children’s school activities, or I just did not have enough resources in light of the children’s needs. This is the time to eat those things (as long as they are healthy), that I may not have eaten because of resource prioritization. This is the time to splurge on those ephemeral paraphernalia that I may not have been able to afford when the kid’s welfare was priority number one. Subject to affordability, this is the time to wear those things I may have liked but could not afford because of competing priorities. Of course, this is the time to make friends or get closer to existing friends, the kind of friends that bring joy when you gather. When asked the secret to his longevity, former president Obasanjo averred that socialization with people was one of the secrets. I believe him.

In Africa, there is this tendency for people to work, work and work until they are carried out of the workplace. Some work until there is just nothing left of them or until one debilitating ailment comes calling. At that point, they will not be able to truly enjoy themselves. Even if they go to a beach, those things folks like doing like walk the board walk, swim, enjoy the finer things of nature, no longer thrill them. At this stage, they are either dealing with one ache or the other in the body. No, I do not subscribe to that. I see the world as a stage where everyone comes in and does their thing and then gives way to others. Analogically speaking, retirement is leaving the stage for others to enter. But you must endeavor to leave that stage(retire) when the ovation is loudest. Retiring when the ovation is loudest, to me, means retiring when you are still healthy, strong and vibrant to do things for yourself, shop for yourself, book your flight ticket yourself and jet off to your choice destination (if you love travel) , drive yourself to your choice destination, eat what you want and of course exercise.

The idea of waiting to retire when there is nothing left in you is anathematic to me.

A word of caution, though. Don’t just pick up and retire. You must plan for it way ahead of time. There are now all manners of retirement planning and savings programs out there to take advantage of- 401K, 403B, deferred compensation, investments, etc. If you don’t take advantage of those, then just retiring for the sake of doing so assures a life of perpetual misery ahead because you may have to depend on people. You should never plan your life to depend on other people, even your children. Plan for independence. The concept of “I trained my children so they will carry me later” is an old talk that may have worked in the days of our grandfathers. These are different times.

And for the young ones, I am certain you don’t think this article pertains to you. Think again. When I look back at when I first entered the workforce, it still feels like yesterday. Time flies and before you know it, you will get to retirement age. So, my advice is, whenever you get your very first job after graduation, the first thing you should do is go into that Human Resource office and sign up for a healthy retirement program. You don’t have to be married or get to certain age to start planning. The sooner you start planning, the earlier you can retire young, healthy and vibrant. If you own your own business, seek out retirement programs that you can get into right away. Here in the United States, I have worked with people who retired at 55, 56, 57, 58, 59. This is because they started saving early and could retire early to enjoy the finer things in life.

Na so me I see am oo

Author of the books- 1. Nigeria: Contemporary Commentaries and Essays

2. Surviving in Biafra: The Story of the Nigerian Civil War