If 75 is the new 65, is death the new retirement?


A few years back, my buddy Chris taught me about bluegrass music. Because we lived in southwest Virginia, it was easy to go to bluegrass concerts and festivals, and it seemed like half the bars in my area hosted a bluegrass night with live music.

In 2000 and 2001, one of the themes of my education was the great John Hartford. As Hartford fought non-Hodgkins lymphoma, he continued to tour the country, playing an impressive schedule of concert dates and leaving a final legacy of amazing music. I was lucky enough to see him a few times over those two years, and I was left with a bottomless admiration for his skill and dedication. I realized that, like John Hartford, I never wanted to retire. I wanted to love something so much that I would be happy to continue doing it up until the moment of my death.

This was a fantastic revelation, as I also realized that, things being what they are, I would probably never be able to stop working. While my parents' jobs in the military and the government carried hefty pensions, my work in academia was only going to leave me with a small monthly stipend. While my grandparents' generation could look forward to fairly hefty social security checks and private pensions, it was pretty clear that I couldn't count on living off the government teat. Assuming that Social Security still exists in 30 years, I am willing to bet that my monthly checks will cover a few packets of ramen and some cat food, with enough left over for a box of Tic-Tacs.