I recently reached the milestone age of 55.
55 is considered ‘early retirement’ age in South Africa. Retiring at 60 is ‘normal retirement’, and at 65 is ‘compulsory retirement’ age.
I can remember selling retirement policies in the mid-90s to other 30-something-year-olds. Back then, selecting a maturity age of anything higher than 55, would require head office approval. Most people don’t like spending too much time thinking about retiring, especially since it seems millennia away. So, to illustrate the value of time and the effect of compound interest, we would calculate how many monthly paydays the client has left until they retire. People easily grasp a month as a measure of time. Being paid monthly makes most households function from paycheck to paycheck. Psychologically, hearing, ‘paydays left’, sounds more urgent than, ‘In twenty years’ time.’
Things just became urgent.
To be clear, I don’t classify 55 or even 65 as ‘old.’ My Mom is 92, and she’s not old either. The Berkshire Hathaway Head Office in Omaha, Nebraska, has a wing for retired executives. Their Chief Executive, Warren Buffet – himself now 87 – is famous for saying, ‘Sixty-five is just getting started!’ The company retains all that valuable knowledge and experience. Or, as only he could phrase it:
‘It’s hard to teach a young dog old tricks.’
In Nebraska, I’m only a puppy.
I can happily say I have lived till now by ‘being in the moment.’ That means, I have few regrets and mostly great memories. But something significant has happened over the last while. I felt like my purpose was being tested. I was questioning things more philosophically, seeking deeper meaning into why things happen, and why we respond as we do. It involved much introspection that analysed and dissected my prejudices, preconceived ideas, stereotypes and general lack of understanding of things.
It was during this time, that a good friend and mentor suggested I read the book Halftime – Moving from Success to Significance, by Bob Buford. As the title suggests, the theme is about reaching the mid-point of your life and how to make the second half an even bigger success. Although I was wrestling a few demons, it wasn’t as if I was directionless, just not 100% happy.
It turns out, pursuing a life of significance, makes me happy. It wasn’t only the book that helped me reach this state of being, but through opening myself to new ideas, thoughts, beliefs and experiences. If you have spent the first half of your life ‘taking’, the second should be in ‘giving.’ When we give more than we want to receive, more opportunities to give will present themselves.
I hope my second half continues to provide me with endless opportunities to be generous, then I will never have to retire.