The FIRE movement, standing for ’Financial Independence, Retire Early’ has become popular across the world. Whilst financial independence truly gives you freedom to pursue your passions or ideas even if they were not financially rewarding, retiring early could have its own problems. Of course, one is not talking about retiring from jobs or careers you pursue primarily for financial reasons even though you hate it – financial independence will help get you out of those anyway. But should you retire from all active pursuits? This article suggests otherwise.

“Giorgio Armani refuses to relinquish his role as chief executive of his fashion house at the age of 89. Being Italy’s second-richest man has not dampened his work ethic. Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett’s sidekick at Berkshire Hathaway, worked for the investment powerhouse until he died late last year at the age of 99. Mr Buffett himself is going strong at 93.”

They might be exceptional but removing ourselves from all professional activity could have its effects on any of us – as the article suggests a loss of “purpose or most poignantly, relevance”

“Although intellectual stimulation tends to keep depression and cognitive impairment at bay, many professionals in the technology sector retire at the earliest recommended date to make space for the younger generation, conceding it would be unrealistic to maintain their edge in the field. Still, to step down means to leave centre stage—leisure gives you all the time in the world but tends to marginalise you as you are no longer in the game.

Things have changed. Lifespans are getting longer. It is true that although the post-retirement, twilight years are stretching, they do not have to lead to boredom or to a life devoid of meaning. Once you retire after 32 years as a lawyer at the World Bank, you can begin to split your time between photography and scrounging flea markets for a collection of Americana. You don’t have to miss your job or suffer from a lack of purpose. If you are no longer head of the hospital, you can join Médecins Sans Frontières for occasional stints, teach or help out at your local clinic. Self-worth and personal growth can derive from many places, including non-profit work or mentoring others on how to set up a business.

But can anything truly replace the framework and buzz of being part of the action? You can have a packed diary devoid of deadlines, meetings and spreadsheets and flourish as a consumer of theatre matinees, art exhibitions and badminton lessons. Hobbies are all well and good for many. But for the extremely driven, they can feel pointless and even slightly embarrassing.

That is because there is depth in being useful. And excitement, even in significantly lower doses than are typical earlier in a career, can act as an anti-ageing serum. Whenever Mr Armani is told to retire and enjoy the fruits of his labour, he replies “absolutely not”. Instead he is clearly energised by being involved in the running of the business day to day, signing off on every design, document and figure.”

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