The Flinchum File
Thoughtful Economic Analysis and Existential Opinions

The Joy of Labor

08/31/2019

Congress created the annual labor day holiday in 1894 to honor the nobility of work.  It was also meant to remind the indolent rich of a nobility they will never have.

An important part of my financial planning practice is retirement planning — that is, developing a plan to retain your dignity and nobility after working many years.

The most common mistake I see is that people think retirement planning is a search for some magic number — that is, how much money do I need?  The second most common mistake I see is assuming that the goal of life is NOT working.

I have helped wealthy people retire, whose retirement was unhappy, as well as some people without a penny who thrive happily in subsistence living.  It is not about a number.  Abraham Lincoln said “Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.”  There is an inherent assumption that labor is bad?  There is also an assumption that golf or travel or family or charity work or something else is good.

John Feinstein’s 1995 classic bestseller defined golf a “a good walk spoiled.” At that point, golf becomes “work.”
There is a lyric in Jimmy Buffett’s Changes in Latitude that says “I’ve seen more than I can recall.”  At that point, travel becomes “work.”
In Diyar Harraz’s 2015 One Minute to Midnight, we see the pain of family when she says “To lose someone after you’ve loved them was tougher than losing them when you’ve never even met them.”  At that point, family becomes a threat of future pain.
At end-stage retirement, a person understands Peggy Lee’s soul-searching song . . . Is that all there is?

As usual, it takes the genius of Warren Buffet to put work into perspective.  He said “There comes a time when you ought to start doing what you want. Take a job that you love. You will jump out of bed in the morning. I think you are out of your mind if you keep taking jobs that you don’t like because you think it will look good on your resume. Isn’t that a little like saving up sex for your old age?”

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