“Why are we vaccinating the elderly since they’ll die anyway?”  “The world would be better if the older people just died off.” These are real quotes I’ve heard this month.  We have a toxic religion of Retire-at-65, an engineered concept that is partly to blame for our damaging age discrimination mindset. 

In 1880, Germany was the first to set the retirement age at 65, a convenient age for introducing social security since few expected to live that long.  The US retirement age of 65 was set in 1935 for similar actuarial reasons when the average lifespan was only 62 years. 

Thanks to science and innovation, today the average US lifespan is 79 years.  (Hong Kong and Japan have the highest at 85.)  The US President is 78; the Head of Treasury is 74; The Secretary of Defense is 67; the Speaker of the House is 80.  Five Supreme Court Justices are 65+. John Lewis was 80.  Maya Angelou 86. Ruth Bader Ginsburg 87. Warren Buffet is 90. The Dalai Lama is 85.  Jimmy Carter is 96. Dan Rather is 89 (I hang on every tweet).

Think about it this way.  At 65, you’ll have about 15 more years statistically. Whatever your age today, look at all you’ve accomplished and experienced in your various 15-year spurts:

  • from 15-30?
  • from 20-35?
  • from 25-40?
  • from 35-50?
  • from 40-55?
  • from 45-60?
  • from 50-65?

So, what will you do with 65-80? What will you need to be fresh and relevant through that time?  Think about adding these questions to your personal strategic planning at every age: 

  • Is there someone 65+ today that you want to be like when you’re their age?  (Mine is Dan Rather 1000%)
  • What lifestyle will you be living?  What will be a day-in-the-life of you?
  • How will you define retirement: resting or re-tiring (as in getting new tires for a fresh road ahead)?  
  • What are you doing NOW to set yourself up for your definition of retirement? Planning financially, refreshing your skills, nurturing passions, prioritizing wellness, keeping friendships warm? 

And if doing absolutely nothing with those 15 years is your thing, then name it and enjoy it…but make a plan.