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There is no retirement
185 points by nachopg on June 27, 2012 | hide | past | favorite | 30 comments

I share this sentiment...for me, retirement is not the freedom from work, but the freedom to work on what I chose. Life would be boring without productivity. Additionally, as I age, I've felt a gradually stronger internal pull towards meaningful work.

The thing that terrifies me about the technology industry as a whole is that it plays favorites to the young, yet it's the only field I've ever truly been passionate about. I'm approaching 40 and have reached the executive level, which is great...yay. However, will I still be working in tech when I'm 70? I want to, but will companies let me? I doubt it.

It bothers me to think that the only way I'll be able to continue to work in the field I love dearly is to go my own way and start my own company. Hey, that's what I want to do anyway, but it'd be nice if that were simply an option rather than a requirement (and, even nicer if it odds were in favor of it happening successfully).

Best of luck to all of you aging techies who are in my boat (or further along). This industry is a harsh mistress.

The inescapable conclusion is that, if you want to be in the industry as you go along, you have to be largely, if not totally, in control.

To me this means always being at the value creating edge - whether this is in creating companies and products, or being indispensable to those who are. How you do that is the challenge - could be capital, could be contacts, could be experience or just a proven track record of having some clarity in the dim view that is the future.

You seem to realise that relying on a career and job security might be risky. That's probably true. The only way to mitigate that particular risk is to start spreading the risk around into other areas - like starting a company now. That's not a prescription to dump all and start again, but looking at your current career trajectory with a critical eye is certainly a good idea.

When you start your own company remember that feeling. Then when you start hiring developers and other technical people, look for people who are in the same boat you are in right now.

I'll be 40 this year and cofounded a software company a few years ago. We just hired our first developer and he's in his mid fifties. I've worked with him for years and I have no doubts that he'll be a great developer for as long as he chooses to work.

As far as I'm concerned, being open to hiring older technical workers is not only the moral - and legal - thing to do, it is also a competitive advantage. Wisdom is valuable in a small software company.

Your post touched me because my father, though retired, was also a very active man right up to the end. Towards the end much of his energy was directed towards taking care of my mother. He had a heart attack when my mother passed away and was bedridden for a while. I was amazed at how he clawed back from near death, going back to taking care of his finances and maintaining the household. Alas, he died 8 months after my mother. When I came back to the house the last time he was in hospital I noted how carefully he had organized everything which had been such a mess when I had last left (created mostly by me as I tried to go through my mother's papers to put some stuff in order). He was 76 and in his manner of leaving (I really like that word) he taught me as much about life as he had done when he was here.

I'm sorry for your loss. Losing two parents so close to one another must've been very difficult.

Thanks for your sympathy. It was hardest on Dad. After mom's passing dad and I got very close. I got to know him a lot better the last few months of his life.

I'm very sorry, Diego. You have got to be in shock right now. I wish you well getting through it.

My father left last year (though not so unexpectedly). It changes one.


I thought it was a wonderfully written tribute, and I agree with all your points - why stop if you're enjoying yourself.

Diego, your dad sounds like he was a good man and he looked very happy. My brother left unexpectedly too. Last year. He was only 46. He left a much bigger impression on me than even I expected. You will probably find out just how big your father was, too, and it will stun you for quite a while. So: Be here, now. You won't get another chance.

I'm sorry for your loss but to some degree the premise seems a bit idealistic. I have a hard time believing the myth that there are people who truly enjoy every aspect of a job. If one is lucky they enjoy a portion of it. For example I love programming most of the time but sometimes I simply do not feel like doing work that needs to be done.

The true ideal in my mind is semi-retirement. Work less, less often, and if you don't feel like working simply don't. Adjust your schedule so it is absolutely to your liking - show up at 10 AM leave at 3 PM, etc. Peoples careers should degrade gracefully, not come to a crashing halt like we've come to embrace in our society

Steve Jobs talked about looking in the mirror in the morning and thinking about one's forthcoming day, and that if what one was about to do that day, would not be what one wanted to do, were it the last day of one's life, and if that scenario played on for too many days in a row, it was time to do something else. It is true, I think, that if one really loves what one does, one would not want to "retire", and hence, "leaving" is the only thing that occurs, not "dying". Good post, and condolences for your loss.


Your post just knocked me on my keyster. Beautiful writing. It is absolutely relevant to hackers because all of us have parents, and we need to look at how they've lived their lives and figure out how we will live as we age. The prospect of retirement is terrifying; I expect that the concept as we know it is dead; we have to come up with another model that befits the time.

Financial freedom is a hedge against the loss of your human capital. Most people dramatically overestimate the continuity of their human capital and are surprised when it starts to diminish. It's a great thing that a certain percentage of people remain vital their entire lives, but you can't count on it.

I'm a native English speaker living in Argentina, and yours is the first English writing I've seen by an Argentine that is enjoyable (I read some of your other posts) and doesn't contain errors, and that includes people who were schooled bilingually.

Is there anything in particular that pushed you over the edge beyond fluent?

Thanks. I've been in the US since the 90s, and by now my writing is about the same in Spanish or English. My early schooling in Buenos Aires was bilingual.

Jorge Luis Borges once said "let others brag about the pages they have written; I'm proud of those I've read." What I believe he meant (and I agree) is that a person's writing is a reflection of what they have read. I've read many more books in English than in any other language (including Spanish).

that's weird. Come around reddit.com/r/argentina and you'll see the same kind of writing quality.

Thanks for the link. While that looks interesting I was talking about English writing by Argentines, whereas that subreddit is almost entirely in Spanish.

Sorry for the late reply. Yes, it's 80% in Spanish but now and then some foreigner comes asking questions in English and that gives place to lengthy threads in English, mostly written by argentines.

This is a great post, and I hate to put a damper on things, but the title makes me think of something else I've been feeling in my gut for a while.

Retirement is not going to be an option for many future generations. The cost of living is getting too high, while salaries for many industries are falling too low.

This gut feeling first appeared in me when I saw GM renegotiate pension plans with its retirees. If even defined benefit pensions can be renegotiated, what is the actual rate of return on those suckers? Is it enough for anything? And it's not like I trust mutual funds, housing, or anything else to be much better anymore.

So I come to the conclusion that lifelong work will become a necessity for most. Retirement will be a luxury.

I think there is a great message here. Most entrepreneurs I speak to believe that they must quit and start a company as soon as possible (early thirties?) or else they will never be able to start one.

I think this is a fallacy. My dad became an entrepreneur in his early forties and many other much later. It is not really a matter of age anymore in modern societies. It is about how sharp you keep yourself as you age.

Probably if you are a startup kind of person (as opposed to sustaining a company kind of person), you would be starting companies even in your nineties. It is never too late. It is just how old you feel.

Great points, I appreciate the mindset that you and your dad share. I agree completely. I want to be financially stable enough to retire, but I would never want to stop accomplishing things.

This is a moving story; I would tend to agree that he is fortunate to have been doing what he loved, with those he loved, even if he was taken before his time. I recently witnessed my grandfather going through years of idle physical and mental deterioration until he passed, though at a considerably more advanced age, and it was difficult for us, his family, and I'm sure especially for him to go through as well. I am sorry for your loss.

The concept of retirement is flawed. What should be fostered in society is lifelong learning, wellness, and mentoring those around you.

It wasn't flawed. It was a necessity until very recently. Most people in the tech field fail to realize that most "jobs" are actually back breaking physical labor. Whether that is working a mile underground or standing on your feet for 8 hours. It beats the body up. So you pound the pavement for 40+ years until your body says I can't do this anymore. Now what do you do? You exit the circuit and let another person pound it out for 40 years.

And that is what retirement is about for most people. Not you complaining that tech companies won't hire you. But you've been doing this too long and your back is shot.

It's not as black and white as having a shitty vs fulfilling job. Many (most?) retirees are coming from ok jobs and are conflicted but positive about retiring, seeing it as a transition to antother phase of life.

The workaholic is a special type of person.

Edit: to add, I do understand how it's important for people to feel useful, and I agree it's a good idea to stay active after retirement.

Condolences for your loss Diego. I think your post best sums up what I call "life's work". We are lucky when we find it.

And I need to call my Dad.

A lovely tribute, and a view of retirement that matches mine completely. One might also add simply that, Calvinistic though this may be, work is good for us. My father retired at 59 for reasons that are still unclear to me (he loved his job) and died a year later.

I'm sorry for your loss but I think your father would be happy with the legacy he left behind.

It is wonderfully written! Thank you for sharing... I am very sorry for your loss!

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