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There Is a Season

David Gartland

THE FIRST ROCK concert I attended was The Byrds at Bowdoin College in Maine. We stayed nearby at a cabin in the woods. It was there that I had my first experience with marijuana. It was not a good experience—thank goodness. My drug days were short-lived.

One of the songs made famous by The Byrds is Turn! Turn! Turn! The song was written by Pete Seeger, who derived it from verses in the Bible.

One of the verses is, “To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.” There’s a proper time to do something. You can do it another time, but it probably won’t work out as well. A farmer must plant his seeds in the spring, and he must wait for the growing season to finish before harvesting. Trying to rush any step will lead to a bad crop.

There’s much talk today about the financial independence-retire early (FIRE) movement. I believe in financial independence. It’s the “retire early” piece that’s always baffled me. Why retire unless we’re done with working?

Many in the FIRE movement apparently have skills that command high wages at a young age. The trouble is, it seems they also hate these high-paying jobs. Saving prodigiously allows them to quit work early and lead the life they’ve dreamt about.

But instead of suffering through a job they hate so they can retire early, why don’t these folks find work they love? As the saying goes, if you love your job, you’ll never work a day in your life. If these FIRE enthusiasts are so talented, they should have plenty of employment options. They could move to wherever their ideal job is located and be happily employed. When they feel like they’ve had the career they wanted, they can then enjoy the fulfilling retirement they’ve imagined. There is a season.

Now that I’m older, I look back and see the seasons I’ve experienced. I got my college education right after high school. I’ve seen what happened to friends who delayed. In many cases, they struggled to find the time and discipline to complete their education. Many never graduated. There is a season.

I didn’t have a girlfriend until I was a senior in college. I’m grateful I experienced the magic of romantic love while I was still young enough to appreciate it. There is a season.

During my last bout of unemployment, I set my sights on retiring at age 70. To achieve my goal, I needed a job that would last six years. I found a suitable position and I almost went the distance. Thanks to the severance package I negotiated, I was able to hold off claiming Social Security until 70. Mission accomplished.

When I began my career, the talk of my generation was to retire early, ideally at 55. I never had retirement as a goal, however. I only wanted to work and save money, so I could live the life of my choosing.

My employers showed me by their actions that steady work was not in my future. I had career breaks that I treated as mini-retirements. I needed to save as much as I could to handle unemployment whenever it happened. I’m happy that I did.

One of the books I read during my many bouts of unemployment was What Color is Your Parachute? by Richard N. Bolles. It advises choosing a career direction based on our skills, talents and interests. Bolles subsequently co-wrote What Color is Your Parachute? For Retirement, which advocates the same approach when designing our life after work.

I’ve decided that my retirement will be intentional, meaning it won’t just happen. Whatever I decide to do will be because I want it to happen. My wife is the opposite. She does very little planning. She wings it. She fills her schedule with things to do, but never too far in the future. Opposites attract.

I’ve read that retirement has three stages: the go-go years, slow-go years and no-go years. People in early retirement play golf, travel and act like teenagers. Once the novelty wears off, they settle down to quieter lives. Eventually, they can’t get around easily. There is a season.

I believe the time I have is a gift from God. I don’t view retirement as an end of something, but a new beginning. I’m aiming to make something of my retirement. I don’t want to be on my deathbed thinking “if only” I’d done this or that. It is indeed a season—and I want it to be a full one.

David Gartland was born and raised on Long Island, New York, and has lived in central New Jersey since 1987. He earned a bachelor’s degree in math from the State University of New York at Cortland and holds various professional insurance designations. Dave’s property and casualty insurance career with different companies lasted 42 years. He’s been married 36 years, and has a son with special needs. Dave has identified three areas of interest that he focuses on to enjoy retirement: exploring, learning and accomplishing. Pursuing any one of these leads to contentment. Check out Dave’s earlier articles.

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