Mike Kueber's Blog

October 7, 2014

Living for the moment

Filed under: Philosophy,Retirement — Mike Kueber @ 7:13 pm

This past Sunday, my 59-year-old best friend took a hiatus from his retirement and returned to the workforce by taking a job as a contract employee for State Farm Insurance in Denver. The contract, which runs through December 31, 2014, pays extremely well, and State Farm has apparently decided that highly-paid, short-term contractors are more cost-effective than moderately-paid, long-term employees. But what was my best friend thinking?

Working overtime for more money is as American as apple pie. One of my sons recently went to work as an emergency-room doctor, which is essentially a shift position. Because of a shortage of these doctors, his employer often asks him to work an additional shift, and if my son has no important plans for that day, he will take the shift because he can use the extra money.

My 57-year-old brother in ND helps build planes, and because of a shortage of able-bodied manufacturing workers in ND, his employer is always asking and sometimes requiring him to work overtime. Because my brother is attempting to stockpile some money for his retirement, he will often volunteer for some additional hours, but not when he is feeling drained.

But my best friend is different. He already has more money than he will need for his retirement. He even has more money than he will need for his estate. His primary reason for returning to work, it seems to me, is because he doesn’t enjoy depleting an estate that he has spent his life building. That sentiment reminds me of something a Texas historian said many years ago about a cattle-drive cowboy – i.e., the cowboy was unable to empty his canteen of water that he had so mightily sought to preserve during the long cattle drive. (Damn, I wish I could remember who wrote that. Dobie? Webb?)

A secondary reason for my friend returning to work is that he hasn’t taken to retirement. Although that is a common problem with retirees, I am surprised that it has afflicted him. He is a Jesuit-educated Irish Catholic who prides himself on being reflective. Yet, in the end, he seems more influenced by the Protestant work ethic.  Talk about irony.

There is a lot of talk nowadays about impulse control or deferred gratification, but that is not what my friend is dealing with.  When a person reaches our age, we need to live each year, each month, and each day like it is our last, and I believe that my friend’s sojourn in Denver is just where he should be.


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