I once bought a BMW. It was a 1988 325 model, or as a real Bimmer fan would say, an E-30 Three Series. It was a sturdy and practical vehicle, with a robust six cylinder engine, a solid five-speed transmission with the reverse gear in the proper left-and-up position, and it tracked through turns like it was on rails! It got fairly good mileage, and was a hoot to drive. I drove it for many years, and eventually turned it over to my son, who drove it through a bachelor’s and master’s degree, and two years of young marriage and one child. He recently brought it back, being the new proud owner of a Nissan pickup with four doors and plenty of room in the bed for mountain bikes.
So I have been driving a pretty old BMW (E-30!). I wonder if it is worth saving, so I called Dennis, one of the best BMW mechanics who ever lived. I wanted him to evaluate it and advise me. I thought with his guidance I could mess with the little car and bring it back to peak condition. His number was disconnected. Panic stricken, I madly searched the internet, and found a Bimmer discussion group where I learned he had retired and moved to Hawaii. How can he do this to me? He is the only one I trust, the only one who can tell me what I want to know.
It may be rationalization based on the undeniable fact that I can’t really afford to retire, but I am skeptical about the value of retirement. Dennis was great, and I am sure he’ll enjoy living in Hawaii, yet I wonder if he will miss all his fans, all the Bimmer drivers convinced he walked on water. I wonder if he will miss taking an old 2002 model (a BMW model that preceded the E-30 and not made in the year 2002) and restoring it to pristine condition.
A woman called me today, and being pretty busy I didn’t want to take another client. Yet she said nice things she’d heard about me, and had a problem I can usually help people solve, and I accepted her. I am her Dennis.
Whose Dennis are you? If you live your life in the right way, in the way you are connected. You help people in one way or another, you make a positive impact. That connection gives our lives significance, and retirement casts us adrift.
I happened to be talking to Bud and asked him his age. He is now 85, his birthday this week. As a young man he started buying rental properties and today he owns many. They are all paid off, so the rent gives him an amazing income. He enjoys his fancy Italian sports car, and he enjoys driving a nice pickup, but mostly he enjoys managing his apartments. He likes the people who rent from him, and he is particularly pleased that he offers his tenants low rent. He takes very good care of the properties and his renters are extremely loyal. While the money is nice, his joy is serving his tenants. It gives his life a sense of meaning.
Some people look at their work as a job, some as a career. The “job” people want to earn money. Their work is something they do to get that money. The career people want to get ahead, they want to achieve recognition, they want status.
But the third group has achieved a calling. They see their lives as meaningful to the extent they express their talents and gifts and serve others. Their happiness doesn’t come from money or from status, it comes from having real meaning in their lives.
So I don’t think I will retire. If you are looking forward to it, may I suggest a second thought? Maybe you should be thinking about how you will spend the so-called retirement years. How will you find significance and meaning in your life? What is your calling?
Now excuse me. I have a car to restore and no one to guide me.