The quote that ” A woman can never be too rich or too thin ” has been attributed to a number of people. One of them, the late Wallace Simpson, might have been tempted to add ” Or too close to the British royal family or fascist Germany…”. Leaving aside who actually originated the phrase, I would venture to say that it is not true. Nearly all of us can think of women…and men…who would far better off poorer and stouter.
I would like to use the format as a springboard for a thought about retirement: You cannot retire too early or too late – you cannot retire too poor or too rich – and you should not retire too sad.
Let’s take the first part; too early. I know several people who have elected to do just this – having built up a nest egg of superannuation savings they have stopped work in their early or middle fifties. Their experiences were mixed – one found nothing to do all day, and one has been trapped by other people’s desires and has no free time. Prisoners of either ennui or ambition.
Had they been able to continue their paid working time a little longer they could have been excused after retirement from having either empty or over-full days.
Now to the second part; too late. That caught my grandfathers – one died employed, with no leisure time ever, and one died from the effects of his work’s environmental dangers…he went at it too long and too hard. We all know someone who carries on until exhausted and is horrified to discover that there is nothing after the gold watch presentation but exhaustion.
Too poor? That’s sad, and it is sometimes the unavoidable consequence of low pay all the working time. Sometimes the result of bad investment or savings, family losses, or marital strife. Sometimes just the result of bad living practices. Whatever the combination of circumstances, it leaves the retiree bound as a slave to either governmental handout or to want. The only hope is a rise in the former to alleviate the latter.
Too rich? Here it pressure is from another quarter – a moral or intellectual one. The overly wealthy retiree is beset by the temptation to spend money, and may have arrived at that position not knowing what to spend it upon. Bad choices may be made – God knows bad choices will be offered by everyone who wants a piece of that money. A perfectly good man or woman may become a perfect monster.
For my part, I am discovering that my mixture of retirement age and money may be just right for me. I have enough to live well – on a standard that I think of as well – without being tempted to pretend to be something I am not. I have arrived at retirement with very few bad habits and no need to acquire new ones to please others. I have enough old clothes to wear and old books to read and can afford the candles and firewood to do this of an evening. And I have the sense to realise that I do not need to go where I do not want to go, nor can I be compelled to do things I don’t want to do for people I dislike. It is a modest form of heaven.