If you’re retired, Labor Day is an excellent time for another celebration of freedom from work.
Held on the first Monday of September, Labor Day serves to mark the ‘end’ of summer. For young parents, school begins in September thus signalling regular routines like early bedtimes, preparation of lunches and homework supervision. For workers, the casual atmosphere of the summer is over, vacations recede into memory, and commuting times lengthen. Unionized workers advocating for social justice may march in solidarity and camaraderie in Labor Day parades.
But what does Labor Day mean for retired people? Perhaps it’s a time to give thanks for a work pension that allows financial freedom in retirement. For those who continue with some form of employment or entrepreneurship, Labor Day may mean paid time off. For those who are fully retired, Labor Day may mean a break from the retirement schedule — a day to take grand kids on a picnic, have a barbecue with friends, or watch sports events.
While Labor Day means a day of freedom for everyone, in terms of retirement, this holiday is a time for reflection and gratitude for full time freedom from work.
Meaning of Freedom from Work
Freedom from work after retirement brings an upturn in quality of life. Because quality of life is directly proportional to personal freedom, retirement gives opportunity to choose how time is spent and with whom time is spent. Less stress, fewer obligations, and more time for leisure contribute to enhanced quality of life.
Labor Day is a time to take stock of how you use free time. It’s an ideal time to assess progress with your life goals and priorities as September, just like January, is a month for starting over. Are your days filled with purpose? Does your time management need a tweak? Are you ready for new routines for great life fulfillment? Time is more precious as we grow older; none of us want to waste this precious resource.
Many retired people finally find themselves with enough time to properly care for health. Getting physical exercise — sometimes with vigorous activities such as tennis, cycling, dancing, mountaineering; sometimes with more gentle activities such as daily walks, yoga, golf or swimming — becomes a top priority. Coupled with physical exercise, a nutritious diet filled with an array of vegetables and fruits also produces health benefits.
Staying mentally active with stimulating activities helps to keep the brain in shape and may ward off dementia. By continuing to learn new things, by participating in stimulating and social activities such as bridge, chess, book clubs, and by challenging yourself with stimulating pastimes such as crossword puzzles or sudoko, you maintain mental fitness.
Freedom from work also means choices about how to stay involved with the world. The need for productivity doesn’t stop with retirement but hobbies, volunteer work, and developing new interests are options. Many retired people contribute to their community by donating their time and talents to charitable organizations. Others are attracted to social advocacy, political causes, or religious institutions. Remaining productive boosts self esteem and well-being.
On a lighter note, freedom from work also means more wardrobe freedom. For my husband this means no necktie or tight collars; for me it means no pumps, pantyhose or tailored suits; for some it means no uniform. Every one can celebrate retirement as a time for comfortable clothes with no worries about high fashion.
Another Angle on Freedom from Work
Just as freedom from work gives a retired person new life options, an older worker leaving the workplace creates opportunities for younger workers and for organizations.
The freedom from work enjoyed by every retired worker alleviates frustration for a younger worker striving to attain personal and career goals. Too often, older people hang on to careers thinking that their skills are irreplaceable. Such thinking needs to change. Transfer of knowledge can be assured through mentoring, advising, and training new workers. The adjustments are difficult, yet benefits will accrue for both older workers and young people who have faced promotion blockages.
This doesn’t mean that the industry experience and wisdom of an older worker isn’t useful. Consulting or part time roles give freedom from the drag of a regular workday yet allow more enjoyment of the last precious years in the workforce. By retiring from full time work, a space opens for a younger worker, and an older person gains freedom from nine-to-five obligations.
Making room for young people with skills that are current also refreshes organizations. New talent is a key business resource that creates value for continuous organizational renewal and effectiveness.
Because freedom from work generates endless possibilities, Labor Day is a time to celebrate the many options that were impossible while working. With big expectations we can use retirement freedom to experience higher levels of life satisfaction — for ourselves, for those who come after us, and for the organizations that create the economic benefits that keep our countries strong. Let’s celebrate!