Work-until-you-drop is an ethos which has been adopted by many people. It sounds like cruel and unusual punishment but it might be good for you. A study by the Australian Psychological Society shows that about one-fifth of baby boomers plan to never retire. It’s an idea the rest could consider.

The nature of our human condition suggests you should seriously consider working much longer – and in fact never retire – if you want to maintain your psychic and physical wellbeing.

There are two caveats. You should only continue to work for as long as you actually enjoy the activity. You don’t need to be wildly passionate about your work, but it should give you more pleasure than pain. Moreover, it’s good to be challenged by your work. But when it starts defeating you it’s time to take the gold watch and retire. The reason why work is normally good for you has very little to do with fattening your wallet. Once you’re on or above the average income, more money has almost no impact on your wellbeing.

Projects, especially focused pursuits which give satisfaction, are the key to human happiness.

The more challenged you are, whether by a job, hobby or sport, the happier you’re likely to be. Happiness is far more likely to be derived from intellectual and physical challenges as opposed to mindless passivity, such as watching television. To this end, the nature of the project doesn’t seem to be that important. Medical researchers and prime ministers don’t obtain greater fulfilment or satisfaction than mechanics, or zoo keepers.

The sense of purpose and fulfilment derived from work need not come from a paid activity. It can just as readily come from a hobby, such as gardening, teaching kids how to swim, or playing your guitar. But outside the structure of a regular work environment, many lack the discipline to constantly participate in such activities. That’s why the near-daily ritual of work pays dividends.  

A wide-ranging survey of people in 16 industrialised nations showed that unemployed people reported lower levels of wellbeing. If you enjoy your work, keep at it, but do a shorter working week. On average, the unemployed were 20% less satisfied with life than office workers and 15% less satisfied than manual workers. Accordingly, there is no reason to hang up the work boots simply because the calendar flips over to show you’re now 65.  

The odds are if you leave your job just because society thinks it’s about time you moved on, you will come to regret it.

A survey for the Citibank Retirement Index showed almost one million retired people in USA have voluntarily restarted working. The notion of going from full‑time work to zero work on the day you reach 65 should itself be retired. And to the extent that ‘retirement’ remains part of our culture, it should be something you slide into gracefully.

Too many of us are overstretched and stressed by work in our middle-years, partly because we want to accumulate enough money for our retirement. When we abandon the notion of complete retirement, we remove this pressure.

The key thing is to stay active. Apply your energy to something that shapes your world.

As a guide, people should reduce their working hours from 40-50 to 30 p/w at 60 years old, then reduce to about 20 hours p/w at 65, then do 4-10 hours p/w thereafter. In essence, people should be encouraged to continue working commensurate with their physical and mental capacity, and the satisfaction they derive from the work.

The way to maximise the economic and psychic benefits of work is to spread out our working years, thus achieving a work-life balance during our entire adult life. That’s a strong reason to start working four-day weeks NOW. However, if after 30-40 years of slog you still haven’t found your happy niche in the workplace, the writing is pretty much on the wall. You won’t.

Do yourself a favour and enjoy the splendour of not working while you work on your golf putting.  

 By Mirko Bagaric. Reproduced for Educational Purposes.