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Rotting in retirement: Do people who retire early have it all figured out?

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Do people who retire early have it all figured out? Peter Sherwood says not and explains why he’d rather take a hike than go on a cruise.

Now, here’s a philosophy for life we happily don’t see much of in Hong Kong. It’s a national Australian conspiracy – the irrational desire to retire early to the ‘good life,’ a utopian vacuum with a beach.

I’m an Aussie and I first observed it when a bloke I knew made a stack of money in his 20s and headed someplace sunny to lie around and sweat and work on his melanomas. He became a super-tanned allpurpose complainer, whining about the filthy unemployed who leached on the government, while he shovelled offshore the fortune he had lucked into… and indulged in infinitely meaningless rounds of golf.

In Oz, the real conversation from the first day in the rodent race is about saving, planning and yearning for retirement. Long ago, your company would give you a cheap watch at 65 – but no time to go with it. In Australia today, retirement flats are purposebuilt for ‘the over 55’s.’

Hell, an 80-year-old man recently topped out on Everest and the median age of most 60 Minutes reporters is 90. Paul Newman was making decent movies when he was seven years older than Iraq.

No surprise then, that preternaturally early retirees flood the internet with pathetic old-people jokes. They want anyone actually old enough to claim a state pension to feel antediluvian and decrepit, so they can hit the sofa minus a conscience. Don’t buy it. They start asking you to read books that could be titled ‘The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Early Onset Dementia,’ and sending you stuff about losing your memory and forgetting your car keys. I had a car at 18 and forgot my keys every damn day.

And so to cruising…

The faux elderly question the sanity of a fit old codger like me hiking a mountain without a paramedic team, while they go ‘cruising.’

Picture it: Vast hordes shambling around anonymous ancient ruins before heading back to the mothership for an all-you-can-eat extravaganza with a few thousand other lost souls. Cruising is a worldwide phenomenon created for 55-year olds with money, and a spirit of adventure that extends to jumping the queue at the oyster bar.

Imagine what 2,000 cashed up ‘young’ retirees get up to all day when they find it impossible to force down another prawn cocktail – they head for the bar. The booze is duty free, for the vessel’s owners anyway. Just how much expensive intoxicant can 2,000 bored passengers consume? After a couple of weeks of excess, their floating home-from-home is as dry as Death Valley.

I forget the name of the musician who said, “Man, you’re either composing or decomposing.” Right on.


Peter Sherwood has lived in DB for 19 years. The former head of an international public relations firm, Peter is the author of 15 books and has written around 400 satirical columns for the South China Morning Post.


Photo courtesy of www.unsplash.com

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