Time to Re-tire was a great slogan for Fisk Tires but time for retirement is a double-edged X-Acto: a release from and reward for decades of toil—for some. For others, it is a giant step into an abyss. Among the professions least likely to even consider cold-turkey retirement, illustrators and designers are high on the list. But inevitably the time will come when it is time.
The legal retirement age of 65 in the United States was secured by Franklin D. Roosevelt (who died two years short of the deadline) through the original Social Security Act of 1935. Americans born in 1960 or later, however, must wait until 67 to be eligible for their full Social Security benefits. So retiring before 65 exacts lower monthly payments. Regardless of your age, you should read Dana G. Smith’s informative article in The New York Times; it details that when the bill was signed, average life expectancy was at a lower level and the majority of the workforce was involved in heavy industry.
Here are some reasons why designers and illustrators might consider retirement …
- When your staff of 20-somethings reminds you of your grandchildren.
- When you neither care about nor know current branding-design-speak.
- When you make cultural references that no one in the room knows.
- When the once joyful act of making design becomes drudgery.
- When your clients are as young as your grandchildren.
- When you cannot remember the names of people on your staff like those of your grandchildren.
- When your wisdom is not enough to sustain interest in what you have to say.
- When your design work is a repeat of what you’ve done for the past 20 years.
- When you feel uncomfortably out of place at a design gathering.
- When all of the above, and more, makes you feel as though you’re in a constant fog.
Milton Glaser retired gradually during his last years. He often said, “If I cannot work, I’ll die.” I think that is the consensus among designers and illustrators in later years. Growing old is not easy, and retirement does not make it any easier.