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To Retire or Not To Retire

Let me start by saying that I have no near-term plan to retire. But I would like to share what my 96-year-old mother thinks about retirement.

Most of you have heard of my mom, Dr. Frieda Rapoport Caplan. And that up until 2019, my mom was coming into our office four days a week (she cut back a few years ago from five days a week).

It was only in late December that she chose to work from home because the trek up our two flights of stairs had gotten to be a bit much for her. But believe me, she is still on her computer from her home office, monitoring the important activities of “her baby,” Frieda’s Specialty Produce, the company she founded in 1962.

I have to be honest that at times during my career, I have been annoyed with my mom’s continuing interest in every detail of the business. She closely monitored the Accounts Receivables, sometimes volunteering to call overdue customers to ask for our money (she always got a quick response). She frequently would send emails to some of our sales reps when they made a big sale or her email might ask why a client hadn’t purchased in a few weeks. I’d be thinking, “Mom, can’t you let it go?”

And then I had the opportunity to hear Dan Buettner, the National Geographic Fellow and author of “The Blue Zones,” last month at a produce conference. It’s the second time I’ve heard Dan and for some reason, this time one part of his message really resonated with me.

When sharing the details of the five or six communities around the world where a high concentration of people live past 100 years of age, one characteristic stood out. It wasn’t their primarily plant-based diet, not their sleeping patterns of seven to eight hours a night or the involvement in a spiritual practice or religion. It wasn’t the natural amounts of exercise they get or their close-knit community of friends.

It was that they had a purpose. A reason to get up in the morning!

And it was when he was talking about having that purpose, that raison d’etre, that I realized why my mom is so vibrant. So relevant. So alive! It’s because she is still connected with, interested in and passionate about our business.

As we celebrated her 96th birthday last Saturday, she peppered my daughters, Alex and Sophia, and me with questions about work, our clients and our growers. I realized that perhaps retirement may not be the best solution for everyone. I have read many articles that talk about people who retired and then got ill or passed away shortly after they stopped working. I’ve even had close friends who this has happened to. One of my friends recommends if you are considering retiring that you have a plan for a slow transition from your current work life to something else (a hobby, volunteer work or a Chapter 2 or 3 in your life).

As for me, as long as my mom is calling me daily asking for a recap of “what great thing happened at work today,” I plan to be working passionately.

How about you? Have you thought about what you would do if you weren’t working? Would you have a purpose, a reason to get up in the morning?


P.S. If you want to send Frieda a Happy Birthday message, please click here.

Mom and me, on her birthday this past weekend.

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