Does a retired person living off life savings have the right to be "unproductive"? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Jess H. Brewer, works at TRIUMF, on Quora:

I am myself a retired person, living off the interest (and, increasingly, the principal) of the retirement fund that my university wisely forced me to contribute to.

I know I have the legal and "moral" right to do so, but there are some aspects of this relationship that still bother me after seven years of getting used to it.

First, of course, is the shock of spending the money I spent my career saving; that may never stop feeling weird and "wrong". But I understand it to be just the collision between habit and reality. Part of it is that I'd really like to live forever, and spending my savings is a constant acknowledgement that I probably won't, and if I even could, I'd be blowing my chances. Oh well.

Second is the clear knowledge that we can't go on like this, expecting perpetual growth of the economy (the "interest" that I now live off of!) -- so, "We have met the enemy, and he is us!" as Pogo said long ago.

Third is the awareness of how good I've had it, in part due to my own dogged determination, hard work and cleverness, of course, but also due to the privileges I inherited through imperialist theft from the rest of the world. I don't actually suffer from "liberal guilt" per se, but I have always felt it was my duty to give something back-- preferably through activities I also enjoy, like doing science.

I am in fact doing that -- I work on the same sorts of experiments I used to, but now as a "hobby" of sorts. That is, when it gets tiresome or I get tired, I go home. And of course I don't (so far) get paid much for it. I'm retired!

So nowadays my primary excuse for using up resources is in fact on Quora, where I try to answer questions accurately when I know the answers (and provide a little amusement the rest of the time). And I teach the occasional course, and write stuff... but I don't do any WORK. I do what I want, because I can.

Now, I'm glad to get permission from all the other retired folks and younger ones who are looking forward to retirement, but what about all you Millennials out there? I'm really surprised not to get any responses expressing disgust at how we Baby Boomers have not only ruined the world and hogged all the jobs and money, but now have the nerve to sit around enjoying our leisure and privileges and wealth without contributing any real work to society. I've said it: I don't do any real work now; I only do what I enjoy. Are you really okay with that? I'm not even sure I am.

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Published on: Jan 16, 2018