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They just can’t retire!

Greg Devine


American football player with helmet in hand

Just a couple of months ago, American football superstar, Tom Brady, announced his retirement from the NFL. At 44, he’s had one of the longest and definitely the most successful career in the sport’s history, winning a record seven Superbowl titles. His retirement didn’t really come as a shock, following an incredible career that has spanned more than twenty years; his farewell tour has been on the horizon for a while.

What was a shock was his announcement that he would be coming back for a 23rd year in the sport. You have to question why.

Is it a matter of money? Unlikely—he’s earned a reported $475 million over his career. Even if this wasn’t enough, why would he risk his health by continuing to play the sport? He could very easily embark on other career paths, such as punditry or coaching, without the same risks to his body. I think there could be two reasons, the first being pride. Brady is already considered the greatest NFL player of all time and his legacy is unrivalled, but to become that in the first place you need a ruthless nature, something he clearly has. The other explanation could be some form of addiction to the sport. Brady has spent most of his life playing American Football, and to give it up, even at 44, may be something he doesn’t feel ready to do just yet.

He’s not the only athlete to do this. Former Manchester United and England midfielder, Paul Scholes, also hung up his boots, only to quickly take them back off the hook less than a year later. After retiring, Paul trained with Manchester United’s youth team in order to stay fit, and just in case he changed his mind. His mind was ultimately changed for him. United went through an injury crisis in 2012, and manager Sir Alex Ferguson asked Paul to return to help the club out.

Retirement concept. Scene of a senior man walking in a cebra crossing towards retirement text. Top view

Retirement concept. Scene of a senior man walking in a cebra crossing towards retirement text. Top view

It must be nice having the option to retire and come out of retirement whenever you want. I genuinely believe that, in 45 years, when I reach what was once the retirement age (65), my chances of taking things easy will be slim to say the least. We live a lot longer nowadays, thanks to developments in healthcare, but this also means we could work for longer. It appears to me that retirement will simply be an exclusive club for business owners who achieve great success during their career—and sports stars.

I asked around the office if my colleagues felt they would ever be able to retire, and the general consensus was ‘no’. One remarked that, even if he could retire, he felt it would be at an age when he would already be dead! Currently, state pension is set at 68 years for anyone born after 1978 but retiring (and surviving) on state pension is no easy task. It currently equals £179.60 per week, which, when you consider inflation and rising living costs, isn’t enough to get by.

Maybe retirement will mean something different in the future. It may mean you work a shorter week, since you can use your pension to supplement your wage. It might just mean you claim a pension and work the same amount of hours. Either way, I truly believe retirement as we know it will be something for the few, not the many.

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