Snake oil is an idiom used to describe deceptive marketing, or some type of scam. As authors and public speakers, we are often asked to opine on “saving for retirement.” To which we reply, retirement is just ‘snake oil.’ We have gone round-and-round with our publishers on our crusade to pull back the curtain on the retirement industry. One might say that it is as nefarious as the military industrial complex of the the 1950’s.

How did the idea of retirement enter the modern era? In 1881 Otto von Bismarck, under pressure, from socialist opponents, wanted to stay in power, and he did what every leader in recorded history has done to maintain that power, he gave out money. It was the Roman poet Juvenal who coined the phrase ‘bread and circuses’ to describe the practice in which rulers used money (food and entertainment) to manipulate the populace. A practice which continues to this day.

Bismarck presented at that time a radical idea to the Prussian government. He suggested financial support for older members of society. The idea was radical because at that time in history, people simply did not retire. He argued to the Reichstag that “those who are disabled from work by age and invalidity have a well-grounded claim to care from the state.” The retirement system for what is now Germany was established and Bismarck remained in power. Now it should be noted that the retirement age he proposed was just about aligned with life expectancy, so most people still worked until they died. To quote Juvenal it was all ‘bread and circuses’, or snake oil.

Gone are the days when a fixed retirement age was the norm.

With advancements in healthcare and an aging population, people are living longer, healthier lives. As a result, the idea of abruptly stopping work at a predetermined age seems arbitrary and outdated. Many individuals are choosing to work well into their 70s and even beyond, either out of financial necessity or a desire to stay mentally and socially engaged. Which brings us to Sir Isaac Newton: “an object in motion stays in motion.”

The specific wording of “an object in motion stays in motion” may not appear verbatim in Newton’s original writings, but the concept it represents is fundamental to his first law of motion. It succinctly captures the idea that objects have a natural tendency to maintain their state of motion unless acted upon by an external force, a principle that underpins much of classical mechanics. The arbitrary concept of retirement is just such an external force.

It is critical to remain in motion as one grows older.

Remaining active offers numerous benefits for physical health, mental well-being, and overall quality of life. Regular physical activity can help maintain strength, flexibility, and cardiovascular health, reducing the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis. Staying active can have positive effects on mental health, reducing the risk of depression, anxiety, and cognitive decline. Studies have shown that individuals who lead active lifestyles (an object in motion) tend to live longer and enjoy a higher quality of life.

Then there are the financial realities, for a growing number of individuals, the dream of retiring comfortably with a sizable pension is just that—a dream. Economic uncertainty, stagnant wages, and the rising cost of living have made traditional retirement savings insufficient for many. As a result, some are reevaluating their expectations and exploring alternative financial strategies, such as investing in real estate, starting a business, or engaging in income-generating hobbies.

Beyond financial considerations, the concept of retirement fails to address the fundamental human need for purpose and fulfillment. Many people derive a sense of identity and satisfaction from their work, and the prospect of retiring and suddenly losing that sense of purpose can be daunting. Instead of viewing work as a means to an end, we should strive to find meaning and fulfillment in all stages of life, whether through paid employment, volunteer work, creative pursuits, or personal passions.

Life is a personal journey!

Considering these challenges and shifting societal norms, it’s time to abandon the construct of retirement – it is just snake oil.  Life is a personal journey shaped by individual circumstances, aspirations, and values. We advocate for financial independence and not retirement. Financial independence allows individuals to pursue their unique giftings for which they were created. Financial independence is empowering and is the antithesis of the word retirement which means to retreat, to withdraw into seclusion.

The traditional concept of retirement is a relic of the past, ill-suited to the realities of modern life. By embracing flexibility, rethinking our relationship with work, and prioritizing purpose and fulfillment, we can create more meaningful and fulfilling paths for aging. Retirement may be a fiction, but the opportunity to live a rich and purposeful life knows no age limit.

Tax laws directly impact an individual’s personal financial plan. At Paraklete® Financial we work with CPA’s as part of our client’s collaborative team of advisers. The collaborative team is essential to the personal financial planning process. For more information, please visit us at

The views expressed are those of the author as of the date noted, are subject to change based on market and other various conditions. Material discussed is meant to provide general information and it is not to be construed as specific investment, tax or legal advice. Keep in mind that current and historical facts may not be indicative of future results. The information contained in our presentations have been compiled from third party sources and is believed to be reliable; however, accuracy is not guaranteed.

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