WSJ – When It Comes to Retirement, I’m with Cicero

  • didn’t only want to figure out what I should do after I left my job; I wanted to know who I would be.
  • work by Marcus Tullius Cicero, the famed Roman orator and statesman … “Cato Maior de Senectute.” (in English has the catchier title, “How to Grow Old.” …*.html)
    • wrote the advice in 44 B.C. while in his early 60s
    • didn’t recommend ways to stay busy or “give back” to society
    •  he saw intrinsic value in aging…
      • “How wonderful it is for the soul when—after so many struggles with lust, ambition, strife, quarreling and other passions—these battles are at last ended and it can return . . . to live within itself,”
  • Cicero composed it in the form of a fictional lecture from Cato the Elder to fellow Roman statesmen Scipio Africanus and Gaius Laelius Sapiens
    • “sought to demonstrate that the later years could be embraced as an opportunity for growth and completeness at the end of a life well lived,”
  • Cicero’s work confronts the fear many of us have about retirement. Work keeps us busy, defines our value in society and often gives us a social life.
    • What happens when that goes away?
    • Cicero’s view: loss of ambition and competitive drive should not be mourned. It is a gift
      • Retirees will find their judgment is no longer clouded by passion and desire
        • “From it come secret plotting with enemies, betrayals of one’s country, and the overthrow of governments,”
  • French philosopher Michel de Montaigne, a fan of Cicero’s, viewed retirement as an opportunity to pursue a more solitary life in which a person’s worth is not measured by paychecks, awards or promotions…writing in his late 16th-century essay “On Solitude.” (
    • “We have lived quite enough for others: let us live this tail-end of life for ourselves,”
    • “Withdraw into yourself, but first prepare yourself to welcome yourself there.”
  • John Adams read Cicero’s “de Senectute” throughout his life
    • most retirement advice today is that we need to find ways to fill time
    • Adams viewed that idle time and solitude are to be sought, not feared

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