Brett Arends’s ROI: What can Queen Elizabeth teach us about retirement?

Should you try to be like Queen Elizabeth, never retire, and keep working well into your 90s and possibly until your final day on Earth?

Sure—if you have a job like hers.

Do you shuttle between palaces in a chauffeur-driven limousine? Do you command an army of courtiers? Do you set your own hours? Are you not only your own boss, but the actual monarch of your own country?

Can you have people thrown in the Tower of London (in theory, anyway) when they annoy you or get in your way?

If all of these things apply to you in your retirement job, well—keep at it. Why would you ever quit?

It’s the rest of us who have the problem.

All credit to the Queen, celebrating her Platinum Jubilee this week after 70 years on the English throne. She is still working at her job, whatever it is, and had nearly 200 so-called “royal engagements” last year alone. These largely consist of turning up and meeting strangers, pinning a medal on somebody or cutting a ribbon, and making small talk.

Royal watchers say the phrase that pays is, “Have you come far?” Small talk for all occasions. Lifeboat volunteers, shopping mall promoters, the Belgian prime minister—it doesn’t matter, the phrase works for them all.

Still, while it’s easy to laugh, I have to concede she didn’t have to keep working. It’s not as if she needs the money. She could have handed over to Charles 20 years ago and nobody would have blamed her. She could have spent all her time at the horse races, where she likes to gamble bank notes bearing her face on horses she owns.

The main lesson the rest of us can draw from this is that the smartest retirement move we can make is to find some kind of gig for our golden years that keeps us busy without all of the downsides of a regular job.

Read: ‘I needed something to do’: How working in retirement is being embraced by older adults and companies

The only connection between the Queen’s job and most others is that she also has to sit through endless meetings, though in her case they are called “royal engagements.” She braved nearly 200 last year.

Still, she’s not working in retail. She’s not on commission and she’s not on her feet all day.

We all need retirement gigs like hers. There are many studies that show that working after normal retirement age, in the right kind of job, is good for your physical and mental health. It’s good to stay busy and connected. Heaven protect me from spending my final years watching cable news all day, getting angry about “the state of the country.”

Probably the best personal finance book I’ve ever read was Stephen Polland’s “Die Broke,” and the third of his four tips was: “Never retire.”

Mind you, given the deteriorating economics of retirement most of us may not have a choice anyway. Social Security’s financial situation is getting worse. Annuity rates are abysmal. Healthcare costs are rising. And of course most of us are living longer, too, so we need more money in retirement. Unlike the Queen, most of us aren’t worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

If you can find this kind of retirement gig—take it.

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