Drawing parallels between self-care and retirement

Zuhra Amini, Columnist

Illustration by Haley King

If you haven’t heard by now, social security is expected to fizzle out partially, if not entirely, by the year 2034. My solution: self-care. But what could I possibly mean by bringing in a practice popularized through social and mass media into the world of finance?

The outlined possibilities that social security can take are devastating to the traditional notion of the retirement plan. Despite being mere projections that do not incorporate all that could happen,  the threat has taken hold. Multiple business publications are addressing financial steps millennials can take now to prepare for a traditional retirement.

While I am not saying that self-care should replace these financial options, I do think that this advice will not be enough. Instead, I propose that in addition to financial literacy we, as a society, need to re-envision the concept of retirement itself.

A lot has been written on how millenials approach work differently than previous generations. In an article for Lifehack, Dianna Labrien addressed how millennials value jobs in which their passions are prevalent in their work. For the most part, these jobs are more ingrained in the individual’s lifestyle, rather than separate. With this sort of work ethic I find it hard to believe that millennials would want to find fulfilling jobs only to work towards retirement.

Knowing the way millennials approach their work and the unreliability of social security, traditional retirement seems not only unfeasible but undesirable. So, instead of working for all your life in order for a break that might not be guaranteed, why not incorporate a practice that posits taking tiny breaks as a lifestyle?

This is where self-care, which emphasizes a concept of rest similar to retirement, comes in. For instance, both allot time to maintain and reward the self. Whereas retirement comes at the end of a lifetime of hard work, self-care is interspersed on a day-to-day, if not weekly, basis. As such, self-care is a practice prevalent whether one achieves a career milestone or not. On the other hand, retirement is a lifestyle only achieved as a reward at the end of one’s career.

I know how lazy and undeserving self-care must sound. I could talk about the economical benefits of self-care–specifically how a balanced lifestyle that promotes mental and physical health increases employee productivity. But that would be fitting it neatly into capitalistic productivity.

Retirement rewards capitalistic productivity after a lifetime of servitude. On the other hand, self-care as an ideology does not depend on how much work you get done in your lifetime. Yeah, some people treat themselves after a long week at work but self-care operates outside of rewards as well. For instance, self-care promotes the practice of taking care of the self despite capitalistic performance. As a result, self-care as an emerging movement seeks to break the feedback and response relationship between capitalistic productivity and caring for the self.

I can hear the baby boomers saying: lazy millennials! They want to be rewarded for doing nothing? But this departure from a capitalistic reward mindset is anything but lazy.

It’s difficult to fight the urge to scold yourself for watching “Parks and Recreation” after a tiring day instead of doing homework. Or to do nice things for ourselves wether or not you reach capitalistic milestone. This is mainly because we live in a capitalist society that instills in our mindsets from an early age that you are only as worthy as how productive you are (no surprise there). As such, although self-care may seem lazy on the outset, it demands you jump mental gymnastic hoops in order to re-train how treat you treat yourself in a capitalistic society.

So self-care on, if not because it would be a secure option while preparing for retirement, but also to resist the system.