Prudential Created Ads Stating That One’s Dreams Are Achieved Only Upon Retirement – Really? If So, What Is The Value Of The Working Years? Our culture is permeated with unhealthy distortions. The active years are only about toil. Only in retirement (some) Americans will achieve happiness

By Paolo von Schirach

September 16, 2013

WASHINGTON – An ad by Prudential, the financial services firm, says: “Doing What You Love. Isn’t That What Retirement Should Be?” What follows is a clever invitation encouraging prospective clients to write down what is it that they would like to do upon retirement. The entry would be placed in a box set against a background in which you can read “surgeon”, “actor”, “designer”, and so on.

Retirement is what we want

In any event, you get the picture and the sales pitch. To see to it that in retirement you will really be able to do what you always wanted, come to us –Prudential– so that you will have the financial means to achieve your dreams. Pretty clever. What do you think?

Totally wrong priorities

Not at all; in fact truly dreadful. Let’s pause for a minute. And let’s reflect on the incredible distortion of basic life priorities that this ad merely reflects and that our society apparently endorses. Here it is plainly stated that the highest dream of the average (and successful) American is to be able to do (at last?) in retirement what he/she really always wanted to do; but could not do because of all the impediments of job, career, duties and what not. 

Really? But if it is indeed so, what happens during the active years, that long stretch of “Life” in which people supposedly express themselves through work? Well, that apparently does not count. That is merely toiling. The “active years” are simply the painful, hard journey marked by stress, fatigue and tough labor. But it is only through this labor that at least some people manage to make and save enough money so that, in retirement, they will be finally able to pursue their dreams. 

Active years provide the means to get to retirement

This narrative describing what life is all about is incredible; and incredibly wrong, from any perspective. What is condensed in this concise sales pitch is a completely wrong perspective of what life should be. According to this view, even for affluent people, (after all these are the potential customers Prudential is talking to via this ad), the entire stretch of the working years is just a way to build funds for retirement.

And retirement is portrayed as deliverance. It is in retirement that, finally free from the nasty constraints of a daily job, a person can spread his/her wings. “Finally I get to do what I always wanted to do“. “And we’ll help you achieve your dreams” –Prudential chimes in.

We thought that life in America was about the opportunity to pursue happiness

But, wait a minute. We thought that America was supposed to be something quite different. We thought that our freedom and non intrusive government would allow people, from the very beginning of their lives, to engage in their own version of the “pursuit of happiness“. I do not believe that Thomas Jefferson added to the Declaration a foot note that reads something like, “The pursuit of happiness applies only to Senior Citizens, provided that they managed to stay alive until  retirement age, and provided that during their years of hard work they accumulated enough funds that will allow them to pursue happiness upon retirement. Those who did not accumulate enough funds are excluded from the pursuit of happiness. Sorry, no exceptions”.

So, there you go. According to our shared culture, America is no longer the Land of Opportunity, the Blessed Place where all people, starting at a young age, will engage in activities that suit their talents and dreams. No, America is a sad wasteland of thankless, hard work. But all this toiling has a purpose. It allows (some) people to have a worry free retirement, (provided they bought Prudential’s services), during which they will be able to finally pursue their passions, those dreams that they could not possibly have achieved during the years in which they were busy holding a job.

Caveat: retirement period is short

That said, pay attention to this major (undeclared) caveat. Right after retirement, you better get organized really, really fast. Because, guess what, you retire when you are old. And that means you only have a few years left to live. So, your dream has to be put together and realized really fast, because it will soon go up in smoke, along with your soul leaving this earth. So, cheated again: right when the fun was beginning, it all comes to an early close.

Or may be there is a solution for this nasty inconvenience. Who knows, may be Prudential can come up with services  that will allow you “to do what you love” in your after life?



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