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The biggest question following Super Bowl 50? It wasn’t whether the Denver Broncos could return to the big game next year or if Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers would learn from their mistakes and make their own return. No, it centered around Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning: Would that be his last game as a professional football player?

It seems likely, given that he’s closing in on 40 years old. Wait, what? At the ripe old age of 42, I don’t often get asked if I’ll be retiring soon. Okay, sometimes my students ask, possibly out of hope.

When it comes to pro sports, retirement most often arrives before the magic number of 40. Kobe Bryant, the Los Angeles Lakers’ all-star player, will settle down at the age of 37 after this season of basketball. Kevin Garnett of the Minnesota Timberwolves also looks to be done, and since the Wolves will once again not be in the playoffs, it looks like Garnett’s run will end prior to him turning 40 in May.

Naturally, professional athletes take quite a beating, and they also rely on their athleticism to do their jobs. Most of us hit our athletic peak sometime between 18-25. I don’t need to be in shape to teach, though it, like many of your jobs, can be exhausting. Athletes are also financially secure pretty early in their careers, if they don’t blow all their millions of dollars on extravagances. Many of us are wondering how we might be able to afford retirement when that day arrives, not how many cars we might own or how many thousands of square feet our house(s) might be.

With scientific advances what they are, a number of athletes are looking at extending their careers longer than usual. Tom Brady, quarterback of the New England Patriots, who will turn 39 prior to the start of the next NFL season, has speculated he might be able to play another seven years. With the right diet and workouts, some athletes are able to go beyond the normal lifespan of an athletic career. Just think about Nolan Ryan, one of the greatest pitchers of all time, who was 46 when he retired from baseball. And he didn’t just hang on; the man threw two no-hitters in his 40s!

Why keep playing sports so long when you have more money than you know what to do with? What else are they going to do? What would I do if I could retire at the end of this school year? There are certainly bucket-list items to accomplish, but in reality, I’d have to get at least a part-time job. This is what we see with many retirees. They’re not just going to sit at home watching TV. Heck, my dad went right back to work after he retired. It wasn’t anything close to full-time, but it was something to keep busy and keep a little cash flow going as well.

So many people look forward to retirement and then realize they can’t afford to retire when they want. Insurance plays a big role, but the ability to save for retirement is not often on people’s minds when they’re in their 20s and 30s. I grew up watching my parents save money and learned all about 401K funds. A co-worker got me started on my own retirement account in my second year of teaching. I want to be able to retire when the time comes that my pension will kick in. I can’t count on Social Security, so there sometimes have to be sacrifices now so I can enjoy life someday without work.

I can imagine I’ll still work after retiring, but the beauty is you can often dictate just how much you want to work. Many substitute teachers are retired educators, and they love the ability to be able to say no if they’ve got plans or just don’t feel like it. When I reach that age, maybe I’ll feel like writing more novels and be able to do that at my leisure; who knows?

Many of these athletes don’t have hobbies or other options. Some go into coaching or broadcasting, but if you retire at 40, you hope to have half your life left, at least. How will you fill that time without going crazy? Maybe that’s why it’s not a slam dunk for Manning to retire on top after winning a Super Bowl.

Whenever one decides to retire, it’s a tremendous decision. It’s easy for us to sit back and say, “Why not retire? Now’s the time!” But I’m betting that will be a more and more difficult choice to make in the years to come. Best of luck to Manning, Bryant, and any of you nearing that point!

Word of the Week: This week’s word is contumacy (thanks to Galen Spinler!), which means disrespect for authority, as in, “The constant contumacy the teacher saw in her classroom helped make her decision to retire easy.” Impress your friends and confuse your enemies!

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