What Do You Work For?


No matter how hard we work, we will never be rich, and the gap between rich and poor is widening. This is not my personal feeling but a truth proved by a French genius, Thomas Piketty in his best-selling book, “Capital in the 21st century.” His research revealed a harsh reality—Investing is more profitable than working. Don’t jump the gun. I didn’t mean to incite a worker’s revolution. While highly expecting government to keep income gaps within acceptable limits, we instead need to re-define the purpose of working because it’s too hard to keep working only for salary, looking sideways at millionaires building up fortunes without working.

What about a friendship? Don’t you think it could be a good purpose? As it’s rare for Japanese workers, I have changed jobs a couple of times. In addition, when I worked for the government, it was common to get a transfer order every year or two. Such circumstances gave me many opportunities to work with various people in various places, and with some of them, I still keep a friendship, which, I believe, is something more beneficial than salary. After retirement, you will lose many things at a time, such as your title, pride, fame, almost everything gained through work. Although people outside Japan get used to such events, good friends are all that truly matters in the end and what you can’t expect in investment returns.

Passing the torch in a good relationship, from old generation to new generation

As this may be a rare case, it will be best if you can turn a hobby into work. Once, I asked a craftsman close to retirement what he would do next, and to my surprise, he answered he would keep woodworking and make something for himself. I’m sure he wouldn’t suffer a loss even when confronting retirement. Fortunately, there seem to be many such people working in our factory. In fact, retired craftsmen joyfully gather for company events to teach woodworking. Turning a hobby into work may sound too naïve, but we have to pay more attention to post-retirement life, anyway. Average life expectancy is increased, and we shall not live by bread alone.


Shungo Ijima

He is travelling around the world. His passion is to explain Japan to the world, from the unique viewpoint accumulated through his career: overseas posting, MBA holder, former official of the Ministry of Finance.