If you were to ask me, ‘Who are the most tragic people you see’? I think my answer would surprise you. They are not the couples in their 50s who are discouraged to find out they will not be able to retire when they thought. They are not the people whose portfolios had had less than spectacular returns and must extend their plans for early retirement. They are the retirees who are bored out of their minds. These individuals feel like they have been removed from the mainstream of life, are watching from the sidelines and are not allowed to get back in.
Yet strangely enough, millions are in a mad rush to get to the place where these despondent people live – on the sidelines. Many of us, however, have already seen enough of our parents and forerunners’ retirement scenario’s to know that this is not the life for us. We have figured out that our life will be one of challenge, relevance, stimulation and occupational adventure. We are not interested in finishing this race!
Once people get the money they need, they are able to better understand what the money is all about – liberty to do what they want when they want. What is the point of using that kind of liberty to do nothing but play golf? It’s hard to convince someone who doesn’t have the money that it really is not about the money. It is about doing what you love, doing what you want. It is about balancing work and relationships.
This point became especially clear to me recently when a friend asked me if I had plans to retire early. I thought about it for a moment and then it dawned on me, I like what I do! I write, I speak, I travel with inspiring professionals about how to create a life and work they love. Why would i quit doing that? If I did quit, I think I would begin to self-destruct. This realization was important because it helped me to realize that I had no longer be concerned with having any specific amount of money at any age. There will always be something for me to do and I will always enjoy doing it. You don’t make plans to retire from your passion in life.
Does this idea cause me to spend away my future and disregard the value of my investment savings? To the contrary! Because I value freedom so much, I exercise the necessary discipline to maintain it. I know that I am just one foolish purchase or investment away from reattaching the chains of miserable employment to my life. There is wisdom in balance. Just because I love what I do does negate the need to plan for financial freedom. Life can present us wit vicissitudes that can radically alter our course: disability, a death in the family, divorce, and so on. We must plan ahead financially because we change our minds over time. What invigorates me today may bore me a decade from today. Investment savings are necessary to purchase the freedom to change course when we want.
Two types of people should forget their plans for complete retirement at 65 or earlier – those who can’t afford to retire at that age and those who can afford to retire at that age. Any age is an artificial finish line. A modern measure of success seems to be how many years you can retire ahead of age 65. Is accelerating your pace into boredom and despondency really such a good idea? On the other hand a modern measure of failure has been to measure how many years beyond 65 you had to wait so you could retire. The further past 65 you had to wait to retire, the greater failure you were in the context of retirement. Those measures are about to change. If the coming generation of 50+ year professionals has anything to say about it, those perceptions will be turned entirely on their head. Those who have to work will not be the losers, because they are still in the game and they will find that work keeps them vital, involved, and healthier. Those who will be able to drop out entirely will choose not to because they don’t want to enter a slow track of intellectual atrophy, boredom and monotonous leisure.
We are still in the early stages of a Passion Never Retires – a modern story about what retirement really means. People are still haunted by the old rules and media hype that bemoan their lack of preparedness to reach the artificial goal line. You just can’t seem to get away from the news stories and the advertisements that beat this sorry old retirement horse to death.