I know you’ve seen it before. Those images in finance magazines showing the happy couple, somewhere in their 60’s or 70’s frolicking on a beach, basking in the sunshine, or curled up in a hammock reading a book.
This is B.S. for most people. And it isn’t something you should be striving for, either.
MY CURRENT FEELINGS ABOUT RETIREMENT
I’ve been working in finance for about 15 years. Over that timeframe I’ve spoken with many people about retirement, read many books about the strategies and tactics to get you there, became a Certified Financial Planner, and have helped people move closer to that goal.
After all of that, I’m more convinced than ever that aiming for “retirement” is a bad goal.
I have no intention of ever retiring. I have no retirement age in mind. I have no retirement figure in mind.
I do have goals around achieving financial freedom, but I plan to attain that much sooner than 65 years old.
So, why do I feel like retirement is a bad goal? Let’s dig in…
THE TRUTH ABOUT RETIREMENT
The goal of retirement is often fantasized about because people hate the job they are currently in. I wish it were different, but it’s a common theme in most conversations with people.
I’ve heard stories of people having count-down charts at their homes with things like “3,543 days left until retirement”. Each day, when they get home from work, they tear off a sheet and get one more day closer. This is sad…
In instances like these, the only reason people want to stop working is because they hate their job. It’s not because they have aspirations of what they want to do in retirement (more on that later), but because they are simply trying to get out of a self-imposed prison they call a job.
Even if this isn’t the case, and you do have grand aspirations about what retirement will be for you, is this the best way to execute upon it?
I often tell people that the main purpose of financial planning is not to increase the amount of money in their bank account, but to increase the quality of their life. The idea that this increase in the quality of life needs to happen in some distant future doesn’t sit well with me.
Basically, the concept of planning for some future life that you will eventually love is foolish. You should be living your life today and enjoying it.
Yes, you need to save and invest to build wealth, but don’t do it with the mindset that you will one day be able to finally live a great life that you enjoy.
One of the things that I do with each client is go through the exercise of evaluating the life they currently are living. I try to find out how fulfilled they are with what they are doing. Things like: do they have purpose?
And if the answer is that they aren’t very fulfilled, I don’t then start planning for them to retire in 30 years, hoping to that this will help – I start planning with them ways to make changes so they do feel fulfilled and are enjoying the life they are currently living.
A DIRTY LITTLE SECRET ABOUT RETIREMENT
Believe it or not, there is a dark side of retirement.
One of the lesser known facts about retirement is the increased level of depression many people feel as they transition from their working years into their retirement years.
The fantasy of living an amazing life in retirement is quickly faced with a stark reality that you gave up several things your work life provided – Structure, routine, your social network, and a sense of purpose.
Not everyone will succumb to this phenomenon. You can avoid it by implementing several strategies you can read more about here.
This isn’t to scare you, but to inform you that retirement isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. And if retirement is still something you are striving for, you need to properly prepare yourself.
YOU MIGHT NOT LIKE YOUR DREAMS
The other thing people don’t realize is that you might not actually like the picture you’ve painted for yourself.
A lot of people have an image of what retirement should be like. They dream of spending time on the beach reading books, or traveling to far-off lands and experiencing new cultures.
What many don’t realize is that you quickly get bored of sitting on a beach and reading. And not everyone truly loves to travel.
So, have you tried the things you plan to do in retirement?
Tim Ferriss of The Four-Hour Workweek popularized the idea of “mini retirements.”
This is the idea of taking chunks of time throughout your life to experience the things you dream of doing. Both so you can do it while you are young and able, but also to test out the waters.
You might take a 3-month trip to Europe and realize that you do not like the idea of long-term travel.
Well, scratch that off your list of retirement “to-dos”.
WHAT YOU SHOULD BE DOING INSTEAD OF PLANNING FOR RETIREMENT
The whole idea isn’t that you should immediately quit your job and follow your passions. That isn’t practical.
What I’m saying is that if you take time to look inward and ask yourself how happy you are with how you are spending your time, and the answer isn’t a positive one, your solution shouldn’t be to plan to make a change in 30 years.
Ask yourself: “how can I make the transition sooner? How can I set myself up to make a positive change in my life?”
This can come from creating financial freedom – from cutting down on your expenses so you can make better decisions and live a more fulfilled life.
It’s easy to tell someone that if they aren’t happy they should make a change. The hard part is getting someone to act upon that change and create a happier life for themselves. That’s what I’m passionate about. How about you?