I’ve joked with clients over the years that everyone can retire as soon as they want. In fact, you can retire right now.
However, with the average American 50-year-old only having around $40,000 in savings, their achievable retirement might not quite meet their needs (or their wants).
According to this recent Forbes article, 37% of middle class Americans believe they’ll work until they’re too sick or until they die.
If you enjoy your work, maybe this isn’t the worst thing in the world. But I suspect that many people don’t find their work as enjoyable as I do.
Many of my financial planning conversations revolve around retirement which probably comes as no surprise. And while the definition of retirement can vary greatly from one person to the next, I’ve seen a gradual shift over my 20 year career of what “retirement” is generally understood to mean to most folks.
These days, with our hectic schedules and responsibilities, more and more people look forward to having more time to do what they want when they want in retirement. And of course, many of these things will require money. So I’m not diminishing the importance and value of being financially prepared for the future.
But after reading this interesting piece in the New York Times, I think it warrants a deeper exploration of what retirement is, and perhaps more important, when retirement happens.
Retire Like A Millenial
The article is by Jim Sollisch about his son, Max, a 25-year-old singer, songwriter. Apparently, Max is also known as”Dolfish.”
In the article, the author comments that Max gets out of bed when he wants most days and spends his time doing something he loves – writing and playing music. And Max isn’t relying on his parents for support. When he needs more money, he supplements his music income by taking on some substitute teaching gigs. I don’t know Max or his Dad, Jim, but Max sounds like he has a pretty happy and fulfilling life. He could be considered a success.
Jim, the author, goes on to compare his son’s success with how success is typically measured by himself and others.
The bottom line is that while Jim and his 62-year-old hospital administrator buddy, Dale, are busting their butts to rush from one meeting to the next or they’re juggling multiple project deadlines all while trying to have a life outside of work, they get some comfort from the fact that they’re making and saving a good amount of money for the future.
What the NYT article is really challenging us with, in my opinion, is to determine which is the better measure of success?
More and more, I’m convinced that Max, the 25-year-old is on the right path.
Sure, he may never have the financial cushion that his Dad has worked so hard for, but he seems to be making the most of his journey.
Who will have more regrets on their deathbed? Max, Jim or Dale?
I don’t know, but the research tells us time and time again that no one ever wished in their final hours that they’d spent more time at work. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. According to this August 2013 article, the #1 regret is “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”
The #2 regret? “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.”
So maybe if we’re willing to adjust our view on retirement just a bit, we can start to downshift our lives today and better enjoy each of our journeys. Certainly, there will be some expected trade-offs that might impact our lifestyle, but the real benefit is that you’ll have more time to enjoy your one and only shot at life.
And maybe you’ll have to continue to work part-time or even full-time, but what if you could trade in your 60-hour-per-week grind for a 40-hour-per-week job that you can leave at work when you’re not there? And if you have an opportunity to earn a living doing something you enjoy or find rewarding, all the better.
So many women – and others – I meet are on the path to what I call a deferred life plan. They’re working as fast and as hard as they can while hoping and praying they can make it to age 60 or 65 and then really start enjoying their lives.
My question to you . . . why not “retire” right now?
Remember, life isn’t a dress rehearsal. You only get one shot to make the most of it.
If you’d like to explore a different type of retirement and see how you might be able to retire sooner and get on with living, I’d love to have that conversation with you. You can reach me here, and I’d love to hear from you.
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Image credit: Intentional Retirement