Have you ever thought about your retirement?
I’m in my 30’s and retirement seems so far away but I’ve always wondered why do we have to wait until we retire to do the things that we want to do. Part of the reason retirement was put in place was because people were living longer and physical impairments prevented people from completing tasks fully. (Wikipedia) This makes sense!
I think the concept of retirement has gotten skewed in the past few decades. Why do we have to wait until we are 65 to live the life that we want? Who told us that we have to work for 40 years? This seems inherently backwards to me. The longer we live, the greater the odds are against us. We are told to save money for retirement, put money in this 401K and in this IRA and while there is nothing wrong with this, there’s little advice that tell you to slow down your consumption. No one tells us that hey, maybe we need to downsize today. No one tells us that 40 years of saving at 10% will never provide for the life that we want in retirement. No one tells us that 40 years of constant consumption doesn’t have to be the norm.
If you ask anyone close to retirement what they will do once they are retired, they may say: Travel, Spend Time With Family, Get Healthy, Enjoy Hobbies, Read Books, Go Back to School, Volunteer, Practice Frugality, but why do we have to wait to do this. Why does 65 years have to pass by for us to start doing this? For many of us, we’ve bought into the notion that we are supposed to work for 40 years, that we are supposed to buy all of these things for 40 years, that the life that we want isn’t available until 65. Why wait to do all of these things when we are older when the odds of getting sick, of not having enough money, or being too frail to do anything are higher as we age.
What is the ultimate advantage of retirement? It’s freedom, but variables such as health, money and time all affect how engaging this time of our lives is so we need to be aware of this and engage in a way that allows us to create freedom today.
Let’s break down a few of the things many of us want to do in retirement and why we should start doing these things today instead of waiting.
Many of my friends always complain that they don’t have enough vacation days to travel. They complain that they don’t have enough money. Many are making six figure incomes so this boggles my mind. What the f* are we spending our money on? How come we can negotiate multi-million dollar deals, but we can’t negotiate more than 2 weeks of vacation? We already work more than 40 hours a week given our constant stream of email feeds and updates so we know that work can be done anywhere and anytime. The internet has created a new model for working so why are we still stuck to the notion that we have to be at a 9 to 5 desk job.
If we wait to travel until we are older, we run the risk of not being healthy enough to get on a plane or be on long bus rides. We run the risk of not being able to see many beautiful places around the world as our consumption seeks to destroy many natural world wonders. We run the risk of not being able to share in the joy of the adventure with our significant other.
Spend Time With Family
The thing that many of us have to realize with time is that it’s just not about OUR time that we have to worry about, it’s about our time in relation to other people’s. Our parents, our grandparents have a shorter time frame to live. So while we think we have another 40 years to live, some family members may only have 5 years or less which means we only have 5 years to be with them.
Volunteering takes time and many of us don't have enough hours in the day to even accomplish what we want to accomplish. What if we did have time? What would we do? Who would we help? For many of us, the want to volunteer is retirement is innate as we want to help other people. Again, why do we have to wait? Why is the focus on ourselves so great before we are 65 years old that we don't have time to even volunteer? Part of this I believe is because we are too busy keeping up with the Joneses. We spend most of our time and money buying stuff, maintaining and cleaning them that our time gets lost. What if we didn't have so much time to maintain? What if our garages are actually empty? Would we volunteer today then?
My grandparents are currently in their 80s and 90s. My grandfather still has his wits and sharp mind, but his body is failing him. I'm feeling that I am going to live as long as them. So today, I feel that I should be doing all I can to improve my health. Today, I have more resources. Today, I have more willpower. Today, I have a lot more impact on the trajectory of my health than if I wait until I am retired to eat better and exercise more. So let's not wait to get healthier until we are retired because by then, it will be too late.
I think this is where Minimalism can help shift our focus. I understand that for many people, a lot of their selves are tied to their jobs. Once we leave this identity, we may find yourself lost. This is why I think it’s important to figure out what is important for us today and start doing them. In retirement, we still want to be challenged, engaged and valued. Let's not spend 40 years in a daze hoping for a better life after retirement. Let's start today and not wait until retirement.
Today, figure out how to shift your focus. Understand that you don't need to buy that latest gadget. Save your money. Go visit that place you've always wanted to go to. Say hello to your grandparents. Pick up that hobby. Help someone. Start walking.