When I was 10 years old, I had two visions of what my future would look like. On one hand, I was going to own my own business. On the other hand, I was going to retire by the age of 45.
These two visions weren’t mutually exclusive, as they can both happen, together. But the reality is, I had a false understanding of what it meant to be “retired” and why I wanted it in the first place.
Retirement is VERY highly marketed in our society these days. From what I can tell, it’s been this way for at least the last 40 or 50 years. It seems my great grandparent’s generation was the among the first in our modern society to reach the point in life where they could live off of pensions, either from the government (thanks to the implementation of social security) or from employers, for the rest of their lives. My grandparent’s generation then followed suit and lived out their elderly years on pensions as well.
My grandparent’s generation taught my parent’s generation to follow suit and go to work for the government or an employer so they too could reach “retirement” and get those pensions. My parent’s generation then cooperated and did what they were told. Today, I believe many of them are starting to realize that it may not have been worth sacrificing 40 plus years for the possibility of this (in many cases) make-believe “retirement” dream.
As an example, my own father, along with many other people I have known throughout the years, cooperated and did what he was “supposed” to do. He worked the corporate gig (and was promised a big pension) for 20 plus years, only to not live to see retirement. My mom once told me that he always wanted to be a sports announcer. Sadly, that could have happened, but didn’t. I wonder if he chose not to go for it because of this pressure to do what others said to do.
Even while so many people never make it there, this idea of “retirement” (reaching a point where you can kick back and play golf all day while collecting your retirement pension) continues to be heavily marketed to us (even to my generation) as something we MUST cooperate with. There is this idea out there that we must play this game of working for an employer or for the government for 40 years at 40 hours per week and then we will be rewarded with a pension (or a 401k/Roth IRA income stream).
One big question that we too often don’t think to ask is: Is this hope of one day having a retirement pension really worth living the life others tell us to live for 40 plus years?
I’m here to propose that that whole plan (to do things their way in order to reach this outcome in 40 years) just may be one big hoax.
Back in the days, the pensions were actually there. For our generation, they likely won’t be there.
So the question is: Should we continue going the traditional route that everyone tells us to go and hope that we’ll get to “retirement” in 40 years?
Well, for one, many people who do cooperate with “the plan” for 40 years, don’t even live long enough to collect their pensions and reach this dream “retirement”. Others make it there but then end up unhappy in retirement due to bad health.
Too many people sacrifice their prime years in order to POSSIBLY get the payback of this dream “retirement” in their old age.
So the big question is: Is it worth sacrificing our prime years in order to POSSIBLY get a payback when we’re at the end of our lives?
Of course, we need to consider the alternatives in order to answer that question.
Here are the alternatives:
- Not looking at employment as the only option we have to make a living. Before the industrial revolution, a large percentage of people worked for themselves. Employment is not the only way to earn a living.
- Investing in assets (non-locked up, non-restricted assets) throughout our prime earning years.
- Creating work we enjoy and even love so that we can work later into our lives and not have to worry about retiring. Let’s create more flexible work that we can do from anywhere and on our own time.
- Not spending all our money on 4,000 square foot houses with white picket fences.
- Not leasing (or buying) brand new cars that lose thousands of dollars per year.
- Not blindly going into debt tens of thousands of dollars per year to attend college to get a job we don’t even want.
The reality is that many of us won’t make it to “retirement” because we will die before we get there.
Also, many of us who do live to get there, won’t have enough money to retire, even though we’ve saved for it diligently.
Many of us who do have enough money to retire, once we get there, won’t, because we couldn’t imagine not working anymore.
And many of us who do have enough money to retire (and actually want to retire) will be in terrible health by that time and therefore won’t even be able to enjoy it.
That leaves a very select few who will actually experience this “make believe retirement” that is SO HEAVILY marketed to us these days.
My question to you is, which group are you going to fall into? Odds are you will fall into one of the groups where it did not pay off to sacrifice your peak years for those old age years.
Are you going to wait 40 years to find out? Or are you going to put in place an action plan now to find and do work you love so that you may or may not ever “retire”.
“Retirement” to me, sounds like a bill of goods that’s being sold to us. It may have paid out back when pensions were there, but when we get old, they likely won’t be there.
Even if they are there, do we want to save our best days for when we’re too old to enjoy them? Or do we want to take life by the horns and enjoy it NOW?
By enjoying it now, I mean finding work you love, never settling and investing in assets and building businesses that earn income and will continue to earn income even into our late years so that we’ll never have to worry about “retirement” again.
That’s my plan. What’s yours?