Retiring on your terms sounds like a good idea, doesn’t it? After all, you will eventually retire. Unless you suddenly die while being employed at the time (I know, uplifting thought!), there will be a period of time when you’re done working for good, but still living.
The question is, on whose terms will this retirement of yours actually be?
I’ve been giving this some thought, in light of both my own life and what I hear from others. The latter also includes what I read on other blogs regarding retirement. It seems like there are varying approaches to what retirement will look like, and when it will happen in life. More on that soon.
First, here are two very uncool things that will probably happen to us as we get old:
- Physical or cognitive problems will make it difficult or impossible for us to work. Sure, this may be tough to envision in one’s 20’s or 30’s, and perhaps even in the 40’s and 50’s. But at some point, the body and/or mind will decline. It happens. And, there is a high degree of likelihood that it can happen to most of us. Yes, even if we’re incredibly fit now.
- Ageism. Employers, in general, seem to favor youth, energy, and speed over age, wisdom, and a slow pace. I think we all realize this will happen, even if we don’t want to acknowledge it or have never experienced it. Maybe we have seen it happen to an older family member or someone we know of an older generation.
Given these two factors, how do you want to define your retirement?
Here are a few ways to go about it.
Keep Working Until You No Longer Can Because You Need the Money
In this approach, you keep on working until you run out of options, or your body or mind breaks down. This basically leaves things in the hands of nature and others, based on the two factors mentioned above. When you can no longer work, you no longer have income. Then, you are forced to live on what you have saved, whether or not it’s enough.
I actually respect people that keep on going as long as they can. The thing is, do you want it to be on your terms or based on factors you can’t control?
This brings us to another approach….
Keep Working Until You No Longer Can, Because You Simply Enjoy Working
In other words, you work until the end of your useful working life because you want to, not because you need to. Doesn’t that sound better than the first option? It requires planning, and a recognition that those two factors above will happen.
There is another approach that works well too:
Keep Working Until You Decide You No Longer Want To, On Your Own Terms
Here, you can choose opt-out of the workforce when you choose to do so. If you lose the passion, and want to focus your energies on other areas of life outside the realm of your career, you simply do so. In this case, done right, you might have the option to “retire” in different ways:
- Semi-Retired. Maybe you still like your career and have a passion for it that you don’t want to put aside. Perhaps you can work part-time
- Mostly Retired. Perhaps you want to simply consult, or work on a few part-time side projects. Maybe that would be more fulfilling.
- Totally Retired. You check out of the scene entirely, and spend your life on other things that don’t involve working for money.
Making It Happen
I think what it really comes down to is recognizing the reality that we each have an effective useful working life that isn’t eternal, planning for that reality, and then customizing our plan based on what we envision our future to be. Sure, there are occasionally factors way out of our control that prevent our best plans for succeeding, but careful planning and positively directed time and energy can help us make it happen. The way we want it to, on our terms!
If we want a simple approach to giving ourselves options, I’d say that increasing these 3 important financial numbers is a good start.
My Questions for You
What retirement path are you presently headed toward, based on your current situation?
What retirement path would you actually prefer take?
What are you doing to make your goal happen?