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You’ll Never Retire. Let’s Celebrate!

by Shawanda Greene

Chain Breaking

A few weeks ago, I heard Ric Edelman, one of my favorite financial advisors and radio hosts, introduce a radical concept:

FORGET ABOUT RETIREMENT

That’s right. Give it up.

Get used to the idea that your latter years won’t consist of daily sit down lunches at Long John Silver’s.

The whole day won’t be free to blow your retirement check in a smokey room of slot machines.

For many of us, there is no retirement. We’ll work until we’re physically unable to OR we die.

Assuming that’s reality, you’re either really bummed or liberated.

Now, I’m not telling you how you should feel about this news, BUT feel liberated.

Don’t worry about building a $3.8 million nest egg. You can stop obsessing over how much money you need in investable assets by August 2046. Because you, my dearest friend, will still be working.

Isn’t that great?!

Although you’re not excused from saving what you can, you’re encouraged to find a vocation you love – something you love so much the only way retirement happens is by force.

Think about what early retirement means. You’re so uninterested, so miserable in your current profession you’re counting down the years, months, weeks, days, hours, seconds to when you don’t have to do it anymore. That’s sad.

What if you don’t make it to early retirement?

You’d have wasted decades unfulfilled.

No longer do we work at the same company doing the same job for 30 years. We quit our jobs every few years. Change careers several times.

We dump our employers. Our employers dump us.

We take a year off. Shave our heads. Join cults.

We’re all over the place, man!

Add to that, real wages have either stagnated or declined over the last few decades. The wealth gap between the rich and the rest of us has never been wider.

Pension plans are practically extinct.

Social Security is all but bankrupt.

I gotta tell ya. I’m excited!

I mean it.

If there’s a good chance you’ll work right up until you’re staring up the nostrils of your last breath, then you have every incentive in the world to find and monetize that which you love.

And you don’t have to pursue anything noble like feeding starving children in Africa or neutering poor people’s pets. If you couldn’t care less about hungry kids or poor folks, I won’t judge you. Just start pursuing your passion now if only on a part-time basis – if only on a volunteer basis.

Who knows? Maybe you’ll do what you love AND fatten your pockets more than you ever imagined.

Tell me I didn’t just set you free.

You don’t have to thank me now, but you’re welcome. ;)

This post was included in the Totally Money Carnival #46: Countdown to Christmas at Help Me to Save.

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

20sfinances December 9, 2011 at 2:20 PM

I like the idea… i definitely want to find ways to make money doing what i want… and not waste my life waiting to live – so I guess I agree with you. (although, I couldn't pass up the "eff you" answer to the poll. haha.

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Shawanda December 11, 2011 at 10:49 AM

:) I actually think you have a better chance at retirement if you're focusing your energy on something you're extremely interested in and good at. You have a better chance of making a lot of money that way.

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Sustainable PF December 10, 2011 at 9:45 AM

Make a plan, stick to it – retire. I think this take is quite pessimistic. Those who want to retire will. Give up your smart phone, you don't NEED it. Don't but a big TV or a new vehicle every 4 years. Lots of things can be done to work toward retirement.

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Shawanda December 11, 2011 at 11:35 AM

I actually think it's what's realistic for a lot of people. For the sake of brevity, I didn't delve into it in the blog post, but most people simply do not make enough money to retire – well, at least not enough to retire at the age of 65 without drastically lowering their standard of living.

This notion that we only need to save 10% or 15% of our income is almost laughable. I could tell people to save 20% or 30%, but it's difficult to make a case for that when the median, annual household income in the US is $50K.

I'm sure it's possible to save 20 to 30% of your income, but we're running into a territory beyond smart phones and lattes and leased vehicles. We're now talking about telling your kids you won't be contributing towards their college. That you're willing to live in a neighborhood that's much less than you can afford. We've moved from cutting expenses to gutting expenses. And for what? So that you can start living at the point where your health is most likely to fail you or your spouse?

I'm genuinely excited to pursue my passion. Of course I want the option to retire, but I also want to wake up everyday doing something I love so much that even with the option to retire, I choose to keep working. I also believe doing what you love provides the best opportunity of getting filthy rich.

Knowing what I know and have experienced when it comes to the shortness of life. I'd choose the latter. However, I have no problem with being able to choose from both.

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FabulouslyBroke.com December 10, 2011 at 9:57 PM

I feel like already there. :) I do what I love and I make a good living off it.

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The Frugal Toad December 11, 2011 at 10:24 AM

Gotta disagree with you Shawanda! I am retiring because I am doing the right things now. Too many people are living for the moment and will regret they did not save more for their retirement.

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Shawanda December 11, 2011 at 11:43 AM

I'm doing the right things now so that I have the option to retire.

But I can't ignore the fact that no one promised me tomorrow. I believe there are a lot of people who will regret not pursuing their dreams when they were young, healthy, and able to take risks.

I admire Warren Buffet because the guy is in his 80s, obscenely rich, and still working. He's not working because he has to. He's working because he loves to.

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Shawanda December 11, 2011 at 11:36 AM

Congrats! I've always been inspired by your story. Although you're younger than me, I'm trying to be like you when I grow up. :)

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Amanda L Grossman December 11, 2011 at 6:51 PM

I am on the path to a good retirement; however I do not live and work for retirement. I always find it depressing to hear people say "just ten more years", or "one day when I retire". Life is now! Save that 10% and do something you find interesting.

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Shawanda December 12, 2011 at 10:40 PM

Amen! I don't know if this is a saying or quote or whatever, but I'm pretty sure I didn't come up with it myself.

"Plan as if you'll live forever. Live as if you'll die tomorrow."

It's probably quite difficult to do both, but, hey, I'm up for the challenge. :)

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Zaftig Diva December 12, 2011 at 9:08 PM

I figure there must be some balance between saving for an unknown future and living in the present. I retire often and for as long as suits me. I've been doing it for years. Going to work is generally for reasons greater than money; however, that is the exchange keeping a roof over my head today.

It doesn't serve to go to work and be miserable. Hanging out waiting on a promise then dying in the process makes no sense. And people do die in the process of waiting for the future. Every day we wake up is the opportunity to be grateful and live our lives to the fullest.

For me, retirement (or periods away from punching someone's time clock) means traveling to visit and tend my family, daycare for my grandchild, reading, writing, and focused energy on my self, my neighborhood, and my community. In a society focused on having and getting more, we still need those who are willing and available to do.

And not just at holiday seasons, but year round. hunger is a habit that begs to be fed.

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Shawanda December 12, 2011 at 10:27 PM

I love this! Thanks for sharing. I'm always shocked when I hear the high percentage of Americans who are miserable in their jobs. Who said you had to work from young adulthood straight through to old womanhood?

I think you bring up a good point. Even if some people don't have a profession that they're truly passionate about, they should consider taking a career break or breaks to focus on their interests while they're healthy and able. Not knowing what the future holds isn't an excuse to be irresponsible, but the uncertainty is enough to make you seriously consider whether you wanna wait for a day that just might not ever come.

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JP @ Novel Investor December 12, 2011 at 11:20 PM

Couldn't agree more. I gave up the cubicle life because I hated it. And found something I enjoyed doing for 13 years.

What happens if you enjoy what you're doing so much you don't want to retire. Should retirement still be a goal then?

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Shawanda December 12, 2011 at 10:35 PM

Congratulations to you!

If I had my way, I'd never retire. However, I do want the flexibility to change directions and take risks while still being able to pay for my basic necessities – at any age. Even if the idea of retirement seems unappealing, there's nothing stopping you from setting lofty financial goals.

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Renée August 30, 2012 at 12:08 PM

When I was 17 lived and worked in London for two years and when I was 22 I lived and worked in Edinburgh for two years. Both times I noticed “old” people still working. And with old I mean in their ladies well into their 70′s. This to top their pensions because those ment starvation. I new there and then I would work all my life so I better make it enjoyable.

Now at 48 , I live in Amsterdam and I work part time for 30 hours a week so I have a little time left to pursue my passions and sometimes take a course or workshop or some classes to study on the side.
I like my job, and don’t mind doing it “untill” , as long as I have time to spend on myself.
Money is very tight but I manage. I have no debts, I’m even saving a little money every month to go towards a big holiday ( 2 weeks in San Francisco in fall 2014).
This works for me. Working forever? Bring it on :)

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Renée August 30, 2012 at 12:09 PM

And I apologize for all the bad spelling mistakes :(
Renée recently posted..The lure of Victorian architectureMy Profile

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