Rethinking Retirement: How The Game Has Changed

Visions of retirement bombard us everywhere. Why, just do a Google search on the term, “retirement lifestyle” and the image results return pictures of couples on the beach, on a boat, or on a golf course. Call it the power of suggestion, but Americans are convinced that when they retire at 65 years old, they will go from full-time work to full-time play virtually overnight.

But what if that’s not what you want or it just doesn’t seem feasible? How many rounds of golf can you play before the novelty wears off or it becomes mundane like any routine can? You don’t have to settle for a version of retirement that isn’t what you envisioned for yourself. I’ve worked with more than a dozen clients who hate the idea of slowing down in retirement, because it means that they have to stop fulfilling a role that brings them fulfillment or doing a job they enjoy. For others, they just aren’t ready to stop earning income.

Even if you aren’t in a career you absolutely love right now, can you think of a job that you would enjoy if you didn’t need to make money? Maybe instead of working hard your whole life to be able to stop working you can do work that doesn’t feel like work at all.

Rethinking retirement doesn’t mean that you won’t have more time for fun, leisure, and, yes, even more golf (if that’s what you want). What it means is that you don’t have to spend your pre-retirement years waiting for your “good life” to begin. It can begin right now with just a little intentional planning.  

What are you doing today to plan for your future?  

Take a moment to consider this question. You know you don’t want to run out of money in retirement, but do you really know what you want your future in retirement to look like on a day-to-day basis? Knowing how you want to spend your time and your money while you’re retired will help you make insightful financial decisions today that can lead you to the future you want.  

In the same way, the career you have now can easily lead into an encore career later. For instance, men and women who work in federal or state law enforcement are forced to retire once they reach 57 years old and are eligible to retire at 50 years old or after 20 years of service (whichever comes first). But for many of these employees, even if they are ready to retire from law enforcement they aren’t ready to completely stop working. Some may go into higher education, become private contractors, or anything else that leverages their training in a new career.

How can work support your life and not just your financial goals? 

Millennials are already pursuing careers that bring them personal fulfillment and aren’t motivated by earnings alone. A study conducted by Harvard Business Review asked Millennials across the globe how they would prioritize life and what they would put an emphasis on. 60% of Millennials polled in North America said that spending more time with family was their highest priority followed by over 50% saying that growing and learning new things was their highest priority. Only about 12% of Millennials emphasized being wealthy as a high priority and less than 25% said that time for hobbies was a priority. 

Doing work that aligns with your priorities and supports the lifestyle you want to live can make you wonder why you want to leave your job in the first place. Priorities and preference can certainly change as you age, but perhaps there is a different way to approach retirement that isn’t an escape from work, but simply a beginning of a new chapter.  

What can you do now to be proactive? 

Consider the type of work you don’t mind doing – that you may even be passionate about. Are you particularly good at something that you could leverage as a freelance business? Perhaps you are a great writer or impeccable organizer – a seasoned business strategist or gifted public speaker. You could potentially offer your services on a freelance basis and earn some extra money at any point in your lifetime. The trick is to focus on something that you truly enjoy and are good at so that you can enjoy more paid work and the inherent flexibility that comes with independent work.  Intuit estimates that by 2020, more than 40% of the American workforce will be independent workers. 

As you near retirement, chances are you have decades of experience and skills that other companies would love to tap into without you needing to become a full-time employee. This is great news, because with the evolution of technology and platforms that make it easier and cheaper than ever for people to conduct work remotely, it presents continued opportunity for earning potential beyond regular employment and retirement.

Conclusion

When it comes to retirement, the game has changed. You have choices when it comes to how and when you ride off into your Golden Years. Know what you want and don’t be afraid to pursue the life you want to live now.