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The Fascination With Retirement

My mother has been talking about retirement for years and from the time the idea came out of her mouth, I wondered, what do you plan to do in retirement? Her response: nothing. But I really don’t agree with that strategy. It’s like what a friend told me. You’ve been working for decades; once you stop, that’s when you really get old, so you need to keep doing something to keep you active and vibrant. In my mind, retirement can be the prime time to enjoy life. If you have planned well and saved adequately, you can enjoy a comfortable time without having to re-enter the workforce full-time. My mom is imminent retiring and she is still taking the stance of doing not a damn thing. I get there’s a euphoria of not having to wake up at godawful hours and dealing with people’s crap. Truly I do! But what happens when the buzz is gone?

I can only speak for myself in this, but I couldn’t just cold turkey stop working. I love to work, and particularly if I own the place where I work, I wouldn’t mind partially retiring but working part-time til the day I die. If you’re going to retire, you should do something. It could be a hobby or doing some travel, perhaps learning a new craft you’ve always been interested in… something! I would die of absolute boredom if I was just sitting around at home doing nothing just because I could. Hell, if movies are your thing, follow the film festival circuit – how cool would that be to go to Cannes or New York or the Caribbean to see the latest indie films? It’s different and could be fun!

As I said, I envision my retirement still working a couple of days a week or maybe being a community volunteer, writing in various locations around the world, keeping active (I better know how to swim by that time)… but there would never be a dull moment. I wouldn’t wake up in the morning and veg out on TV every single day. There’s a lot of stuff you can do, and I really hope my mom finds something, because I’m not a fan of the “leading the horse to water” strategy. I’m too old for it and she certainly is too.

The absolute worse is to start retiring only to be placed in a position financially where you have to work again. That is a combination of poor planning and just bad luck. There were lots of people that had fortunes pre-bust in the US and were ravaged by the shift in the markets. It is important to start saving early, because the pension system has gone the way of the dodo. I’d say my mom’s generation, maybe the one after hers, was the last to capitalize on that setup. I know someone that had a pension and the company converted it to a 401k. Our retirements will be shorter because we have to work longer and save more. My entire generation is solely dependent on financial vehicles like 401k’s to survive through retirement. I have my thoughts on 401k’s – they depend on your career path as to how useful they actually would be. I suggest to everyone they should start saving in a 401k once they are in the work force, at least up to the company match. It’s free money and last I checked, there aren’t a lot of free things around these days. 401k’s are pre-tax mechanisms, so if your career starts low and ends high (in terms of your compensation), it may not be your best option over time -there’s compensation limits on contributing to a 401k anyway. If you’re making loot like that (> $150,000 a year), get yourself a Certified Financial Planner.

As for retirement itself, just manage your expenses well. Don’t go buckwild and buy a Ferrari. It’s easy to live a modest yet robust lifestyle without going overboard. And keep the casino visits to a minimum. When you visit a casino, the demographic looks something like this: 65% people over 60, 25% the newbies (21 to 28) and the other 10% is a smattering of age groups in between. Social security checks and pensions have been lost in those places – play with a set amount and if that goes, go hit a buffet. Finito.

Such are the perilous roads to and through retirement! But there’s so much potential for enjoyment – my only question is this: why does anyone wait for retirement to start living their life and having fun?! Do it now – and I mean NOW. Life being short and all that….