What does the word “retirement” conjure up in your mind? If you’ve been steadily saving and investing and haven’t been negatively affected by the recession, the dot.com bust of the '90s, the lackluster housing market, or a personal financial setback then perhaps you envision twenty years traveling the world enjoying a post-work lifestyle.
And then there’s the rest of us—the small business owners, the young professionals with astronomical student loans, freelancers and workers who have changed companies and jobs multiple times, always before the five or seven years required to become vested in a pension plan.
For those who have not saved, thinking of an eventual “retirement” is frightening. An American Institute of Certified Public Accountants study showed that a whopping 40% of working Americans say they will never afford retirement, CNN Money reported. Further, the study found that retirement concerns top the list of issues troubling Americans.
David Bogan and Keith Davies, authors of the book Avoid Retirement and Stay Alive: The New Retirement Revolution believe that if we adopt a new way of thinking about retirement, our fears can be alleviated.
First and foremost Bogan and Davies encourage readers to eliminate the word “retirement” from their vocabulary altogether and instead customize an action plan or “golden parachute.”
Find meaningful work. Many people are looking forward to retirement because they absolutely hate their jobs. Thousands will continue on well past the traditional retirement age because they have no choice. Others will remain in their chosen professions because they want to.
Avoid Retirement differentiates between simply having a job and working with a purpose. “Working is an integral part of life’s purpose,” write Bogan and Davies. “So, give up your job by all means, but don’t stop working. Jobs come and go. Work is constant.”
One option is to keep the job for the benefits and savings plan while pursuing purposeful work at the same time. For those who want to go this route, Marci Alboher offers guidance to what she calls “slash” professionals (a lawyer or a writer) in her book One Person, Multiple Careers.
Grow in knowledge. The idea of “retirement” is that you stop working at a certain time—say 65 years of age. This concept is a relatively new phenomenon, state Bogan and Davies. For most of human history people didn’t retire, they worked until the end of their lives. “It wasn’t as bad as it sounds,” write the authors. “Their age and wisdom were considered assets, as were the tasks they often performed in their later years.”
Avoid Retirement lists all of the aspects of wealth, which, in addition to property and possessions, include mental health, wisdom, knowledge and experience - all of which can accumulate with age. “If you make the decision to continue working, you’ll truly be in a powerful position,” write Bogan and Davies who say surveys show that older workers are strong communicators, take fewer sick days and are more loyal.
Live your retirement dreams now. What is it that you’re planning to do after you retire? Travel? Become more involved in the community? Spend more time with your family? The authors suggest that instead of waiting for a retirement that may not be attainable, take control and restructure your life so you can do these things now. Create a life that will be both satisfying and sustainable into the distant future.
“Successful people love what they do because they have a genuine passion,” write Bogan and Davies, “and a genuine passion never goes away, so they never stop.”