While my title is an admitted spoof on the “retire early” movement, please understand that I greatly admire anyone who can achieve retirement at age 35, 40, or 45. It is just that I find myself wondering if the goal of retirement is overemphasized. Far too many of us work long and hard at jobs we don’t like, counting down the years and months and days to retirement as if our lives will instantaneously become wonderful on that day.
Reality is that some people have great retirement years while others struggle with too much time and too little purpose. I therefore ask, “Should you be sacrificing today’s happiness in order to plan for a tenuous ‘some day’?” I am not saying you shouldn’t be investing for your future financial wellbeing, but I am saying that if you are working at a job you hate, you should try to find something you love.
“But Joe, you don’t know my circumstances. I have way too many years vested in my current job to throw them away now.”
Make a Plan to Change Your Career
I understand, and I don’t recommend quitting cold turkey. But, if you live for weekends and dread Monday mornings, I think you should could use some introspection. Ask yourself what you are passionate about and then buy lunch for someone who is doing that very thing. Learn all you can and then start doing it part time. Get your feet wet for six months, then, if you still love it and think you can make a career of it, plan a transition from where you are to where you want to be.
My Personal Story
As a 66 year old semi-retiree, I can’t say that I fully practiced what I am preaching in this post. I worked a satisfying career as an engineer, never hating what I did, but not loving it either. Over the years, I would periodically ask my wife, half hypothetically and half in jest, “What do you think I should do when I grow up?” Our answer was always, “I guess we will just wait and see.”
After my retirement from engineering, I began a journey to answer that hypothetical question. Knowing that I wanted to help others in a way that fit my gifts and my passions, I took the necessary training to become a Dave Ramsey certified counselor and, six years ago, I opened Plemon Financial Coaching where I encourage people to get out of debt and make plans to fulfill their dreams. At that same time, I began writing weekly finance columns for two local newspapers, and I eventually became a writer for ChristianPF.
My retirement career is something I absolutely love, especially the counseling part. Helping people define and reach their financial goals is a “high” that I never experienced during my engineering career. How long will I continue to do so? Hopefully, until I am 85 (or even older) – as long as I am able.
How about you?
You are here on earth for a purpose. While dovetailing your job with your purpose isn’t always easy to do, wouldn’t you love to be so fulfilled with your career that you would gladly continue doing it well past the time when people normally retire? If retirement at age 85 (or hopefully older) sounds good to you, my guess is that you are living a happy and rewarding life today.
James Michener once wrote:
The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he is always doing both.
My hope is that you, like Michener, will have so much fun working that you won’t want to retire.
Do you work at a job you don’t like in order to gain the retirement benefits? What would it take for you to leave that job? What would you love so much that you would never want to retire?