What the Heck is Retirement

I said I will address the topic of retirement. As a man of my words, here it is :)

Ah, retirement. Can’t you feel this warm fuzzy feeling from the dream which the word may offer?

Now take a minute, imagine yourself retired. What do you have in your mind? Feel free to write it down. Below are probably things that came to people’s mind…

Not working. (Duh!)
Having enough money to lead a comfortable, or hopefully, luxurious life.
Travelling around the world. (Sipping martini on various beaches?)
Lounging at home watching TV for most of the day, perhaps half naked.

And whatever you may have in mind. Or maybe you have never contemplate thoroughly what you intend to do in retirement. Well, you should consider doing it. Over and over again, I have mentioned awareness on this blog. One main thing about awareness is knowing yourself. Wouldn’t it be nice for all of us to know what the heck we are giving our life for?

Undeniably, many of us spend much time planning and working so hard for retirement. It’s an oh-so-wonderful topic on personal finance blogs. Moreover, even the objective for starting business or joining startups frequently is to make it big at once so they can retire. It’s the next destination after we graduate from college. Sometimes it only comes to mind after we get hitched.

Well, I say, retirement is overrated. Yes, perhaps there is a time in life that we want to, or have to, stop working. That’s fine. But until then, why are we working just so we can stop working? Doesn’t that sound a little silly? Perhaps it’s more productive to think about what you want to do with your life instead. More on that later.

Here is what I see retirement has become, what is inferred by it.

Essentially, as it is now, we have turned retirement into a kind of nirvana, salvation. Stealing a quote from 40 year old virgin, we have put retirement on the pedestal.

How did it get like this? Please allow my simple minded hypothesis below.

As we have been turned into “consumers,” like many other things, retirement is a concept that had been sold to us over the past century just like the “American Dream”… Ah, the power of gradualism. Over time, marketing drove it into a home run now, where it is an unquestioned concept. How they are making money off this? Well, look at all the retirement homes, retirement community, vacations/resorts, the amount of money being poured into the market through 401k and IRAs (not saying we shouldn’t take advantage of them).

But all in all, the reason how retirement has come to mean is not that relevant.

More importantly is, like countless other illusions we have in life, when we focus our eyes entirely on retirement, we forget to live. We forget now. We forget to appreciate and cherish what we have now. We live solely for the day of retirement as if we are immortals.

Please understand, I am not saying retirement is bad and we need to throw it out the window. Instead, it would be well for all of us to explore the reason(s) to desire retirement. What is important is the intention behind the action.

I say,
Find what you love doing, that in one way or another…
contribute to the world as a whole.

Note: I said the world, meaning not just contribute to the human race. Now is time for everyone to step beyond thinking only about ourselves.

When you have done that, you can gradually transform your life into doing what you have found, instead of what you are told about retirement. At that point, retirement is no longer needed. You no longer need the salvation. When you are doing those things, you have found the bliss in your life.

Financially speaking, it is about knowing what is enough. When you know enough, you can be free, not just financially. If you look on the Wall Street, there are tons of people with abundant money, yet a majority of them continue to work and work to accumulate more. Some may learn “enough”. Some never will. Probably just a small fraction outside of that majority is working because they enjoy it or they want to contribute.

Also, I never buy into the argument that you need to accumulate enough nest egg to maintain the same income in retirement. I say, why do you need to maintain that kind of income? Presumably, if you do retire, your home should be paid off by then. Plus, when you stop working, a lot of expense goes away along with it. And how about finding yourself and peace which implies a simple lifestyle? And how about learn what it means to be healthy so you know not to destroy it that leads to all those medical bills? After all those impacts, it means you really requires just a fraction of your previous income in retirement.

Food for thoughts.

Originally posted 2009-04-28 22:42:37. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

3 Responses

  1. Muzie says:

    Totally agree here.

    When you say, how are “they” making money off this, I think it’s actually deeper than that. “We” are making money from this, not “they”.

    For most people, retirement is only a plausible concept if we get “a little help” from, in most cases, the stock market. Imagine a world with no investments, and the whole concept of retirement falls rather flat. Saving 10% of your salary so you can somehow survive on that paltry 10% twenty years in the future, when inflation has made that 10% virtually worthless? Not so appealing is it.

    But when we are told that 10% will grow eight-fold in 30 years to become 80%, then it all makes sense, and is very alluring. Yet without that eight-fold gain the whole proposition doesn’t make any sense.

    So we all have a vested interest in the great retirement experiment living on. We need our investments to go higher for retirement to be plausible, and our children will need to as well. As always, when you take things at the limit, I suspect one generation will find they are the ones at the end of the line. At that moment, who knows, perhaps government will intervene to force people to invest, or perhaps we will finally find a meaningful place in society for our seniors.

  2. Kin says:

    Thanks for pointing that out Muzie. You are absolutely right. It is not “they”. It is “we”. We do also have a vested interest.

    The “market” where everyone is trying to generate money is like a party that cannot end because no one wants it to. It is like a run away train that continuously speed up, where everyone is excited about the speed and no one realizes the train needs to stop. Eventually it will hit an end… and crash.

    The same trend is happening with the way we deal with ourselves, each other, the family-concept, the government, and the planet. We are so involved with what exist now that we cannot let go of what just will not work for the greater whole.

    I cannot help but feel how things are cannot last. Because of that and if things stay the same, humans will not last (which may not necessarily be a bad thing). To change that, and that is, IF people realize they need to change, it seems there is no other way than a collective epiphany or satori, where we realize what the F we are doing and slow down to figure out what the F we really want to do.

    Because most people only realize they need to change upon a traumatic situation, like cancer, or someone close dying, or near death situation, my prediction is that, things will get worse on average before getting better. By this, I mean we will not know how long this will take, or if it will happen… in our lifetime.

    I was talking in regard to not just the big picture but the entire picture. Hopefully it makes sense.

  3. That’s true. We don’t need all that income when we retire because hopefully your home is paid off… but when we retire there’s more free time to:

    – Travel
    – See your grandkids/pay for their tuition etc
    – Medical bills increase as you get older

    And a whole host of other things.

    With that being said, I think a gross income of $60,000 each year is enough to sustain me. Or less

    But apparently that amount means I need to save 3.5 million by the time I retire because I plan on living until the age of 90 :P

    (P.S. I’m a Pig too :) Although I like to say “Piglet” because it’s cuter or “Boar”)

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