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The Retirement Myth

This is from my monthly column for the Kitsap Business Journal. This is the March edition and I’ve received many comments regarding this particular one. I welcome yours….Weedin Place image

The Retirement Myth

 “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” ~ George Bernard Shaw

My wife Barb and I went to see Paul McCartney perform live at Safeco Field last year. I can honestly say it was one of the highlights of my life. I knew that this was probably the last time I would have a chance to watch a former Beatles member perform live. McCartney was 71 years old at the time and I doubted Seattle was going to be a destination spot for future events. Barb and I enjoyed watching Sir Paul regale a packed house on a beautiful summer night for nearly three hours without a break. Three hours! This included three encore performances alongside former members of Nirvana, all easily half his age. Just a few weeks ago, I watched the CBS special of the 50th anniversary of The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. McCartney was there with the other living member of the band, Ringo Starr (who is older than him.) They put on an amazing show. At 72, McCartney probably can’t even spell “retirement,” nor does he want to.

The Retirement Myth is that we all yearn to save boatloads of money through prudent investments so that when we reach somewhere around 65 years old, we can kick back in our Bermuda shorts, relax, play golf, and sip lemonade by the pool in the evening. At least that was the thought when I was a kid in the 1970s as to what the goal was for adults. At that time, most people spent a lifetime of work at one place (many had a first career in the military.) They stayed there, working with heads down to earn a living and put money aside, with that hope of having enough at the end of their careers to live long and prosper in the golden years.

A study conducted by Boeing and Lockheed Martin shows that on average, retirees lived about 17-18 months after retirement. I understand there are numerous factors to consider, yet other studies by major corporations and universities point to a similar conclusion. “Retire” and die.

Before you jump all over me about not prudently investing, relax. I’m all for saving money wisely to have enough to live on for the rest of your life. However, what I am saying is that you should have enough to live on AND keep “working” because you need a purpose and it’s good for your health.

I believe too many people scrimp and save to a degree that is purely overkill. Let’s be honest, we only come around this way once. Making wise investments, buying proper insurance policies, and having contingent plans that have been considered through planning with a professional adviser is smart. But so is investing money into your life’s experience. That means little things like taking that cruise while you’re young and can enjoy it most. That means paying more for better seats at the symphony or theatre. That means living life now because tomorrow is not promised.

That’s Part 1. Part 2 looks something like this…

Keep working into your golden years. Not because you have to in an effort to avoid poverty (see my comments on wise investing.) Do so because it adds value to others and fulfillment to you. Paul McCartney doesn’t need the money. Neither does Bill Cosby, who we saw kill at Benaroya Hall a few years ago at the youthful age of 69 years old. These guys perform and “work” because they love it. What are you doing that you love?

Well, that leads to Part 3.

Just like you need to make wise choices and plan for your financial future, you need to do the same for what you want your future to look like. It’s not human nature to sit around and do nothing. If you’re reading this column, you are probably a successful businessperson who got to where you are through your passion and activity. Find something that you will be passionate about later in life. To help you get started, allow me to offer my 5 Tips to Avoiding “Retirement”:

  1. Stay healthy. That means eat better and exercise smarter as you get older.
  2. Volunteer. Find some charity or worthwhile venture where you can volunteer. It might mean rolling up your sleeves, or perhaps a board position. There are plenty of places that need you.
  3. Find a way to keep income flowing. Seriously. You can tell me all you want to about wanting to just volunteer, but for most of us it’s fun to make a little extra money. Especially if you’re using your talents and skills to do it!
  4. Ideas to accomplish. Speak, write, publish, teach or consult. Heck, you undoubtedly are full of intellectual capital borne put of years of working in your profession. How valuable is that intellectual capital to others? The answer is it’s HUGE. Find a way to manifest those “smarts” into value to others.
  5. Have fun. Take trips, live in the moment, take risks, and reap rewards.

The bottom line is that the myth about retirement is that it even exists. In today’s ever-changing world, technology and other innovations are allowing us to live longer. You need to be prepared to not only pay for it, but to find ways to maximize it. Then you can really proclaim that you’ve unleashed your life’s potential!

© 2014 Dan Weedin. All Rights Reserved

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