Retirement is an interesting concept. Many of us view it as much-needed respite after years of toil. In fact, the concept is really a by-product of the industrial age when the majority of work was physically demanding, and people worked until they simply, physically, couldn’t anymore. A century ago, 78% of American men, primarily farmers, worked long past the age of 65. With the advent of the industrial age came machines that did the same work faster. The new industries created new wealth, and more people were able to save money in order to stop working when they got older. Voila! The concept of retirement was born.
Today, most of us work at desks rather than in factories, and fewer people “need” to retire because their bodies wore out; that “need” may be the result of an “unplanned early retirement,” when employers cull an older, more expensive, workforce. For some, retirement is not a need; it’s a want. They may want time to play. Many decide to reinvent themselves, and those who choose this path may find that work becomes a “get to” rather than a “got to” decision.
What do I mean by “get to” and “got to?” Well, you all know what “got to” means (as in I’ve got to because I’ve got no choice), but “get to” is the satisfaction, the joy, maybe even the love of the task, because then it’s not a chore, even when work is involved. You work simply because you want to, not because you have to work.
There may come a time in your life when work becomes optional. For those individuals, this may be the time to explore the “get to” option. Perhaps to discover a second (or third or fourth) career that provides satisfaction. But how do you decide what’s right for you?
Getting to “get to”
A client, let’s call him “Jeff,” called me recently to discuss his own get-to/got-to questions. His wife “Linda” had already retired, and at 66, Jeff was debating his retirement options. At the tail end of a very successful, high salaried career, his and Linda’s lifestyle reflected his lifetime earnings. They still have a significant mortgage, and their monthly budget is far from modest. Additionally, they contribute to their son’s growing business and provide private-school tuition for their daughter’s two children. In order for Jeff to retire, things would have to change because while their savings and investments could maintain their current lifestyle, it couldn’t support their children’s. Jeff and Linda would have to identify which was more important.
Together, we rehearsed two possible scenarios; the one where Jeff retires and the one where he doesn’t. In the former, Jeff and Linda would have a new budget based on income derived from their retirement savings, social security benefits, and other sources. Jeff and Linda would need to have the conversation with their children if they stopped offering financial support, and we rehearsed potential reactions and talked about how it made them both feel. While it’s not Jeff and Linda’s responsibility to offer this financial support, the discussion did illustrate how much that “gifting” meant to them.
Then we discussed what Jeff and Linda’s life might look like if Jeff chose not to retire. We discovered that Jeff views his job as a “get to.” He enjoys what he does and the fact that it gives him both financial freedom and the personal satisfaction of helping his children and grandchildren. It was clear that Jeff and Linda were both certain that postponing Jeff’s retirement was the right choice.
Of course, when it comes to your own retirement, you probably have many choices, and your own “get to” may not be quite so clear. But by taking a close and honest look at your finances, your personal goals, and your retirement dreams, you can find the answer that’s right for you. To get started, check out The New Retirementality: Planning and Living Your Dreams…at Any Age You Want by Mitch Anthony. To delve even deeper, I recommend reading Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl, a beautiful memoir about suffering, coping, and finding meaning in life by choosing your own attitude about whatever life gives you.
Are you ready to explore your retirement goals? Call me to schedule some time to talk about your own situation and discover your own “get-to” scenario for your future.