What Is Your Definition of Retirement?

Definition of Retirement_shutterstock_340450949

What is your definition of retirement? Maybe there’s one word that comes to mind. Maybe a few sentences can describe what you see for your retirement. It could be you don’t know or don’t believe there is a way you will be able to afford to retire, ever.

Fear not! It’s all going to be okay because your definition of retirement is a matter of perspective; nothing more, nothing less. You get to choose!

Millions of us have a different perspective when it comes to defining retirement. However, it’s clear to many of us that retirement as we know it in a traditional sense is a bunch of baloney – total hype, perhaps even a delusion and fast path to death.

Here’s a global view of the typical retirement age. For those who can afford to retire in America the normal age for is 67. But does this mean everyone stops working or doing things they love in retirement? Probably not.

It’s easy to understand how millions of us around the world view retirement as stopping work after some period of time working in a government, civil service or long-term corporate career which seems as rare as truth in politics or media these days. But stopping work challenges many of us to find new meaning and purpose to life. Purpose is what drives it all!

Millions of people want to retire after “serving” in their job for 20 years, maybe  more. This is phenomenal if people are happy. However, how many people do you know who at a job they hate, are not happy, yet can’t seem to find a way out?

Your Definition of Retirement

What if you know you can choose your definition of retirement. Really.

I recently hosted the first RetireOnPurpose.com educational workshop in Scottsdale, Arizona at the Via Linda Senior Center. Join our Meetup group if you’d like get invitations to our upcoming educational events and workshops in the Phoenix area.

During the program I asked, “What is your definition of retirement?”

At first, the room was quiet. I waited. Finally, this is what I heard …

One woman raised her hand and said, “Not working.”

I also heard, “Freedom.”

It’s not unusual to hear, “I’m not sure.” That’s okay. I get it. We’re, “too busy” to think about retirement or it seems too much to think about, maybe even impossible so there’s no point in thinking about it.

However, there was one really big definition for retirement that rang out loudly – “Doing what we want when we want.” I’ll expand on this next.

I also asked the same question on a recent Facebook post. These are the words you shared as your definition of retirement …

  • Barbara posted, “Great!”
  • Joan wrote, “Huh?” (She’s 74 and still working. No retirement maybe.)
  • Ron added, “Bossless.” I call this freedom. But we always have a boss, somewhere.
  • Laura used two words instead of one and posted, “My life.” Laura might be a first born or entrepreneur because she clearly didn’t like being told to use one word! Ha. She also added a heart because she’s super happy in retirement. Good for you, Laura!

My definition of retirement is living, working and semi-retiring on purpose. The truth is I don’t believe in the traditional definition of retirement found at Wikipedia which is …

Retirement is the point where a person stops employment completely. A person may also semi-retire by reducing work hours.”

Living On Purpose

Why stop working if you love what you do? I found a way to do that when I was 30 and deeply desired to start a small business. I started a small financial planning and investment advisory practice under the wings of some senior guys and firms who coached and helped me launch.

Here’s what I learned more than anything else when I helped people plan, save, invest and retire – almost everyone I helped to retire over my decade-plus was that most people could not afford to retire and if they could or did, it wasn’t long before they came back to create a plan with me to come out of retirement; to un retire.

Why? One day I heard a client tell me, “Cliff, you’ve done a great job helping us with our retirement plan. But it’s been over a year now and we’ve got less income than when Bob and I were both working, but I’ve got twice the husband running around the house because he got sick of golf after playing with his buddies almost every day for a year.”

What Do You Want?

This is what you want when you retire; to live. Yes, that’s right. You, like me, want to live and be happy, healthy and free to do what we want when we want. Take charge now. This is the purpose of retire on purpose – inspire, educate and empower you to get what you want starting now.

Is freedom what you want? Okay, but free from what?

If it’s the job you hate here’s what happened to me. I felt like a prisoner in my career from the day I started working in the hotel business shortly after college. I hated being told what to wear, where to be, how much I could make, what to do, when. I did everything in my power to learn, read, get mentors and scrap my way into business almost 30 years ago.

Sure, there were many times being self employed meant tough times. But every day without exception, I get to wake up and do exactly what I want. I am free. No exceptions unless my amazing wife wants me to go to church, or something nuts like that. (I kind of stink at belonging to churches if you know what I mean. Sorry. It’s just me.)

Every day I get to be free. How about you? If not, what will that take?

How To Overcome Fear

Fear holds us back so let’s take it head on. The grim statistics tell us that many people in America can’t afford to retire, ever. In fact, about 30% of Americans have no money saved for retirement.

So what? Find something you really like to do for a living, even if you have to buy less stuff or make less than you believe you need. Simplify and see what life feels like. My wife and I did this after our kids left the home and got through their college days. Selling the big house and cutting expenses helped us save more money and sleep better at night.

Learn. Shift your mindset!

You have to commit to learning if you want to overcome your fear of money, investing, and retirement. The way I approached it was to search long and hard for the kind of work that I could do every day that gives me joy. Joy comes first because every time I put money or status first in my career decisions I became unhappy if now downright miserable. So I decided to put joy, happiness and health first.

Once I decided what retirement meant to me, to be free to do what I want when I want, the pressure came off a little bit. What really shifted me into the purposeful retirement planning mode was what I learned as a husband and father for 30 years …

  • Life is short. Make the best use of it today.
  • Enjoy the beauty of every day. My dad’s favorite saying.
  • Commit. Nothing happens with commitment.
  • Persist. The only way to get where I want to go is never stop.
  • Love. See #1. Who wants to be in fear or angry all the time.
  • Health is wealth more than money.

Money doesn’t have to be so stressful once you shift your view on the definition of retirement. Find a way to be free and you are retired or semi-retired, are you not? It’s freedom we seek, not necessarily more money or income, even though that’s normally at the top of your list of wants.

Money and traditional retirement planning carries a ton of fear. Mostly it’s the Wall Street marketing machine; save, invest, put your money with us and we’ll make you rich.

Only you can make you rich. Richness begins on the inside. Focus on what counts and money is then in perspective. Money, investing, taxes, income, savings and all things money tend to freak people out. Same when it comes to retirement planning. But it need not.

Clearly, my view of retirement is different. I’m only 55 as I write this. This is absolutely the best time of my life. No question about this even though I’ve been blessed with an amazing career, health, family, friends and life. So why the heck would I want to wait to be “free” or happy until I am 67? Heck, who knows what could happen between now and then.

What do you really want? Maybe you have a few words you’d like to share about retirement. What does retirement look like for you in a few sentences or less?

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About the author


Founder and publisher of RetireOnPurpose.com. "Let us help you create the retirement plan, income and life of your dreams."