People don’t have to retire

Let's drink to life. (photo courtesy of http://www.sxc.hu)

By Anthony O. Alcantara

Sometimes you’d have to envy the retarded. They’re blissfully unaware of what the future will bring them. They have a vague recollection of the past, and they usually enjoy the moment, smell the roses, so to speak.

That sounds like an appealing way to live. I’m using the word retarded in its simplest sense, no negative or disparaging connotations here.

Anyway, most of us are not retarded, and we are bombarded and influenced by messages of commercialism and consumerism. Thus, many of us are trapped in a treadmill of endless wants.

This is complicated by the popular idea of retirement. It goes something like this: you work like crazy doing something you don’t like for 40 years, you save as much as you can, and after that, you finally retire so you can do the things you really want to do.

But what if you’d like to try bungee-jumping after retirement? What if you’d like to try mountain climbing? Now you have a problem. Your body may not be up to it.

Edmund Lao, a registered financial planner (RFP), recently wrote a guest post about retirement at Randell Tiongson’s blog, www.randelltiongson.com. Tiongson is also an RFP.

What Lao wrote is depressing. I know he means well and he’s probably an excellent finance expert. But in his piece titled, “The Tired, the Retired, and the Re-tired,” he paints a gloomy picture, despite the amusing title.

Here’s what he said: “A lot of people mistakenly correlate retirement with age when in fact, retirement has something to do with personal net worth and cash flow. The sooner a person reaches his financial goals, the sooner he can retire and enjoy life.”

Challenging retirement

But can we only enjoy life as we want it when we finally retire? Should retirement and a very big nest egg be our goal? For most of us, it will take years before we amass wealth great enough so we can do the things we want to do.

Or is that so?

In the internet age, there’s an emerging school of thought that adheres to “having your cake and eating it, too.”

It’s a change of mindset and it’s increasingly becoming appealing to many. The basic tenet is that happiness is in doing the things that are important to you. It’s not having the physical things that you want.

You may want a nice car with a shiny replica of a ferocious cat in front. But it is actually driving it and having girls swoon as they see you in your car that may make you happy.

So it’s actually what you are able to do rather than what you have.

Alternatives, options

In that case, I propose some things you may want to consider. I’m still experimenting with them myself:

1. Don’t plan for retirement. Well, at least not the popular notion of retirement. Instead plan on how you can enjoy life more. If you don’t enjoy your job, look for something else. If you look hard enough, you’ll find it. And you may also want to consider looking for ways to enjoy your job more.

You may not like everything that your job entails, but you certainly can find something in it or some aspect of it that you enjoy. Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi said that in theory you can enjoy any job provided that you set up some self-directed little goals, finding ways to measure your progress, immersing yourself in the process and continually raising the bar to improve.

2. Invest more on doing things that are important to you instead of having things. If you want to take that trip to Europe, you can begin planning now. Little baby steps go a long way. Reconsider your priorities.

If you can save money for your 42-inch LCD TV or that PSP, you can certainly save for that dream trip. Think of it this way: Would you rather take the trip now that you are young and have the strength to be adventurous, or take the trip along with a bunch of senile geriatrics many years from now?

3. Instead of goal-setting, why not life-setting? Sometimes, we can get obsessed with goals and fail to consider that life can be lived fully without being compartmentalized into goals we can tick off in our list.

I call it life-setting because the kind of life that we really want should come first. If we set the life we want first, the goals come naturally.

Ultimate goal

And what about that retirement nest egg that financial planners insist you should have no matter what?

Well, I know it’s important. But it shouldn’t be your ultimate goal. When you’re doing what you really want to do, when you’re doing what you’re passionate about, when you’re doing things that make a difference in the lives of other people, you probably won’t need or want to retire. That’s the be-all and end-all of life for me.

Of course, this is just another way of looking at retirement. It’s a tad quixotic. Retirement, as the popular definition goes, is a depressing word and it isn’t a worthwhile goal.

Not everybody will like this. But I hope some of you will be less gloomy with this thought: It can be wonderful not to retire at all.

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