When I was growing up in Canada there were a series of commercials by London Life called Freedom 55. The tag line being “The freedom to choose, the power to get there.” The notion being, that if you started saving now you can retire at the age of 55. This was a radical idea at the time. Now I often meet people that think 55 is the latest that they want to work.
For the first time in a long time, I addressed the topic of work in my last blog. To recap, it was about asking yourself what you love to do, how much is enough to live a good life, and whether working the way you do still serves you. The conversations that it sparked were about retirement. My post was about questioning whether you are living a good life NOW.
Canadians are obsessed with financial planning and retirement. I find this ironic in a country that takes care of its vulnerable, including its seniors, probably better than most of the world. But we are a prudent, conservative nation and we want to make good decisions now. We are also a frightened nation when it comes to fretting about the future and whether there will be enough left for us. We are afraid of dying, want to live forever, and to the lifestyle in which we are accustomed.
I want to make it clear that I believe in retirement planning. I have an investment advisor that I trust with my hard-earned funds. My question is not whether we should invest in our futures, rather how much are we willing to give up now for that to happen?
I grew up with an all-or-nothing view of retirement based upon the community of adults around me. They were willing to work to the bone for many years so that at some set point in time they would be taken care of and could “retire.”
What is the balance between living in the now and planning for the future? A friend here in Barbados just lost a childhood friend to a heart attack in his forties. His friend group is devastated by the loss of this person and shocked by the youth that was taken away. My father also died of a heart attack when he was 41. He had genetic health issues and knew that his life would not be a long one but had no idea it would be so short. My family benefited from his financial planning and for that I am grateful. My mother told me that he had postponed an EKG test because he was busy at work. The juxtaposition of that information took a while to settle in.
For these reasons, I have always believed in “retirement in installments.” When I was 27, I took six months off to travel the world between living in England and returning to Canada. When I was 34, I took two months off to travel, followed by a six-month period to relocate to Ireland. When I returned to Canada, I took another 8 months off to get settled in Ottawa and vision my self-employment. It is true that in between these periods I worked my ass off. But the breaks may have saved my physical and mental well-being. The result: I am no further behind my peers, and I have not lost the race.
The race to accumulate wealth that will last us to the day that we die – we have made it up. Along the way we buy expensive homes and do elaborate renovations. We spend what we make on expensive cars and hobbies that drain our funds. Many have been through a costly divorce or separation. This causes us to push off that day when we can retire.
Several years ago, I decided that I would always work in one fashion or another. I am trying to figure out what that looks like for the next few years. But my vision is to work until the day I die at something creative. Not full-time, I am already working at a “retirement pace.” There is no end date here, no finish line. This Caribbean Island is teaching me to live in the now.
What is your balance between planning for that future retirement and living in the now?
I so agree Sheri – we need to create a life that we don’t need to escape from – having work as rewarding as other parts of our lives. Work hard, play hard is one thing my parents taught me – and I love that!
Susan, that’s the word – escape. I speak to a lot of people and I am not sure that they know their words about retirement are really saying that they would like to escape from the work and the life that they have now. There was once a program in the Canadian federal government that helped public servants plan for their retirement. One of my friends took it and reported back a shocking statistic about the number of people that die within 18 months of retirement. That is a crappy result of putting off living until retirement. I am grateful that you love your work and plan to do it always!
With you on this one. An example of this is people always thinking they have to pay off their mortgage as if this is the big goal we should all have. We see that differently. We know that when we one day sell our house, that the sale will pay off the mortgage, so instead of paying it off now, we are willing to have a little fun with that money today. As well, a lot of parents think they need to save huge amounts of money for their kids after the parents are gone. Again, we think this is a backward approach. Instead, we plan on doing everything we can to raise children to know how to make money for themselves and lots of it. It’s not that we’re not putting money away to be able to help them in the future, but if you think you need to give your kids millions of dollars when you die it means you likely raised children who didn’t learn how to be self sufficient. :) Spend it today and give them the life experiences now that will make them self sufficient in the future!
Stuart, I remember a financial planner asking me once if I would get an inheritance. For some reason this question surprised me. I didn’t factor it into my retirement plan because I wanted to see how far my own money would take me. Spending money for your kids’ life experiences now (and setting aside some to help them out along the way) enhances their formative years. When they are fully formed they will have sorted out the rest ;) I like this approach. Thanks for sharing!
When I love my work, it doesn’t feel like “work”. I am currently discerning what aspects of my skill set(s) and talents are in alignment with my PASSION.
Stepping away from my career – and pension (!) – in education was a huge leap, but I have no regrets.
I love what you said about working at a retirement pace. I see lots of evidence that Brian (my husband) and I will be continuing to make music with others, in all kinds of ways, onwards ’til the end.
The activity itself – in our case making music via teaching, performing, facilitating groups etc. – has lots of variety and it is life giving in every moment that I do it. My joy and health are being enhanced. The people I do it with are experiencing joy and health benefits too.
It’s a win-win, and it is sustainable. It’s a plan that I can pour my heart into – with much gratitude!
Hoping to live this way well beyond 55! Thank you for the opportunity to think about myself and the philosophies I learned growing up. Very insightful for me today! Thanks Sheri!
Anita, I love this outlook of the cycle of joy that is made through you doing the creative work that you love. It brings you energy, which you share with others, which then fuels you further. It is not only sustainable but will make for much happier (and sane) years ahead. Sounds like a great plan!
OOOO I love that phrase and idea “working at a retirement pace” — I feel lucky because I’ve never had the attitude of save now and live later. I’m a very spontaneous person who will just go for it (yes, I once went to Italy on a train from Germany with only $10) — I don’t wait “until I can afford it” — I just find a way to live life to the fullest. Having said that, I have shifted how I teach — I work smarter not harder — and don’t waste as much energy on stressing out and making everything perfect and I’ve switched to all art instead of art and english which frees up tonnes of time (English marking is heavy duty). I have been saving for my whole kids’ lives for their education, which I’m grateful to my younger self for having started, but I’m not going to let them rely on me financially and I also don’t expect to pay off my mortgage — not many people do that these days and I don’t worry about it. This is my home and I love it, and this is my life and I love it, and whereever I go in life beyond this I will also love. That’s just who I am. Also, naps.
Yes Heather! Naps are an essential part of working at a retirement pace ; )