What's Your Personal Definition of Retirement?
Your personal definition of retirement says a lot about you.
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Flashback to a few months ago: the day after Christmas. I was visiting my hometown for the holidays, and I was fortunate enough to meet up with some friends that I had not seen in several months. At some point around midnight, the conversation shifted to me as my friends began to inquire about the types of writing projects I had on the horizon for 2020.
When I explained that I have been writing about my personal experience within the FIRE community they started firing questions at me as though I were the White House Press Secretary.
“How much should I have saved in my 401k by now?”
“Are you going to try to retire early?”
“How do you even buy a stock?”
“Will you still be our friend when you’re rich?”
And the questions just kept coming. We talked about the different strategies that I’ve learned, and how those strategies have impacted my finances in a short period of time. We also discussed some of their individual circumstances, and I was able to direct them to some different resources that might be helpful for their research.
I was hoping that my impromptu press conference was winding to a close so I could go back to drinking my Ruby Grapefruit White Claw in peace, when my friend Kacey inquired about the concept of retiring early.
“You said that you know a guy who retired before 40?” Kacey asked with a cocked head, referring to Think Save Retire’s founder, Steve Adcock. Her question may seem innocuous enough, but she said it with the same skeptical tone that you’d use when asking a 7-year-old if they washed their hands before dinner.
I went on to explain Steve’s triumphant story and his journey to early retirement. I talked about how he found ways to increase his income, decrease his expenses, and invest wisely. I also told my friends all about how Steve quit his job at 35 years old so that he and his wife can travel the U.S. in an Airstream, and have the freedom to work exclusively on the projects that interest them.
“Wait! How can he be retired if he’s still working? Isn’t that...the definition of retirement? Not having to work anymore?” Kacey sharply interrupted.
I took a moment to think about how I would answer her as my group of friends stared at me wide-eyed waiting for me to respond.
“Well, Kacey, it sounds like that’s your definition of retirement.”
I couldn’t fault Kacey for her query, because it’s a fair question. It also wasn’t the first (or fifth) time someone had asked me that very same question. Between my other friends, family, Uber drivers, and blog comments, this is something that comes up fairly frequently among people who are either new to the FIRE movement or are casual observers.
Kacey’s question gave us an opportunity to talk about this concept as a group, and this discussion ultimately ended up being very insightful as everyone described their ideal retirement. As we chatted about our retirement goals, the conversation quickly started to feel like one of those conversations where people daydream out loud about what they would do with the money if they were to win the lottery.
Since that night, I’ve made it a point to ask people in my social circles what their personal definition of retirement is. I encourage you to do the same. You might be surprised how passionate people get when they discuss it.
Don’t Fence Me In
Part of what makes the FIRE movement so attractive to me is that it’s unorthodox. It’s not about worrying about what other people are doing, or what they think about what I’m doing. It’s not about keeping up with the Joneses or flexing for the ‘Gram. For me, it’s about maximizing your resources so that you can live life on your own terms.
It takes a special kind of person to fully commit to the lifestyle, and typically, that kind of person marches to the beat of their own drum. So why should we try and tell anyone that their vision of retirement is invalid?
Some of my friends have mused about golfing every morning or fishing all day. Others talk about how they hope to be spending time with their future grandchildren and traveling with their spouse. I even have friends who are adamant that they would continue to work fulltime in retirement, but only on the projects that they find interesting and fulfilling.
However, all of the answers had a common thread.
After asking multiple people what their personal definition of retirement is, I received a lot of different answers, but there’s one common denominator among all of them: freedom.
The freedom to do whatever you want, whenever you want, without having to worry about income.
What about you? Do you agree that the definition of retirement is somewhat subjective and open for interpretation? What does your ideal retirement scenario look like? Let us know in the comments!