It is a real challenge to imagine what type of retirement I may have. Having just turned 30, the typical retirement age is at least 35 years away. However, the fact that over half of 65 year-olds today will live past 90, I should really consider the possibility of living well beyond age 100.
If I am to live well into my 100s, I better have a darn good financial plan, or a plan to continue to grow and earn income during my retirement years. Government and corporate pensions would certainly help, but since I am self-employed, I am left to my own devices.
Regardless of where you are in life, I believe you should go through this same thought process. It has been found that, when thinking of our own retirement, we imagine a future and different self. There is a disconnect between who we are today and what we think of that person in the future in retirement.
A 2016 article by Harvard Business Review, “Next-Gen Retirement”, walks us through the different options we should consider when thinking of our future retirement. Very few individuals enter retirement just as they had planned. We rarely are able to just retire on our own schedule as we had once hoped. What happens if you get sick in your early sixties? What if the company you work for is acquired and goes through a corporate restructuring? There are many issues that come into play later in working careers that are simply out of our control.
Digesting the fact that we may live well longer than we could ever imagine and that we may not be able to retire on our own terms, what can we do? First and foremost, achieving financial independence is crucial. When your investment accounts are able to provide you enough income to live off of for life, you are presented with options. Options are your best friend when it comes to retiring when and how you wish.
After you are on a savings plan to achieve financial independence, you want to think of how you might transition your career into retirement if things don’t go as planned. You can start this today by creating a side hustle. A side hustle can generate income in just a few hours of work per week, while also helping you build skills outside your traditional employment. Eventually, you can use these skills to help you gradually transition from full-time employment, to part-time employee / part-time entrepreneur, to fully retiring on your own terms.
The HBR article also found that a transition into a passion project or nonprofit work can also boost your quality of life during retirement. Today’s millennials are more socially conscious than any generation in the past, and this type of transition could be well-suited for many. What skills do you have or will you build over your career that you could use to give back to your community? With technology improving at a rapid pace, your social, leadership, and problem-solving skills will become more and more valuable over time.
Here are a few examples HBR provided of individuals transitioning away from traditional employment:
“Alan, 49, a successful and well-respected regional sales manager for a manufacturing company, had a similar story. After his firm changed ownership and was restructured, he was given three options: a lateral move involving geographical relocation, a demotion, or an early retirement package. Although he initially felt he was too young to retire, he decided it would be in his best interest to accept the package.”
“Take Daniel, a senior executive at a financial institution who negotiated to continue his employment on a half-time basis. Now, for two weeks a month, he retreats to a fishing-and-hunting cabin in the coastal wilderness. But for the other two weeks, Daniel returns to corporate headquarters as a “thought leader” and mentor to up-and-coming executives.”
“Linda, a management training and development expert with 28 years of experience at a bank, retired at 50 and then went back to college to study international development with the intention of founding an orphanage for African children who’d lost their parents to AIDS.”
With medical and technological improvements continuing over our lifetime, we must be prepared to look at retirement differently. Instead of a finish line, retirement can now turn into a massive opportunity, an opportunity to leave your mark on the world.