Retirement doesn't have to be daunting
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Technology makes the world seem like it is moving at a lightning pace. Someone invents an app or some video goes viral or some company introduces a new gadget and it feels like we all take a giant leap for mankind. They are small changes, however. Lifestyle changes.
I used to carry quarters, now I carry a cell phone. It's not as often, though, that we experience fundamental shifts in our expectations and beliefs. One of those shifts has come with retirement.
It was perfectly logical for people like my parents, solidly middle class, to expect to retire around 65 years old and collect a monthly pension until they pass. If they planned it right, their pension and their social security would be enough for them to live comfortably. They could count on their savings and investments growing at a steady clip. They knew that if they needed it, they would probably be able to afford a decent nursing home or have one of their children take them in.
That is not the case for my generation. People I chat with talk a lot about retirement planning. Suddenly, those commercials about annuities and term life and such that used to wash over me like white noise make me perk up and write down websites. I still browse rag magazines in the grocery store line, but I'm also intrigued by headlines on grown up magazines that tease about ways I can protect my investments and increase my returns.
It can make you feel overwhelmed, under-prepared and frustrated. There is a way to simplify the matter. Don't retire. Hold on, hear me out. It can be hard to hear as you read this from your cubicle while you are procrastinating starting your day at the job that you hate.
There is a method to this madness.
Most middle class workers in or approaching 40 have seen their retirement savings plans take a serious beating in the past few years. While things seem like they are taking an uptick we all still feel like we are navigating shifting sands. Being able to count on a retirement like our parents is just not a given. We understand that we have to make some unconventional moves to plan for our golden years.
So why not juke the whole system and refuse to play the retirement game? You know the old saying, if you do what you love you will never work a day in your life. That is the best retirement plan. Living and following your passion can be done until the day you draw your last breath. It can also be a way to fund your life after you finish your 30-year sentence in the rat race. Or better yet, a way to avoid the rat race altogether.
We all have something that we love to do. We can get caught up in whether or not we know our life's purpose. That is not really the same thing as living your passion. We all have a passion for something. If we take some time to look at the activities we do when we are not working or during whatever spare moments we have and that will give you some insight into what you have a passion for.
The trick is to then figure out a way to make money with it. The great thing about the recession and how technology has changed us is that now is a great time to be an entrepreneur. Rather than looking for a job, many of us have found we have to create our own opportunities.
If we can't count on a pension or even our investments, we have to be prepared to work a lot longer than we ever expected. It's not just a matter of people living longer, healthier lives and wanting to stay busy so that they don't succumb to the retire-and-die myths. It's a matter of having to fund your lifestyle on your own.
That is a reality we have to accept as being a distinct possibility. We don't have to fear that reality. We can embrace it and make a fundamental shift in how we view our life cycle. We can choose what retirement means. We can leave behind a life and a career that we have pursued for decades that has provided for us but not given us satisfaction, and opt instead for a life that chases a passion that you feel in your heart.
Maybe that means working for someone else. Maybe it means striking out on your own. Either way, being stressed and miserable is no way to spend the last productive years of your life. Rather, why not spend those years in a state of satisfaction because you wake up everyday and get to do what you love to do?
Passions change and morph. Following your passion today may lead to a greater or deeper passion down the road. We may not be able to expect as big a safety net as previous generations enjoyed, but that's okay because if we follow our passion, then our feet will never touch the ground.
- Mariel Bake writes a weekly column for The Daily News.