Fantasizing about retirement is a favorite past-time for just about anyone who has ever held a 9-to-5. But that dream of what lies ahead is starting to look a whole lot different these days.
How I was Looking at Retirement
I used to look at the end goal of retirement as something off in the distance. Something that would happen around the age of 65, and maybe, just maybe, if I was a good little worker, maxed out my 401K every year, and played all my cards right I could get lucky and bump that up 10 years or so.
But then I started to think… OK, so I work and save and retire and then sit around. Is that what I really want? That may sound great to some, but I want a whole lot more out of life than earning the right to sit on a couch all day long. OK…OK, so I can sit on the couch all day, but use my retirement money to travel the world and sight see. Nah, that’s not quite it either. That is not living a fulfilling life, it’s preparing for death!
Shifting my Perception of Retirement
Retirement can be an exceptionally motivating goal in your life if you simply look at it in a different way. I’m starting to look at retirement as ‘the freedom to do something I like that others have a demand for… and get paid to do it’.
How is that different, you may ask?
Destroying the ‘No Obligation’ Retirement Dream
I think the main difference is that the traditional view of ‘retirement’ is that you become 100% free of obligation and never have to work to make another dime in your life.
But how much fun is that? To slave away during the most productive, healthy, and demanding years of your life just so that you can say you don’t owe anyone anything. Should that be anyone’s goal? Wouldn’t you like to bump up your retirement 20, 30, or even 40 years?
The Opposite End of the Spectrum – Just Do what you Love, Dude
At the opposite end of the ‘no obligation’ spectrum is another group, who, ironically, thinks that your entire life should not carry any obligation. It’s those who say, just do whatever you love the most and the money will come.
If your favorite activity is hiking or riding a bike, well, there’s a ton of people out there who also love those things and will never see a dime from doing them. You have to be realistic. Don’t use your love of a hobby as an excuse to live off the scraps of others. We all know people in our lives who fall into this category.
Find your Marketable Hobby
But there’s a happy medium between the two. You see, there’s hobbies, and then there’s marketable hobbies. I love writing and I love personal finance. I’ve found both to be marketable hobbies because a lot of people need help writing and marketing and a lot of people love to chat about personal finance. I like my day job, but in creating this blog, I know that should I ever decide to leave my day job, I could probably carve out a pretty respectable living on my own doing a variety of different things. I’ve also discovered 5-10 other peripheral skills/activities that I like doing that others are willing to pay for.
And you know what? That makes me like my day job even more! That piece of knowledge takes the pressure off. It gives me more flexibility to focus on what I like doing at work versus doing something that I don’t like to impress someone else.
Now doesn’t that sound a whole lot more achievable and appealing than sitting on a couch all day?
My Challenge to You
Let’s try a little exercise. I’d love to see your responses in the comments and have a great discussion about this. Use this as an opportunity to throw some ideas out to the community and get feedback or advice. More on this topic in posts to come.
- What do you like to do with your time? Are others willing to pay for that? (let’s keep this clean).
- What are you good at that others are willing to pay for and you’d probably like doing more than what you’re doing now?
- Now, what barriers do you need to eliminate to ‘retire’ and pick and choose from what you just listed?
- What examples of following their natural interests (and getting paid) have you seen from others in your life who have been successful?
GE – This is so incredibly motivating! I have kind of just been going through the motions with a job that I don’t really like. It’s the worst thing in the world. You are right. I can think of 5 things that I like to do that people commonly pay others to do: photography, writing, graphic design, landscaping, and painting. So long as my debts get paid, there really should be nothing stopping me from hustling a living do a combination of these things and having a hell of a lot of fun doing it. Thanks for waking me up! ;-)
Perhaps people should take an altogether different perspective on retirement. Find a job you like and stick with it until you’re just not able to do it anymore. Doesn’t everyone want to feel relevant and useful, especially as we get older?
well i am actually pretty happy with what i do for my FT job
i think the biggest limitation is my boyfriends job, he works on cars. he works on specific models so he is really limited to where he can work (and its not exactly a portable skill). but he LOVES it. my job is web design so i can work just about anywhere
i was just thinking the other day how it would be fun to plan trips for people because every time we go on a trip i am obsessed with the details and finding the absolute best price on everything. even in my own city i am always searching for “off the beaten path” activities.
Great read! One more thing to consider is the fact you will not be physically able to some of the things you can do now as you age. While I love to fix arcade games I wonder how much longer I would be able to do so as vision fades and arthritis kicks in.
what a great encouragement at the precise time in my life which i needed to hear this… i have a great love and some say gift for photography, and have had small “jobs” here and there, but the leap of going from on the side to pro has me scared stiff. in looking at the lives of those who make these choices, people who love what they do and who have a good head on their shoulders really thrive in life.
if you have tons of money but are miserable, is it really worth it?
@ Maria – you’re dead on with all of the interests that you listed. Glad I could motivate you.
@ Jen – I’d never advise just quitting a job cold turkey (especially one you liked) without building something on the side first. It sounds like you have a solid interest that people are definitely willing to pay for. Spend a few hours a week on it, and you never know what may happen.
@ Daddy Paul – Great point. You do lose a lot of physical ability as you age to do what you truly love. That’s the irony of retirement at the end of your life.
@ Mary Sauo – Great point. Money means nothing in comparison to fulfillment.
Excellent post (as always) G.E.!
Not only is it a great post about how to live your life in the most fulfilling manner, but also how to make yourself as marketable as possible. My blog and my day job have nothing to do with each other, but by having two passions that I am good at and I love I increase my possible future opportunities by X%.
I routinely ask myself the question: “if I were to become independently wealthy today, what would I do tomorrow?” As long as I answer “come to work as always/write as always,” the I know I am still doing the right thing.
I would probably be a financial planner. The barrier would be how to maintain health insurance on my family and make a salary (early) to accomodate my current bills.
I’m also good with landscape design and installation as well.
I’ve been working with building kit cars for daily use. At first it was a hobby to build my first car in high school. After awhile, word got out that I produced a quality product, I started to get more ‘side jobs’ in college (which paid my tuition) and now, I’m planning to use some of my money that I am saving at my 9 to 5, so I can buy a small plot of land somewhere and build more of them snazzy cars.
This confirms my view on my planning for retirement. Sitting around all day certainly isn’t in my vision. My goals that I am working on now will transition into a position that will allow me to both earn some additional money and help people as well. Most of the people that I know who have retired are stilling working in the same field they retired from. Many are teachers who find it hard to leave the classroom behind. Too, I have skills in both photography and writing that I plan to take to a higher level. I am looking forward to the new season in my life that will here before I know it.
I think you hit it squarely on the head with your title: “stop dreaming, start retiring”. This is an excellent point.
Far too many of us are dreaming our way through life instead of living our dreams.
I for one, am a writer and photographer and only just recently figured out a way to get paid for my art.
But notice I said I “figured” it out.
After dreaming it out (I’m good at dreaming!), and becoming lost in endless hours of “planning” – I simply moved purposefully in the direction of my goals.
I totally agree with your post. I certainly don’t want my whole life to be focused on looking forward to the day I don’t have to work. Besides, I would get bored if I didn’t have some form of work in my life. The best thing is to develop a positive attitude toward work and realize that it is possible to find work you can enjoy doing. Although it may take time to find that marketable hobby, I believe everyone has the potential to do something creative with their lives that can also help them to earn a living. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts. I think more and more people are thinking like you these days.
I completely agree with your post. Just few minutes back I was talking to one of my colleague that he wants to take early retirement and want to build a house in the countryside before that.
I personally not in the favor of taking early retirement and I believe in doing what I like the most. Though my believe is latter one but it is really difficult to find a marketable hobby. It is great to hear that you found it and at the right time. I am still trying to find that marketable hobby. The job (10-8) is defintely not that one.
Hope I find it soon!
1. What do you like to do with your time? Are others willing to pay for that?
I love meeting people. I love hearing about them and I love introducing myself to them. I don’t think I can get paid for that, but I can look into working for a social site. I’m going to be starting my own personal finance blog this week just for the heck of it, but I don’t expect it to make any money. I do hope people will enjoy commenting though, that’s fun to read!
2. What are you good at that others are willing to pay for and you’d probably like doing more than what you’re doing now?
I give great budget making and savings advice to friends and family, but I don’t think I want to turn that into a career. I like helping people for free. They feel good knowing they are getting the best advice I can give, but I’m not wasting anybody’s money if I screw up.
3. Now, what barriers do you need to eliminate to ‘retire’ and pick and choose from what you just listed?
My husband and I save 35%-40% of our money for retirement and financial opportunities so we can retire at age 52 (we’re 26 and 27 now). We both want to vacation travel (which we do now too). He wanted to continue being a sports official and have more time to play games (Magic, board games, video games, etc) and I want to volunteer full time with the Houston SPCA and Meals on Wheels.
4. What examples of following their natural interests (and getting paid) have you seen from others in your life who have been successful?
My dad loved math and his career as a Civil Engineer. Now he’s retired and he and my mother enjoy cycling. I don’t know of anyone else in my husband’s family or my own that followed a dream.
I answered those honestly, but it looks depressing. I’m not actually depressed. I have a solid job that I’m great at and don’t mind too much. My husband is going to graduate school in order to get a job he’ll like more next semester. We are very happy together and are working our way to an early retirement every day. I’m glad we’re happy even if we haven’t figured out what we really want to be when we “grow up”. :-)
@ Paul – definitely like your philosophy.
@ Ken – my wife is a landscape architect. She’s always getting offers for help. Definitely a demand there. And you’re right – health insurance is definitely a big barrier – although not expensive as one might think if you’re in good health.
@ Tuan – that’s awesome. Good luck to you.
@ Lillie – you make a great point. In jobs that I’ve had that I haven’t loved – there’s always some sort of skill that you can develop and take into your own endeavors.
@ Angiel – I’m sure the people would love to hear more about the steps you’ve taken to get to where you are.
@ Pam – I think the economy and unemployment has made us all think about how safe we truly are when dependent on one employer for a living.
@ Nicole – I actually think it’s fairly easy to think of a marketable hobby or interest. I think the hardest part is putting it in action.
@ Crystal – looking forward to your blog. Come back and share it.
Excellent post, so true though, being so dependent on your 9-5 job can cause havoc. Marketable hobbies is a great idea.
I loved your posts about retirement thinking and marketable hobbies partly because I am now there at 70. I am intrigued partly because my interest in this topic let me to write a book, Why Not Do What You Love? An invitation to calling and contribution in a world hungry for your gifts. It’s only been on the street for a month, and, given that I’m new to the internet, I’m not quite sure how I ended up here with kindred spirits. In addition I’m intrigued to be among a different generational group and note that at least on this issue, we think alike. Since I’m eager to learn how 20 somethings think of things, I’ve subscribed.
What I can tell you is that I didn;t anticipate before I reached 65 how much my peers and I now talk about legacy. Did our lives matter and is there still something we can do about it with our remaining time on the planet? I wish I had thought about it earlier, but when I was young, I never could imagine being 70 realizing time is so precious.
I believe almost anything you really love can be turned into income and the book happens to cite about 50 people, mostly “ordinary people” from my region, Western Massachusetts, across the age spans, who have done that.
Encouraging others to dare to exercise purpose and passion happens to be what I have always loved, although I didn’t really recognize it until mid life. At 70, less mobile, and less energetic, I can still exercise this passion.
I’d love a 20-something review and if Mr. Miller will tell me where to send a book, it would help me understand if the message makes sense to your age group.
Thank you for the opportunity to participate and contribute.
What you did in “Shifting my Perception” is known in psychology as reframing. It’s an incredibly power technique and can be used in any situation to change ones perspective and most importantly, attitude. I think most people look at retirement as something distant and spend their most youthful years toiling away to have enough money when they are less able to enjoy it. I had to really sit down and ponder what being successful meant to me. To me it’s complete freedom, freedom to do whatever I want, whenever I want, in whatever quantity I want (whether it be missions, traveling, new ventures, etc) I feel as though if you find something that you love and get can live of that, then you are living retirement — no matter the age.
I like to share that I am 40 now and never though about this topic until recent years, I now work 8to5 and far away from home 2 1/2 or 3 hrs to go and same to come back 5 or 6 hours spent in transportation, which I could rather be searching a payable hobbie and applying things I learn on it, feel I have so much to give and be rewarded as well, for me has to be some enjoyable things and flexible depending on the season cause I get bored very easy, several activities would work better for me, thanks for permit share this thoughts with you