I’m hosting an informal book club on this blog devoted to All the Money in the World: What the Happiest People Know About Getting and Spending. Each week we discuss one chapter. You can join at any time; there are links to previous weeks at the bottom of this post.
Chapter 3 is called “Rethink Retirement.” Being able to afford a secure retirement is the goal touted in much personal finance literature. I certainly think that financial freedom should be a big goal for many of us. But retirement as we often picture it — one’s 60s and early 70s spent on a golf course — doesn’t sound particularly attractive to me. Travel sounds more fun, but eventually you want to come home and do something, or at least you want to spread your trips out over time, with something in between. Over the years, I’ve interviewed many people who could afford to retire but don’t. Because they know what they’d do if they didn’t have to work…and it looks a lot like their work. So why not get a paycheck too?
Of course, one reason that people are going to be rethinking retirement in the near term is that, as we’re living longer, retirement can last for decades. Twenty, thirty, or sometimes even forty years is a long time to have no new income coming in. It’s pretty hard to put away enough money on a modest income to support that and it’s proven pretty hard for pension systems to invest enough cash to support long retirements too. The positive spin on rethinking retirement is that work can be a meaningful way to spend your time — sometimes making a real difference in the world — and it keeps your brain sharp. The negative spin is that many people won’t be able to afford to retire, so they need to figure out something. After all, if you use the 4% rule (you can pull out 4% of your assets per year), then every $10,000 you can earn is $250,000 in assets you don’t need to have.
Anyway, this week’s question: Picture yourself having achieved financial independence. Your assets kick off enough income to support you in the style to which you’ve become accustomed — you and your spouse or partner, perhaps (we’ll picture that you no longer have children at home). Give yourself a year or two for travel or other bucket list activities. Then picture yourself on a Monday morning. What would you like to do with your time? What would you like to spend your 168 hours doing?
The bonus question is whether you can find space in your life now for any of those things.
Once I got my travel bug out of my system I’d want to wake up Monday morning and…write. Probably working on book projects and blogging. I wouldn’t take on assignments that were more about the cash or that didn’t really excite me. What about you?