The image (click to enlarge) is intended to illustrate the recently reduced savings rates of Americans, resulting from The Great Recession, and highlights what Kiplinger refers to as "Dreams Postponed."
This implies that "dreams" can only be realized after a lofty monetary goal has been reached.
Is this implicit message accurate? Is there any doubt that conventional thought about retirement and financial freedom revolves around the fact that these objectives can only be achieved by monetary means? Why is it that a shortfall of money translates into "dreams postponed?"The Kiplinger article also states how "troubling" it is that 41% of women and 32% of men have to work in retirement "just to make ends meet." This idea entrenches itself in the conventional thought that work in retirement is for the sole function of producing money. This statement is a complete contradiction to truth, which is not usually discovered until retirement has been reached, if it is ever reached:
- That money does not provide meaning;
- The nothingness of not working hastens death (of both the spiritual and physical self);
- And finding work that makes good use of an individual's skills is self-fulfilling, which is actually true freedom, and could have been obtained long before the conventional "retirement" is realized.
- In other words, it is more "troubling" if people continue to believe, as Kiplinger would have it, that life must be used as a tool for a money plan, than to realize, rather, that money must be made a tool for a life plan.
- People are searching for meaning and purpose and they find it in some form of fulfilling work. The day is not for surviving -- it is for living!
"What is important in life is life, and not the result of life." ~ Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
In The New Retire-Mentality: Planning Your Life and Living Your Dreams . . . at Any Age You Want, author Mitch Anthony cites evidence that an over-whelming majority of retirees view work as a source of vitality, energy and fulfillment. Lowest on the list of reasons to continue working in retirement is money and health insurance.
If so many people who are actually in retirement have discovered that a happy retirement consists of working in a job that is self-fulfilling, shouldn't retirement planning therefore consist primarily of career planning or, even better, of life planning?
What if the conventional retirement savings, in the form of putting money aside and investing it for later, was only a portion of the retirement plan? If meaning and purpose is what people are truly seeking, wouldn't it be more prudent to spend greater time and energy on discovering and finding a meaningful career (and starting the search earlier in life) than on conventional retirement savings strategies?
If this search for meaning and purpose stared sooner in life, at the same time that people begin learning about 401(k)'s and IRA's, why couldn't someone find themselves "retired" at age 40 or even 30, if money is only a small part of the retirement equation? What if you were so happy with your work that you didn't want to stop working? The fear of being forced to work, as Kiplinger states, "just to make ends meet," would be replaced by the fear of not being able to work anymore.
"Money often costs too much." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
The real tragedy of conventional retirement planning is not that, as a result of a financial shortfall, people will be forced to work, but that millions of people continue to believe that fulfillment and freedom can only be procured by financial means. This is simply not true.
The cost of retirement is not just financial -- there is an opportunity cost that goes far beyond money -- the non-financial cost of sacrificing life now for an illusory life later.
Is your life a tool for money or is your money a tool for life? It is time to start searching for meaning -- not for money.
Related:Man's (Career) Search for Meaning