Why I Hate the Word Retirement

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This might come as a surprise, but I hate the word retirement. Now, let me back track and explain what I mean.

What do you think of when you hear the word retirement? Maybe you think of all of the things you want to accomplish before retirement, like having a successful career, a loving family, purpose and meaning in how you’ve spent your life. Those are all wonderful things. Maybe you wonder what it would be like to not have to work anymore. Hope you’ll be in good health and can still do most of the things you enjoy doing.

For me, when I hear the word retirement I think of the word wait. Recently I’ve been finding myself less and less okay with waiting around, it just stresses me out. The idea of waiting until I’m 65 to be able to stop working so I can enjoy the things I like to do sounds terrifying. A common response is “well that’s just the way it is”, but is it? Do things always have to be the way the have been?

To me retirement has almost the same definition as financial freedom. Both refer to the point when you have enough wealth to live the life you want, without having to work. The main difference is retirement is typically at age 65 (at least here in Canada, and for the time being) and financial freedom is essentially anytime at all. Instead of viewing the point where we don’t have to work as retirement, look at it as achieving financial freedom.

‘You just said they are pretty much the same thing, so what’s the difference?’

To me, the difference between retirement and financial freedom is your mindset. It’s all up to you.

Retirement is something that people wait for, I feel like they put off planning for it, people aren’t interested in. Retirement comes with the notions that it happens when you’re old, so young people feel like they don’t have to worry about it yet. Retirement sounds very passive and seems like something most people figure they can just worry about when their older (time is your friend, start planning as soon as you can afford to).

Financial freedom is something that anyone can works towards, any day of their life. Financial freedom can happen at any age, it is up to the individual on when it can happen, it isn’t restricted by age. Financial freedom sounds more active and something everyone should be interested in. We are in control of when we reach the point of financial freedom, and maybe it will be when we are old and ready to retire, but at least in that case you’ve been an active part of your retirement planning.

I do want to have an enjoyable, purposeful career where I’m in a position to help people and impact people in a positive way. But at the same time I don’t really want to work nonstop for the next forty years of my life, always reaching for that next vacation to feel as though everything is worth it. If I can put myself in a position where I can afford to retire earlier, more comfortably, be generating income from my investments then I will be in a position where I can work because I want to, not because I have to (and that makes a huge difference). With pursuing financial freedom we can all reach the intermediate point of financial flexibility. Financial flexibility is the point where our wealth allows us more options then what we would normally have. Maybe that’s extra money for a vacation, or money for home renovations or a cabin, an expensive hobby or university tuition for your children. I think it’s very important to not be solely reliant on our full-time jobs for income and the financial independence we are all working towards.

I don’t like the word retirement because to me I think of the saying “I can’t wait to retire”, I’d rather see it as financial freedom as “in ___ years my investments will be generating more income than my job, I’ll reach finance freedom”.

Of course we all have different goals, different expenses and debts, different responsibilities and liabilities, but something everyone works towards is not having to work anymore. Instead of sitting back and waiting for that day to come, I think it’s more important to take an active role in pursuing our own financial freedom. Now that doesn’t mean start managing your own investments and put everything is high risk high reward stocks. But know your investment goals, make sure you understand how to get yourself there, take a good honest look at your budget and expenses, explore your options and make sure your money is working as hard as you do.

Everyday people struggle with day to day finances, and often people think their only option is to get a second or third job and make huge sacrifices to their lives in what they enjoy. But if we can better understand our own financial situations and invest smarter, then we will be able to see and plan for the money we are accumulating down the road. I know that wouldn’t magically help the struggles of the present, but with anything else, it’s always easiest when we can see the light at the end of the tunnel.