Think back to Bill Gates in his Harvard dorm room when he first conceived of the idea for Microsoft. Did Windows come out fully formed, with all the functionality that it has today? Of course not. He started with Version 1.0. I’m sure the features and functionality of that first version would look positively pedestrian to us today. And yet Microsoft continued to build on in it and improve it; continued to learn new things, make new discoveries and design new features. Version 1.0 lead to Version 2.0 and so on.
Call it what you want—versioning, iteration, incremental progress—this same process can be seen when we look at any significant discovery or undertaking. The airplane didn’t stop at Kitty Hawk. Apple didn’t stop innovating after the original iPod. The first person to take a stab at Everest didn’t make it to the top.
Retirement: Version 1.0
What if we applied this idea of iteration to retirement? What if, instead of waiting until 65 to have the retirement of our dreams, we started with a Version 1.0 at 45? A version that doesn’t quite have all the “freedom and control” functionality that we hope to have in future versions, but one that allows us rich experiences nonetheless.
Then we could take what we learned and apply it to creating a Version 2.0 in our 50s. With a little more money saved by that point and the knowledge and experience gained from testing and implementing Version 1.0, we could likely design a fairly robust “product” that included things like mini-retirements, travels and learning new things. Even though work would likely still be a part of the equation, it would be done in service to an existing lifestyle rather than as a pre-payment of dues for a club we hope to someday be invited to join.
Then when we actually reach that stage in life where our saving and circumstances allow us complete control over our time we would be infinitely better prepared to implement a feature packed, real-world tested Version 3.0. Rather than struggling with inertia and trying to figure out what we really want out of life (and wasting some of our best remaining years in the process), we would be ready to hit the ground running.
“Once in awhile it really hits people that they don’t have to experience the world in the way they have been told to.” ~Alan Keightley
The purpose of this post isn’t to provide all the answers, but to get you thinking about the process. Your retirement doesn’t need to look like the “Retirement” that our culture has defined. It can and should be something that is uniquely you. Grab a piece of paper and spend five minutes writing out some of the key things that you want out of life. Jot down the plans and dreams that have up to this point been reserved for “someday.” Now ask yourself this question: “Do I want to wait until the final third of my life to do these things?” If the answer is no, then start thinking about what you can do today to design Version 1.0.
Thanks for reading. I’m on the road exploring Sweden (call it beta testing Version 1.0), so updates at the site may be a little more sporadic than usual. Have a great week and touch base if I can ever help out or answer questions.
In the recent post “How (and why) to be a lifelong learner” I wrote about how constantly learning new things makes for a rewarding, meaningful life (and retirement). Lucky for us, we live during a time when it is easier than ever to teach ourselves how to do just about anything.
With that in mind, I announced that I would be doing periodic “30 Day Challenges” where I will learn about something that interests me and then write about it here at the blog. Hopefully all of you will follow along at home and each month we’ll be able to add something fun and interesting to our “life skills resume” like how to make a great omelet, plan a round-the-world trip or light a fire by rubbing two sticks together (hat tip to my friend Niel for that one).
The first challenge I undertook was to learn all the countries in the world. To do it I downloaded an app from Brainscape called Learn Geography. I usually learn best by repetition, so the flashcard format worked well for me. I also used an app called National Geographic World Atlas and a website called www.PurposeGames.com which has quizzes so you can test your level of mastery.
The results? I did pretty well. After 30 days I can tell you where just about any country is located. I still struggle with some of the tiny islands in Oceania (I’m looking at you Tuvalu), but I’ll continue to work on it until I have them down.
What are some of the things I learned as part of this particular challenge?
First, I learned how much of the news actually relates to countries that I know nothing about. Just for fun one Saturday I read through the Weekend Wall Street Journal and made a list of all the countries mentioned in that day’s news stories. I didn’t read every article, but here’s a list from those I did read: Turkey, Myanmar, Equatorial Guinea, Afghanistan, Spain, China, United States, Sweden, Switzerland, Mexico, Germany, Ireland, Greece, Portugal, United Kingdom, Scotland, Syria, Japan, Iraq, Pakistan, Brazil, Argentina, Falkland Islands, Peru, Czech Republic, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Poland, Vietnam, Iran, South Korea, North Korea, and El Salvador. Simply knowing where these countries were located helped me notice stories I probably wouldn’t have otherwise noticed and also gave those stories some context.
Second, I learned it’s fun to do the challenges with someone else. My friend Mike and the daughter of my friend Kelly did the challenge along with me. Not only did this provide accountability (nothing motivates you like losing a challenge to a 13 year old), but it was fun to have people to talk to and gain tips and insight from.
Finally, I was reminded of how fun and rewarding it is to learn something new. Constantly challenging yourself is a great way to keep your life from getting stale and boring.
So what’s the next challenge on the list? I’ve got two that are on the drawing board. Since a trip to Paris a few years ago, my wife has wanted to learn how to make croissants. She and I will start working on that and I’ll let you know in a month how it turns out.
Also, we have a trip scheduled with friends this summer and the guys want to do some scuba diving. One small complication: None of us have ever done it before. Never fear. We’re talking to a local company called Diventures about getting certified. That probably won’t come together until sometime in May, however, so I’ll keep you posted.
How about you?
How about you? Is there anything you’ve always wanted to learn? Hopefully these posts will be inspiration to start a 30 Day Challenge of your own. Better yet, email me about what you’d like to do and we can work on it together.
Thanks for reading! Have a great week.
A few months back I wrote a post called “8 Habits of Successful Retirees.” It struck a chord with many of you, so I had my designer make it into a poster. You can download a PDF copy of it here: 8 Habits of Successful Retirees Poster. Feel free to share it with a friend or print it off and tape it to your fridge as a daily reminder of what it takes to have a rewarding, meaningful retirement.
As a quick reminder, don’t forget to like us at www.facebook.com/intentionalretirement to be entered in our Kindle giveaway.
Have a great weekend!
If you asked a group of people to define retirement, chances are good that almost every person’s answer would somehow revolve around no longer working. In fact, “working during retirement” sounds like an oxymoron to most people.
In reality, though, working during retirement is becoming more and more common. According to the recent SunAmerica Retirement Re-Set Study*, pre-retirees are delaying retirement by five years—from age 64 to 69—and when they do retire, two-thirds anticipate that they will continue to work in some fashion. Reasons for staying on the job include longer life expectancies, the high cost of health insurance, the recent market downturn and a desire to stay active. So how do you know if working during retirement is right for you? Here are five questions to ask yourself before quitting your job.
1) Do I need to work? The volatile markets and economic downturn of the last several years have dealt a serious setback to the retirement plans of some pre-retirees. In many cases, continuing to work is the most effective way to get your retirement plans back on track. Staying on the job means more income, more time to save, continued employer provided benefits and increased Social Security benefits. It also gives battered investments time to recover and means that your nest egg will need to provide income for a shorter period of time. While continuing to work may not be your first choice, it can be a great way to increase your security and peace of mind.
2) Do I want to work? A growing number of people are working not because they have to, but because they want to. Fyodor Dostoevsky once said “Deprived of meaningful work, men and women lose their reason for existence.” In other words, all of us are designed to do something meaningful and productive. Retirement doesn’t somehow remove that need, it just means that we no longer have to base our choice on how much something pays. Before leaving the workforce, think about the non-financial benefits you get from working. If you derive a great deal of satisfaction and purpose from your job, you may want to think twice before leaving it. And if you do decide to leave, be sure to have a plan for how to fill the void. Otherwise, you might find yourself frustrated and dissatisfied.
3) Will working even be an option? The SunAmerica Study also found that almost half of those already retired left work sooner than expected. The number one reason sited for exiting early was personal health problems (41 percent), but many also lost their jobs (19 percent) or quit in order to take care of a family member or friend (13 percent). As you think about working in retirement, it’s important to remember that the choice is not always up to you. If you have a physically demanding job or a poor health history, your working days may be numbered.
4) Does a Work-Retirement hybrid make sense? If your answers to any of the above questions were yes, it might make sense to design a solution that offers the best of both worlds. Whether this means doing a phased retirement with your current employer or choosing something else entirely, working part-time or at a less demanding job can give you increased freedom to follow some of your retirement dreams while still providing income and a connection to the working world.
5) What is Plan B? If we’ve learned anything from the last several years, it is this: Things don’t always go as expected. A plan to continue working can get cut short by a pink slip. The market might dive and take your income with it. You might head into retirement with a number of meaningful pursuits in mind and find that none of them really meet your needs. Whatever the reason, it’s important to have a Plan B, just in case. Derek Sievers once said “Success comes from persistently improving and inventing, not from persistently doing what’s not working.” When it comes to retirement, don’t be afraid to change course and make improvements until you get it right.
Work and retirement do not need to be mutually exclusive. By striking the appropriate balance you can design a retirement that is uniquely yours and will result in a rewarding, meaningful new chapter in life.
I originally published this article at www.fpanet.org.
“You will be who you are becoming.”
One of the pastors at my church said that this past Sunday. I thought it was really insightful. You’re never going to wake up one morning and be something that you haven’t been becoming little by little, day by day, for years. A caterpillar doesn’t go to bed as a fuzzy little worm and wake up the next morning a beautiful butterfly. That transformation from egg to larva to pupa to butterfly takes about half its life.
Applying that idea to retirement, you’re not going to wake up the day after you retire and be something different than what you were becoming for the previous 5, 10 or 20 years. Yes, you’ll have a little more time and a little more money, so if those are the only things holding you back from the life you really want to live then you’ll be in good shape.
If it’s something else, however—certain skills, attitudes, fears, plans, logistics, friendships, relationships, knowledge, personality traits—then you’d better start working on those things now. You won’t just be able to flip them on like a light switch. Instead you have to form them drop by drop over time like a stalactite.
Who are you becoming?
So, if you will be who you are becoming, that begs the question: “Who are you becoming?” Maybe more importantly, “Do you like who you are becoming?” If so, just maintain course. If not—if the person you want to be in retirement is different than the person you see taking shape today—then it’s time for a change. Take a small step today that moves you in the right direction. Then do it again tomorrow and the next day and the next. Before you know it, you’ll wake up one morning and you’ll be the person you’ve been becoming all along.
Thanks for reading. Have a great week.