What's Your Retirement Plan?
The two single best pieces of advice I received as a young attorney were 1) "pay yourself first"; and 2) here is the number for my financial advisor". Interestingly, neither of those pieces of advice had anything to do with me carrying out the various tasks associated with doing my actual job. Instead, the message was, "this job is a mere catalyst to a comfortable future." I fully accept that this theory assumes that "comfort" is associated with money. But I've recently started thinking about it differently.
I am very much in the category of people who believe it is crucial and the responsible thing to do to begin planning for retirement immediately. At the risk of sounding very "Big Mama-ish", I'm the person who wholeheartedly believes that we young folk just don't do enough thinking about our future. But I'm also smart enough to understand that what works for one person isn't necessarily what will work for every person.
Just last week while checking out of a hotel on Martha's Vineyard, my mom and I met a woman working at the front desk who was so carefree and carried her indifference about the minutia of life like a badge of honor. I figure she was in her late 40s. As she sat there, still groggy from the night before, but simultaneously (and refreshingly) fresh-faced, she said she has never cared much about a nest egg. She was content to work at this very front desk in paradise for as long as it suited her. I cringed. Literally. In that moment, my initial reaction was "whaaa? How are you going to live? What if something happens?" But then I shook myself out of it and answered an even tougher question - "so what?" Here was this woman who wasn't so sure what her future held, but she was absolutely sure about one thing: she was committed to being happy. That moment changed so much for me.
My personal retirement plan is all about making sure the dollars make sense so that when it comes time to decide what I'm going to actually do in retirement, I will have the financial freedom to do anything. It's the practical approach for sure. But what of the other approach? The one that says, "I'm going to just live every day and figure it out as it comes." What's wrong with that approach? Sure - the woman at the front desk may be working that very front desk for the next 20 years just so she can maintain her seemingly carefree lifestyle, but is that really the worst thing in the world? Probably not.
My best friend recently moved to New York looking for "an adventure." Literally. She packed her shit and she got the hell out of Houston. She has a plan, but mostly she is committed only to being open to receiving something new from the universe every day. She has balls. Big ones. And I applaud her for it.
What if more people lived like that woman at the reception desk and my best friend? What if people were less concerned about the five year plan and more concerned about gathering enough memories and experiences in the now that will be able to sustain you in the future in ways that a healthy bank account never could? I venture to guess that my best friend will be able to talk with clarity about "that one crazy month in Harlem" when we are in our 60s. I also bet I probably won't be able to tell you how much I saved in that same month. #perspective.
I'm not suggesting that we should all abandon the concept of financial or retirement planning. But what I am thinking about is how to really plan for retirement in a way that doesn't have to do with finances, but instead has everything to do with finding that balance that will make your current life experiences and memories just as valuable to you as one million dollars could be.