Updated: June 22, 2021
The daughter of a friend recently graduated from college, and just got accepted at her first job. I visited their home over the weekend, and she asked if I have any advice for her, now that she’s working.
Without a second thought, I told her that she should start planning for her retirement.
“Retirement? But I’m only 20 years old!” she protested.
“Yes,” I replied. “Because doing so will bring you self-fulfillment.”
“I don’t understand,” she confessed. “How is that even connected?”
“Well,” I answered. “Let me explain…”
The Biggest Myth About Retirement
Most people see retirement as the time when they can finally quit their job and start enjoying life. It’s the time when they will travel, spend time with their loved ones, live quietly away from the city, and pursue their forgotten hobbies.
This is the image of retirement that movies and television have shown us, and it’s the biggest myth that a lot of people unfortunately believe.
Retirement is not the time when you finally quit your job.
It is, however, the time when you don’t need to work anymore, but still choose to work because it gives you purpose and self-fulfillment.
Did you get that? Read it again if you didn’t.
Think about this…
Despite being the richest man in the world, Bill Gates still works as a technology advisor for Microsoft.
At age 56 with a $520 million net worth, Madonna is still releasing music and doing concert tours.
And then there’s multibillionaire Oprah Winfrey, who at age 61, still goes to work at Harpo Productions as its Chairwoman.
So why are these insanely wealthy people still working? Why don’t they just quit their jobs, and enjoy life?
It’s because they don’t subscribe to the old definition of retirement that most people hold.
The Two Types of Work That People Do
Financial advisors often tell you about two phases in a person’s working life.
The first one, the time when you work for the money. And then the second one, when your money works for you.
They describe these phases as if it’s two separate stages in life. You work for the money first, then you slowly transition to having your money work for you.
I believe this is an incomplete and misleading description of how your working life will be – because it makes you assume that when your money starts working for you, then you can now stop working.
So what’s a better way of describing your working life? By understanding the two types of work that people do.
The first one is the work for survival, and the second one is the work for self-fulfillment.
Working for survival is simply working in a job because you need the money. Here, the income you receive plays a huge role in your job satisfaction. Given a larger salary, you’d actually be willing to transfer to another company.
Meanwhile, working for self-fulfillment is working in a job because you enjoy it. Here, the income you receive is no longer a factor in your job satisfaction. In fact, you’d be willing to work even if you don’t get paid for it!
Your Journey Towards Retirement
The need to work for survival, and your degree of self-fulfillment in a job, can be used to describe your journey towards retirement and consequently, your financial freedom.
Your first job is always work that you need to survive. If it doesn’t give you self-fulfillment, then it’s okay because at least, you can survive and eat three times a day.
However, you shouldn’t stay too long in this type of work because it will depreciate your soul. Do your best to find work that gives you a purpose – a job that you enjoy, and pays the bills at the same time.
Now, the common mistake that people do is they stall in their journey at this point. They become content in working at a job that allows them to survive and makes them feel fulfilled.
This is a mistake because sooner or later, they will get bored with their work, or it will become too stressful for them to enjoy it. And because they need a job to survive, they stay and slowly become unhappy with their life.
Until finally, they will find another work – one that allows them to survive and experience self-fulfillment, and everything will be okay again.
But the cycle just repeats itself, and they’ll start to hate their job yet again.
Unfortunately, you can only repeat this cycle for a limited time because you’ll reach a point when you won’t be able to find a job that can give both the income and the self-fulfillment that you need.
But because you need to survive, you will choose to endure the misery of a high-paying but unsatisfying job and begin to look forward to the old definition of retirement – the time when you will finally quit working and enjoy life.
This is what many people refer to as running in the rat race.
So how do you break free from this proverbial rat race?
By saving and investing your money, creating passive sources of income, and planning for your retirement as early as possible.
Why? Because doing so will slowly remove your need to work for survival, so you can start looking for work simply on the merit of self-fulfillment.
In other words, when you have money working for you, then you can focus on finding work that makes you happy.
And if ever that work becomes too boring, or too stressful, then you can afford to quit and find another one without worry.
The Need To Plan For Retirement As Early As Possible
By our new definition, retirement is that stage in your life when your focus is simply finding work that fulfills you, regardless of the income.
But because we are all multi-faceted individuals, then living life to the fullest will mean pursuing our many passions and interests throughout our lifetime.
I was happy working as an engineer until it got too stressful, so I became a system analyst. Then things got boring, and that’s when I explored entrepreneurship.
Putting up businesses felt great, but I wanted to pursue my love for writing – so I became a blogger. On the side, I currently work as a freelance photographer, motivational speaker, and financial literacy advocate.
I do a lot of things because they all make me happy. And because I have savings, investments, and multiple sources of income – I can choose to work at any of them, at any time.
By our new definition, you can say that I have already retired. It was something I planned during my mid 20’s and achieved during my early 30’s.
I’ve met amazing individuals who started planning for retirement during their college years and are now in their late 20’s living a fulfilling life pursuing their passion without worry where their next meal would come.
Like me, they have savings, investments, and passive sources of income that sustain their financial requirements, while they work on creating more value for themselves, and others.
If it was possible for me, and if it was possible for them, then I’m sure it is also possible for you. But only if you start now.