For instance, the following quip from Mary Schmich’s “Wear Sunscreen” speech is one that I like to keep handy:
“Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind, the race is long, and in the end it’s only with yourself.”
On the subject of retirement, I think it’s particularly applicable.
I, along with what I would imagine to be the majority of you readers, spend a good deal of time looking into the concept of “early retirement.” We share tips and tricks: tax “hacks” and money savers, frugality benefits and motivation boosters, couponing and side hustle possibilities along with the underlying concept that less is more.
We emphasize these truths – testing them out – and then dispense them freely for anyone with an open ear and a bit of time.
Dividend Mantra has the goal of retiring by 40 and graciously shares his progress each and every month.
Retire Before Dad’s aim is to… well retire before his dad did.
Some even take the X-games route and declare “Early Retirement Extreme.”
They all spread great messages; and whatever ideology you happen to follow, the general idea is to retire before what might be considered “normal.”
Yet that lends the question: “normal” in comparison to what?
Most people would default to age 65. The average is about 62. However, neither appear to be very good barometers.
Consider your typical classroom. For simplicity sake, let’s assume that the students’ grades follow a nice, normally distributed bell curve: the average grade is a “C,” with commensurate A’s and B’s flanking the flunking D’s and F’s. It’s a true hodgepodge of both intellect and drive.
Surely, you want to teach, motivate or better yet inspire the D and F students to do better (as all of those encouraging movies with the sad to upbeat soundtracks accomplish in an afternoon). You know it’s possible. Perhaps not in an hour or two, but with enough time and effort anything is achievable.
For the C students, conceivably you work with them some, but not as much as the D and F students. Their situation isn’t quite so dire and after-all they will pass – someone has to be average.
When you get to the A and B students, you basically pass along this advice: “keep doing what you’re doing.” Perchance your instructional techniques might vary slightly from the one’s I just made up on the spot. What’s clear, though, is that it would be misguided to tell the A and B students: “You know, you’re doing better than average, you should slow this thing down as to not appear as if you’re gloating. There’s nothing wrong with getting some C’s, just ask Sally.”
The same holds true for retirement.
The average person is expected to retire around 65… then the story stops. The follow up to that statement should read something along these lines: “everyone is different with varying goals, objectives, talents and motivations; some have the wherewithal to retire at 30 while others may never stop working. Yet none of that is important as long as you understand that the only person responsible for your actions is you.”
Admittedly it’s a bit longer, but I think it represents the idea a little more fairly.
Retirement is a highly personal thing, and I’m saying that without getting into the numbers (do you need $250,000 or $2.5 million?).
If you have the potential to retire at 40 and you try on the golden watch at 55 should you truly be celebrating its “early” arrival?
For that matter, should we trivialize the hard worker that enjoys spending time with co-workers and finally decides to hang it up at 75?
I’m not here to tell when or what your retirement should be. Out of all the people in the world, Warren Buffett is the absolute last person who needs to have a job (in this millennium or next) yet, at age 83, he still heads to the office each morning. He enjoys it.
The person who ”wins” is not the one that gets there the quickest. Instead, it’s more along the lines of the old John Wooden quote: “don’t measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should have accomplished with your ability.”
What should you accomplish?