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WE often frame retirement funding initiatives in simple self-focused terms. Has the time come for us to think expansively?

Do you love your job? Do you hate it? I hope you skew toward working with joy and satisfaction, purpose and significance. After all, if we toil at a job (or more likely at five or 10 jobs) over three to five decades, that’s a mega chunk of our time on Earth. It would be an epic tragedy if we did anything other than mainly revel in that lengthy experience.

In contrast, it would be a bountiful blessing if we derive joyful purpose and significant satisfaction as we work to earn the money we need to pay for life’s basic necessities like food, clothing and shelter, plus the extra money we want to purchase life’s perks like caviar, Prada and 5-star hotel stays.

We all want nice things and experiences but we should be wise enough to never sacrifice long-term essentials for short-term excesses. You see, all of us operate within a world system of bounty that nonetheless has rigid built-in constraints.

Most of us don’t have enough money to buy everything we could ever want; and the few of us who do have sufficient wealth to do so — say the world’s 15 or so wealthiest individuals with personal net worths in excess of US$50 billion (RM210 billion) (refer to www.bloomberg.com/billionaires/) — certainly do NOT have enough time within a single lifespan to savour every experience their hearts and minds might conjure up.

Those twin truths can help us come to grips with two unique truths about retirement planning:

1. It is smart to start planning for retirement as early as possible in our working adulthood; and

2. It is wise to keep working as long as possible throughout our careers before we embrace full retirement, meaning prior to our full cessation of active income generation.

QUESTIONS TO PONDER

As I mentioned in last week’s column (which you may access at www.nst.com.my/lifestyle/sunday-vibes/2019/08/515777/money-thoughts-5-qu...) it is helpful for us to consider five specific questions that pertain to either our plans for a golden future retirement or that can help us live better in the retirement we’ve already carved out for ourselves from the granite edifice of our careers.

Those five questions, once again, are:

1. When I ‘retire’, will I truly stop working?

2. How will I pay for my life in full retirement or, in other words, with ever lengthening lifespans how should well-prepared people face and deal with longevity risk?

3. How will I spend all my extra leisure time in retirement without growing terminally bored?

4. After decades of limited family contact because of work, overwork and overtime, how will I relate to my loved ones when I finally have time for them when they may choose not to make time for me?

5. How do I still find meaning linked to my unique purpose in life within retirement?

Next week, we will explore Question 2. For now, though, our remaining space will be devoted to answering Question 1.

WHEN I ‘RETIRE’ WILL I TRULY STOP WORKING?

Since my strict and narrow definition of ‘retirement’ is the period of later life when we finally stop working to earn an active income, the answer is ‘yes’.

But — I’m sure you knew there was a ‘but’ coming — since our lengths of full-blown retirement might span one to four decades of later life before some, as yet, shrouded terminal event launches us into eternity, it would be a tragic waste of human experience and knowledge if we turned our backs on the world and ceased contributing and making a positive difference to the world and to those around us.

Sadly, every day older men and women do that. They fade into obscurity without leaving a lasting legacy of love; our world is poorer for it! However, that doesn’t mean YOU should accept a gradual dimming of your life’s burning candle!

HAPPY STATE

If preparation for our eventual retirement is initiated early enough during our prime working years, then time and compound interest will cause our retirement funds to snowball. That can lead to our attaining financial independence earlier in life than we otherwise would.

That happy state, in turn, can grant us the opportunity to stop working merely for money sooner rather than later. This freedom from the shackles of unpleasant toil solely for cash can help us transition to far more meaningful work that still pays us a decent wage which we can then partly channel toward legacy-building projects because of our earlier attained personal financial independence.

Over time, our coalescing clarity concerning the legacies we wish to leave behind will help us decide on the post-retirement, non-paying, personally fulfilling projects we care enough about to commit a chunk of our final decades working on, in a bid to leave Earth in, hopefully, better shape than it would be without our proactive choices to improve life for others.

This picture of a preferred future is idealistic, yet it is attainable if we manage our finances well, rein in our appetites, and opt to live intentionally. So do give it a shot!

(Next week we will shift our focus to the sizable challenge of longevity risk in retirement planning.)

© 2019 Rajen Devadason

Rajen Devadason, CFP, is a Licensed Financial Planner, professional speaker and author. Read his free articles at www.FreeCoolArticles.com; he may be connected with on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/rajendevadason, or via [email protected] You may follow him on Twitter @RajenDevadason

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