July 9, 2014
“There’s a difference between ‘hard work’ and ‘working hard.’ One requires lots of energy; the other, lots of passion.” ~ Tony Walker
Americans all seem to strive for that perfect “work-life” balance. We work because that is our calling in life. And the fruits of our labor are a day’s wages so we can enjoy our time here on this earth. It’s about striking a new balance. It’s certainly about working hard, but it’s also about slowing down to enjoy the journey – knowing that the journey could end when we least expect it. There are no guarantees that the road you are on will always be easy. In fact, it’s pretty certain that the road will be immensely difficult at times. If you live long enough, you will encounter obstacles unforeseen by any man. But that’s just part of the journey.
Hard work doesn’t mean mad dashes to nowhere. The real question for retirement is: “Should we work harder, or slow down and work longer?” I see many folks working hard and making lots of money, but they have little joy to show for it. They are in serious danger of burning out. When that happens, they lose interest in their jobs, their family, their marriage, their goals, their health, their bodies, and their faith. They may have money, but they may also feel discontent. Their gadgets and gizmos no longer interest them. The new toys just don’t bring the joy they used to. In general, they simply lose hope. In basketball, no team can fast break for every minute of each half. And neither can you. If you do, eventually, you’ll run out of gas. There’s no victory in that game plan.
The WorryFree® Retirement Process includes working harder, but slowing down. It doesn’t mean 60-hour work weeks; it simply means that we work when we need to, not because we have to. That’s why the WorryFree Retirement® is about a slow and steady pace. It’s not trying to be like the Titanic, speeding across the ocean thinking all is well. You have to be on the lookout for icebergs. You must stay at the helm and keep a watchful eye out. That is the responsible thing to do. It’s why you were created in the first place. Remember, we are talking about your life’s work, and the only way to do justice to your life and your work is to just slow down.
So how do you begin to work hard and slow down? Build into your life daily habits that help you keep an even pace. Even if you’re in the first half of the game, be careful not to work long hours – no matter how much you love your work or want to “get ahead.” Not only will you get burned out, you’ll also miss many of life’s simple pleasures – like watching your kids grow up along the way. It’s hard to enjoy things when you are running by them. Work hard, but keep an even pace. Stay on the trail to your destination. Keep focused on your future goals. Work at a pace that could possibly be maintained for the rest of your life.
Many baby boomers today are kidding themselves. They have no clue what retirement is going to look like for them. They’ve been so busy raising their families, earning money and buying lots of “stuff” that they’ve never stopped to take a realistic snapshot of the future. Based on what I’m seeing, the vast majority of baby boomers will have to work, in some form or fashion, well past age 65. My advice is to find something you love doing, work hard at it, and have fun while you’re doing it.
If you retire “too soon,” you run the risk of forcing yourself into burnout. Here’s how:
Setting unrealistic early retirement goals forces you to work harder and possibly risk more money. When I meet with couples contemplating early retirement, I usually uncover that one spouse is not in favor of the early retirement plan, but is afraid to challenge it because they don’t know where to start. It takes a trained retirement specialist to pull it all together and determine if such a plan is possible. Certainly, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to slow down at a young age, or even changing vocations, but be careful of setting a goal of trying to completely retire at some designated age in the future. There are too many variables out there that you can’t control. And if you focus too strongly on the “destination,” you may find yourself unable to enjoy the journey. Worse, once you get “there,” you may discover that, as Gertrude Stein once said, “There is no there.” In other words, you’re possibly setting yourself up for a big disappointment, at best.
Nothing in life comes easy. Only through hard work and sacrifice will you truly enjoy the fruits of your labor. However, your life must strike a balance. There must be a pace that sustains your walk for the rest of your life. In order to help you, we’re going to take a quick survey. This survey will help you think about your retirement and what you would really like to be doing and what you could possibly do for the rest of your life.
After you’ve completed this exercise, talk to your financial advisor about these concerns. You’ll be glad you did… and will be on your way to a WorryFree Retirement®.