Over the last few years I have developed a series of hypothetical questions that I consistently ask myself. While this characteristic is congruent with someone that is on the verge of institutionalization, it is also responsible for my unique form of financial advice. If I am going to help my generation get a grasp on their money lives, then I need to recreate a process of financial discovery. I strongly believe that we, as a financial community, need to hit the reset button. We have been advising every single generation, for the last several decades, the exact same way.
But here is the (not so) harsh reality. Retirement and financial independence will he completely different for us than it is for our predecessors. The main culprit in this forced change is our: health. We are going to live a helluva lot longer than our parents. It is unrealistic to believe that we can work half our lives, only to not work the other half. I don’t want to be the one to break this to you (it should be someone like Oprah or Ryan Seacrest), but you are going to live to 100. You might as well photoshop wrinkles on your senior picture just to get used to it. You need to start switching your financial thinking to adjust to your newly discovered longevity.
Ah, yes…I had a point, and here it is. Why not put yourself on the road to retirement right now? This topic is immense enough to write a book, alas I’m going to condense it down to a couple of paragraphs. Our “retirement” is going to consist of doing a job that you are comfortable doing until the day you die. It’s all about redefining your passions, skills, and work ethic. You don’t want to work that 60 hour per week middle management job? Cool with me, just find something else that you want to do. The limiting factor, of course, is your income needs. Your career decisions have, and always will be dependent on your income needs. Unless you decide to eliminate that factor.
I swear to you, dear friend, that I have a point, and it’s right around the corner. Stick with me. How much money would you need to make for you to walk away from your job and do something that you enjoy for the rest of your life? There are a number of factors that figure into your ability to answer this question:
- Is your current job the final solution? It’s quite possible that your current job is a job that you’re passionate about. It is a job that you can continue to work some way, shape, or form into retirement. This would be great, and you are well on your way to understanding how our “retirement” will be different.
- You should accept less. Do you want to know how you know whether you have answered the income question correctly? You should be willing and able to accept less money to do a job that you truly enjoy. Why? Because, as will be true when you retire, you will finally put your needs and wants into perspective once you have chosen your final career. In order to live the retirement lifestyle that we will be faced with, you will have to live on less money.
- You should regularly ask yourself the “how much to quit” question, and the dollar amount should consistently decrease. Look, I already know that I’m asking a lot of you. I’m asking you to accept less money in a time when everyone is looking for more money. And now I’m asking you to settle for less money every time that you ask yourself this question. I believe that you will finally have the right mindset to act on this hypothetical, once that your income needs start to decrease. You will have accepted this concept as reality, and you are closer to being prepared to live it.
I consistently ask myself this major question. And I can honestly tell you that my income needs have consistently decreased. If you are currently in a career that doesn’t “do it for you”, then start asking the tough questions. The hardest part isn’t even decreasing your income needs. The real challenge is finding what you truly love, once you find that you will easily be able to decrease your income needs (or wants).
Peter Dunn a.k.a. Pete the Planner® is an award-winning financial mind and a former comedian. He’s a USA TODAY columnist, author of ten books, and is the host of the popular radio show and podcast, The Pete the Planner Show. Pete is considered one of the foremost experts on financial wellness in the world, but he’s just as likely to talk your ear off about bass fishing.