Some of the most popular articles on the net these days are articles on how to retire at 50, 40 or even as young as 30. The idea is that as soon as an investor can accumulate the minimum amount of income (usually in the form of dividends) to support a minimal lifestyle, he should drop out and live a self centered, self absorbed life of laziness and consumption. Basically the life of a bum.
When I see these articles I wonder who in the world were they written for and just who would really want to live a meaningless life of sitting on park benches for hours at a time in the middle of the day? But then perhaps I just don't understand or appreciate what this idea of retirement means to this younger generation. If retirement to this next generation means leaving behind that creative and productive part of my life for a life of self-centeredness, massive consumption, and laziness, then this younger generation doesn't understand the concept of retirement.
As a member of the Baby Boom generation I couldn't wait to turn 16 so I could apply for and obtain a good paying job. It was all part of that process of growing up and it was the means by which I got those things in life that my parents wouldn't or couldn't buy for me. A "real" job meant the end of mowing grass and shoveling snow for other people for money. It meant I was growing up and entering into the adult world. It meant I was beginning to make something out of my life and hopefully the beginning of a wealthy life. And most of all it was liberating.
Attending undergraduate and graduate schools were the next steps in the building process. It was the stepping stone to a career and to obtaining my goal of a lifetime of employment. It was suppose to be the realization of an academic dream to put meaning into my life. With that Master's Degree in hand I found that career I had longed for and I immediately began that lifelong journey of building a life of accomplishments and fulfillment. This wasn't something that happened overnight and it wasn't something I was willing to jeopardize or abandon. That career became the basis by which I built a life. A life and career that became so inseparable that they became one and the same. I built a life and changed from a kid that simply consumes to an adult that builds and creates. My career was something I studied for in college, it's something I was trained to do, and over the years it's become interwoven and critical to my entire life.
I didn't create this life simply to give up on it half way through. My plan was never to do the minimum and stop. My plan was never to give up just as I hit my stride simply because it was possible. The purpose has always been the building and the creating. To do anything other than what I have done would be to abandon my inner drive. Maybe this is just the result of my middle class background or my midwest personality. Maybe it's simply the way my parent's imprinted their values on me when I was young. Regardless, it's who I am. And at this point in my life the things that retirees do simply do not interest me. Maybe someday they will but it'll be years from now when I'm very, very old.
"The trouble with retirement is that you never get a day off."
-- Abe Lemons, College Basketball Player and Coach
Now, even in my 60s, I'm still unwilling to give up that desire and willingness to build and create. Retirement to me means an end to the creative and productive part of my life and a return to the consumerism and consumption of my youth. It seems like such a waste of life's God given talents to simply stop contributing and live a life that's carefree and meaningless when I'm physically able to still do so much more. I just don't see retiring. Ever.
When this current career is over I'll surely find another career. And then another and another, if necessary. It's the work that makes up your life that gives meaning and purpose to your life. And all the dividends in the world can never do that for you.
Those dividends may be able to provide me the financial freedom, independence and security that's necessary to pursue my dreams and goals but they'll never be the goals themselves. It's all about work, careers, trading and investing. It's never been about the money. It's always been about living a meaningful and positive life.