If you knew you could never retire, would you make any career changes, or would you be satisfied with your current working situation?
I’ve spent the past week chewing on this question, and have really shifted in the way I thing about financial independence as a result.
The Never Retire Question
Asking people what they would do if they were retired is not always a great question to start out with when talking about personal finance.
In the world of early retirement and financial independence, we talk a lot about retirement, and that’s useful. Many people like to dream what they would do if they won $1 Million in the lottery today.
Sure, someday spending your millions can be an important motivator to save money and build wealth now.
Joshua teaches people to start with a different question. That question is: what you would do if you knew you could never retire.
We sometimes make the mistake of always focusing on retiring comfortably when we haven’t made a plan to work in a satisfying career.
“The reality is that most of the things you would do if you were retired you could probably figure out how to build an income or business on doing those things now.”
Jim the River Guide
This interview made me think back to our whitewater rafting guide on our summer vacation (yes- that brain-eating amoeba one). Jim was about my age, graduated from a great public university with a degree in Physics, but chose to be a river guide.
Jim loved whitewater rafting and really didn’t want to wait until he “retired” to go rafting every day.
The point Jim made with his career choice is that you don’t need to wait until you have a couple million dollars in the bank before you live your dream. Figure out how to can make a living while living your dream now.
Jim probably won’t be a river guide for his entire working career. He mentioned that he was giving it a try and for a couple of years and then would probably get a corporate job.
I’m assuming he’s probably not contributing much to retirement, but maybe that’s okay while you live your retirement dream.
Many people have a snapshot view of life rather than a view of the extended timeline. Both fear and comfort can keep us trapped in untenable situations.
Nothing’s forever, including life. Why not spend the majority of your life doing something you enjoy?
A Word to the Critic
You might be reading this post and saying to yourself, “Are you drunk? Who would ever pass up a $65K career with a physics degree over a $25K job rafting with snotty nosed kids?”
I would respond by saying you’re correct. You don’t always have to sacrifice income for doing something that you actually like.
Since you spend so much of your life working, why not do something that’s a net enjoyable experience, which also earns an income that helps you build wealth?
I’m blessed to work in my dream field and I get fairly compensated thanks to advanced degrees. In almost every field, there are ways to increase income. Whether that’s taking more classes, getting another degree, or just showing up and grinding hard, you can make good money regardless of what you “do.” Don’t believe the lie that to live your dream means you must sacrifice your income.
You’re also probably more likely to succeed financially if you enjoy your work. Trust me, people notice.