2024 January 16 Live your retirement on your terms

Jan 16, 2024

 Hi, this is Jim Cranston from 7EveryMinute and 7EveryMinute.com, the podcast and website about reimagining your life. Thanks for joining me tonight to talk about retiring on your own terms. So let's get started. If you like what you hear today, please leave a like, tell your friends, send me a message.


Tonight's about retiring on your own terms. It sounds simple at the surface. For a while I've been wanting to start interviewing people again, focusing on folks who have retired in one way or another. There are many reasons for this. A big reason is so others can see that there are many different ways to retire and to varying different degrees of retirement.


As we've often said, once you get your life vision visible to yourself and remind yourself what that is every day, then retirement becomes a huge new opportunity, not the end of being productive. I've also noticed a trend of late, although the trend itself is not new. Once you formalize something, it usually both loses its spark and its focus. 


I used to go to Dance Flurry in upstate New York. It was an awesome cross-cultural music and dance festival where every room and aisle were filled with people playing music and dancing every imaginable genre. It was so much fun. There was even overflow to other buildings outside. It was really a lot of fun. 


But then it became a thing. It got public funding, so naturally it became to some degree outcome-based. You had to show you were serving the most people with those funds you were getting.  So naturally, the best attended events became more common. While the fringe events became fewer and fewer.


It was there that I learned a ton about the beat of Latin music. It was from a class group. They actually drove out from the Berklee School of Music in Boston in a blizzard to be there. It was an awesome presentation, but it didn't have as many people as the contradances did. The last time I went, a few years ago, the whole event had basically turned into a huge contradance with some supporting alternative activities.


All that exposure to Latin and African music, other cultures, people from other cultures, all the other peoples, slowly went away and it turned into something else.  In a sense, it was more efficient. There were probably more attendees, but it no longer offered the cultural exposure upon which it was founded. So, was it a success? Well, it depends upon how you view it. 


What does this have to do with retirement? It turns out, quite a lot. Retirement, and life, for that matter, have really become quite formalized in terms of what society considers a success. There are many rules, most of which are really pushing for a specific outcome.


If you don't fit the rules, then somehow you've failed, or so they say. Medicare, for example, to pick one aspect of retirement,  penalizes people who still work heavily. I pay more for health insurance now in Medicare than I did on a private self pay plan as a contractor with no employer to support it.


The message is clear. We are supposed to retire and stop working when society says so. Otherwise, you pay a penalty.  If you don't start Medicare on time, you get a significant lifetime penalty, which just happened to a friend of mine. She's being penalized roughly one-eighth of her gross income. Most will claim that Medicare is a success, because you can measure all the positive outcomes and arrange the numbers to show how successful it is.  


But perhaps they're measuring the wrong things. The program works, but much like Dance Flurry, it's not really serving the people it was intended to in the way it was designed to. There are many examples of that sort of mismatch that affect us in retirement. Some are hard rules, like with Medicare, but there are a lot of soft rules as well. 


They say that if you work when you should retire, then you obviously didn't plan and are somewhat of a loser. Spoiler alert, you aren't a loser in any way. Remember that much of society is based around selling someone something. If you aren't a viable marketing target, then yes, to many of the creators of modern society, you are a loser. But who's the real loser? Those people who are trying to spend themselves into happiness?


Or people who are following their vision? Clearly, the visionaries are on the correct path.  I came across a story in the Wall Street Journal about a place called Mike's Bikes. It's a project run by a minister, Roberta Harmon of Rapid City, South Dakota. She has a ministry serving the youth, the homeless, and the community in need in general, with a number of outreach and support programs.


There was an editorial in today's Wall Street Journal, separate from this, noting that roughly 20 percent of the government handouts to lower middle class people are taken back either in direct taxes or punitive benefit reductions because they have income.  We see a program on paper that looks like a huge success, giving money to the needy, but in reality pushes them into more taxes and loses sight of what it's supposed to do, which is help people in need. 


But back to Roberta and Mike’s Bikes.  She's actually working directly with the people she's caring for and knows exactly what they need. One of the big items is transportation, so they can work, so she recycles bicycles via Mike's Bikes. It works. People are able to get to work. They're able to hold down a job. It's not like they're putting a ton of money into it. It's not like they're giving them a car. They actually have to put some effort in to get to work, and it's a fairly low expense. 


Trying to tie it all together now, I hope you're starting to see that how you define success, and how other people define success, could be very different. I'm hoping you see that how you define your own success in terms of your vision and helping others may very well be viewed as a failure by some, but you have to ask yourself if their opinion matters compared to your vision.  Once you reconcile your future vision, that should be the real measure of your happiness and your worth, not some statistic created by people who don't know your situation.


Medicare, Dance Flurry, and the welfare programs all have outcome-based success stories, but who says they're measuring the correct outcomes? There's a lot of society that is trying to attain a certain outcome, and they will try and push you in all sorts of directions. They'll do that by many different means, either by trying to create a want in you, the classic marketing, or by trying to shame you into doing something. So as you look at your retirement,  Look at your vision, and then  view it from that standpoint.


One of the biggest faults we've told people approaching retirement is that if you don't retire one specific way, then you have failed. Absolutely not true.  If you're able to retire comfortably, and your vision is to just relax, and you can do that, that's great if it matches your vision. But if your vision and reality are different, as long as they are consistent and you're as comfortable as possible, then you are your own personal success. 


An old friend of mine confided in me that despite many years of good pay, his retirement will require some adjustments.  He said he and his wife did a lot of travel during their lives, and it gave him a world perspective that served him well in life, in his work, and in ways that he could never have gotten other than by first person travel.


He seemed a little hesitant to tell me this, and I know why. Society would say that he failed, because now his retirement isn’t some glorious luxury thing.  I'd say his life thus far was a fabulous success, and he's approaching retirement with the same enthusiasm as he did life.  That, to me, seems like a complete win. He lived towards his vision, and he'll retire consistent with his vision. It gets no better no matter what society tries to tell you. 


So that's it for tonight. The big takeaway is that you get to define your own vision, and that determines your own measure of success, both before and after retirement. You have better things to do that are aligned with your vision. Own it, be proud of it, live it to its fullest. Be yourself, and be awesome. 


Your homework (always optional) is to think about what you've heard retirement should be. Now think about what you would find most satisfying in retirement. As always, start off by imagining you couldn't possibly fail, and build it out to how the retirement you would like to see. Extra points if you take one aspect of that true inner vision and start with the success of accomplishing what you want and work backwards towards the present. Write down the steps, set some SMART goals, and get started on your retirement.  


As always, thank you very much for joining me. Please remember the people who are in need. Links to aid Ukraine are at UKR7.com. World Central Kitchen is at WCK.org. There's people all around that can use a little encouragement when you see them. 


Remember, one of the best ways to care for yourself is to care for others. You can help them monetarily,  you can care for them by actually taking care of them, or just by being nice to them. It makes the whole day better and just helps the world overall. 


As always, thank you for stopping by. If you found something interesting or useful, please pass it along, and please hit that like button. If not, please drop me a comment as to what you'd like to hear. Have a great week. Remember to live the life that you dream of, because that's the path to true contentment. Love and encouragement to everyone. See you next week on 7EveryMinute and 7EveryMinute.com. Thank you so much. 


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