What’s at the end of your proverbial rainbow?
Everyone thinks about retirement from time to time, but how many of us have actually gone and tested that pot of gold we so longingly seek?
Very few I imagine. I know I haven’t.
As I approach the ripe age of 30, I have this nagging thought that I should have everything figured out by now. I should know what I want to be when I grow up, a clear plan to get there, and what my end goal even looks like.
Since you’re reading this, you can probably surmise that I want to be a writer. Like you I want to travel the world. But I haven’t done nearly as much traveling or writing as I would like. Is It really what I want to do when it’s all said and done? If so, why haven’t I tested it more?
How hard would it be to spend a couple of weeks a year getting lost in Europe, or visiting friends in Asia or South America? All while lugging my tablet around and writing articles or working on a novel. Not terribly difficult I’d imagine. But I tell myself I can’t afford it, it’s too risky, or I should focus on my career, etc, etc. I rattle off dozens of excuses.
With that in mind, I am writing this article on how we can all test our pot of gold.
What Is Your Pot Of Gold?
It seems like a simple enough question. I think we all have ideas, but few people put the pen to pad and sketch out precisely what retirement entails. With that in mind I came up with a few questions to answer:
- Where will you live?
- What will you do every day?
- Who’s there with you?
- How much money will you need?
- How can you test it?
The answer to these questions can be simple, but I think the more specific they are the easier it would be to test.
As an example:
Living somewhere near the coast. Not directly on the water because that would be too expensive and would likely be affected too much by hurricanes and flooding. Something within a 45-minute to 2-hour drive to the beach would be ideal. Likely Texas but it’s good to be open to new possibilities. Days are spent writing for leisure, working out, reading at the beach, cooking, visiting friends, watching old movies, and the occasional splurge or trip like a brewery tour, going to NASA, or a trip into Mexico or Central America. This lifestyle would likely cost $6,000 a month to be truly comfortable. Assuming major purchases like owning a home are paid off and any responsibilities regarding children have been taken care of.
So here’s the big question: How Do I Test It?
Mini Retirements And Testing Your Pot Of Gold
So you have a better idea of where you will live, what you will do, and how much money you’ll need. Now we need to find opportunities to test it.
There are several potential routes I see for testing our retirement plans:
1. Vacation Testing
Vacation testing is the safest and most cost-effective solution to testing our pot of gold. One that is within reach of most middle-class citizens. According to a study performed by the Center for Economic Policy Research titled No-Vacation Nation Revisited, the average days of paid vacation received is ten days.
While ten days isn’t exactly ideal for testing our pot of gold, it can be a great start. Usually, on vacation, you are still getting settled the first few days. Towards the end of the week, you are really in a groove and closer to 9-10 days you are either comfortable or flat out ready to go home. That little sweet spot can tell you a lot about testing your pot of gold.
Save up the equivalent amount of money you calculated would be comfortable. Plus the cost of getting there and your lodging. Ideally, you would get an AirBnB or some equivalent to better replicate the feeling of being retired in a home versus a hotel. Then spend your days, not as you would on vacation but merely doing all the things you would do in retirement. Do virtually everything you would do right now if you had little to no responsibilities or obligations.
If it turns out that life is exactly as you imagined it, then you can start chipping away at making it a reality. Start saving, starting making career moves, and maybe even think about how you can relocate sooner to get a jumpstart on reaching your pot of gold.
If that pot of gold isn’t as deep and shiny as you imagine then perhaps it is time to reflect and revisit those pot of gold questions above. And repeat until you get the desried results.
Mini-retirements are long-term sabbaticals from your normal life and career to pursue happiness and passions to their fullest extent for as long as you can. We aren’t talking PTO or vacation days but months, sometimes even years of living out your dreams.
Mini-retirements are without a doubt a step up from vacation testing. They require the opposing forces of self-restraint and an element of spontaneity.
Maybe you don’t live as lavish a lifestyle, maybe you earn a little less, and maybe you don’t own the house or car of your dreams. But you get the gift of greater freedom in your golden years.
Here’s a graphic depicting normal retirement in your 60’s or 70’s vs mini retirements?Courtesy of Bren on the Road Courtesy of Bren On The Road
As you can see, you trickle little mini-retirements throughout your entire life.
Rather than working through your golden years, you work for a few years, live modestly, keep overhead costs in check, and save up as much money as you can. Then you take a mini-retirement.
The tricky part is cutting the cord on your old life. Yes, you need to quit your job. Walk away completely. Tell your superiors or partners about your mini-retirement plans and take that leap. This mini retirement can take several months to even a couple of years. Along the way, it is best to find a way to make money doing it. Your savings can supplement your income while you are getting started. If you time it right you can move out of your current residence and put any non-essential belongings in storage or with family and try to cut the costs down as much as you can.
Use the mini-retirement to fulfill a fantasy, follow a dream, accomplish a goal, or whatever moves you.
Want to start your own yoga studio? Teach yoga full-time.
Want to start your own adventure travel company? Get a job at a travel agency and be a guide on different vacation excursions.
Want to own your own restaurant? Go work in one. Work your way up from dishwasher, to line cook, sous chef, and maybe even chef. Get the full experience.
Write that novel. Sail around the world. Take an acting class or work on a vineyard.
Test out that pot of gold. Pursue your dreams. See if they live up to the hype and expectations or if it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.
If they are, then find a way to stay. If not, go back to work.
But Wait, Isn’t Job Hopping A Bad Idea?
There are studies going around falsely stating that millennials job-hop more than our predecessors. One notable study making the rounds is a LinkedIn study. That study is using data only from LinkedIn that is skewed by Gen X’rs and Baby Boomers only showing recent or relevant job history and not all the job hopping they did in their 20’s and 30’s. In fact, a Bureau of Labor Statistics report shows that Baby Boomers job hopped in their 20’s just as frequently as millennials do now.
Millennials shouldn’t feel bad for job hopping. Doing so allows us to trudge into higher paying (nearly 8-10% higher) and more satisfying careers. Staying longer than two years can actually cause us to get paid on average 50% less or more over a lifetime. That’s because on average an employee can only expect a 3% raise annually when they stick with the same company. Keep in mind that the annual inflation rate is typically between 1.3 to 1.8 percent. So it could only really be a 1-2% increase in salary.
Don’t feel guilty about job hopping. It’s the only way we get the opportunity to find better work cultures that fit us and along the way gain some much-needed perspective on what we truly want out of our careers.
I don’t want to marginalize the purpose of work. I don’t think humans are truly happy until we find work that makes us feel important and useful.
A complete retirement at a young or younger age is entirely possible but unlikely to keep us feeling useful or happy. I would get so sick of laying on the beach all day and doing nothing productive. It’s the periods of intense productivity and the series of failures and accomplishments that make vacation and retirement so attractive and worthwhile.
What’s more reasonable is retiring from the corporate life. Retiring from the grind.
Not having to deal with commutes, office politics, and having to get permission to take a little trip or just have time to work on other projects. In short, finding a way to break the shackles of corporate life and “retiring” to a life where you can simply work less. Or perhaps work more but instead you could be doing something you are actually passionate about.
The most likely scenarios here are:
- Remote work – This could be negotiated with your current job, or you can find a new job that only requires a laptop, a phone, and an internet connection. Then you can work from anywhere in the world. Then it is just about optimizing your time so you can live the lifestyle you desire.
- Creating passive income streams – The two that come to mind are investing in real estate (renting out the house(s) you own or putting them up as AirBnB or vacation rentals) and creating a drop shipping or ecommerce store. Both take a lot of investment and work up front but can create steady, predictable income streams so you can pursue your new life with minimal ongoing effort.
- Freelance creative work – If you take the time to learn to write, learn graphic design, learn to code, etc, then you can charge top dollar on sites like UpWork, Fiverr, and even pitch your services to the top companies around the world. This gives you complete control over how much money you make and what projects you want to work on.
All of these scenarios result in a life with 10x more freedom than working in a cubicle each day and always working for the weekend. They all also give you the opportunity to test your pot of gold and get a sense of what retirement really looks like.
The reason most people don’t follow this route is that it is a lot of work up front. However, if you want to live an extraordinary life, then you have to give up a normal one.
This post is a lot to take in all at once. In truth, I am still digesting it. I don’t know that I will ever be done writing it.
It is a topic that is always on my mind. One that changes from year to year. Yet, the same undertones are still there. Such as:
- I don’t want to commute to work longer than I have to
- I don’t want to work in a corporate setting forever
- I don’t want to wait until I am old, in pain, and too tired to enjoy my pot of gold
- I want to own my own business and have greater control over the amount of money I can make
- I want the freedom to travel or switch my life’s work with less fear and uncertainty
In short, I’m ready to test my pot of gold.
The sooner we know where we are going the sooner we can figure out the best route to get there.