A reader wrote this week to say:
“Kathleen, the dictionary defines ‘retire’ as to stop working willingly and ‘retirement’ as being away from a busy life; a state of being withdrawn from the rest of the world or from a former busy life…”
The reader’s point was to take issue with our more liberal interpretation of these words and ideas.
If traditional, quote-unquote retirement is what you’re after, fair enough. The opportunities and destinations we explore in these dispatches should give you plenty of ideas for how and where you could withdraw from the rest of the world and spend the rest of your days swinging in a hammock or practicing your golf swing.
However, as this reader observed, we see that as but one (we’d suggest limited) strategy. Way more interesting in our view to think bigger and broader.
We’re not alone in this position. Next Avenue’s Chris Farrell interviewed me recently for an article he published as “How To Retire Abroad And Make Money, Too.”
This wasn’t the first time Chris took up this topic. He writes a biweekly “unretirement” blog about working in retirement, focusing on, as he puts it, “the personal finance and entrepreneurial start-up implications and the lessons people learn as they search for meaning and income.”
Chris refers to it as the “new retirement question.”
“For more than three decades,” he says, “the national conversation among people contemplating retirement was dominated by the haunting question: What is my number? Of course, the sum of savings we’ll need to live comfortably when we’re no longer working is disconcertingly uncertain. There’s no way of knowing what the market will return, let alone how much money will be enough to fund a lifestyle and medical bills.
“That’s why, these days, the retirement-planning conversation is increasingly focused on a different question: How can I earn an income after my initial career and give back at the same time?”
Now we’re talkin’. Not only is this approach more practical, as it allows you to control your income in retirement rather than living at the mercy of Social Security and whatever other pension income you might have, but I’d say it’s also more fun.
My ideas for retirement, when that stage finally comes, have little to do with withdrawing from the world. To the contrary, I look forward to this phase of life as a chance to be more engaged than ever, in the world, in life, and in the pursuit of happiness. My ideas for retirement are about moving around the world as whim and wanderlust dictate and settling in to get to know each place where I land, its people, and the local way of life. What goes on here, I’m always wondering about wherever in the world I happen to be… how do people spend their time here… how do they do whatever they do… and how might I participate?
When I’m retired, I hope to be able to come and go from here to there seeing what there is to see, learning what I’ve time to learn, making friends, establishing connections, and identifying ways to become part of and to contribute to the local community while, if possible, profiting from the local markets. Retirement for me (and for all of us here at Live and Invest Overseas) isn’t about cutting back, backing off, or slowing down. It’s about control and flexibility.
In this regard, I’d say I’m already “unretired.”
I’d also say that you could be, too, no matter your age or your current circumstances. The key is to think outside the conventional retirement box.
Don’t wait until you have some arbitrary amount of assets or some magic level of retirement income. Unretire now… and figure out how to make the money follow.