Tuesday, November 29, 2011

My Winding Road to Retirement

Sometimes the most direct route to something may not always be the best route. This can be true in many facets of life, including the road leading to retirement. For me, this road has taken some unexpected twists and turns in what has only been the first portion of my working life. While I began this road in the fast lane of what I hoped to be a straight shot to an early retirement, I’ve encountered several detours that have turned my plan onto a different, longer, but not altogether bad route to retirement.

What I’m trying to say is that my plan is kind of like a road map. There is a start point from my initial work, which leads to an end point at retirement, connected by an interstate in between. However there are a lot of little side roads that spread out along the way. These alternate routes will eventually get me to the same spot, and they might take me in a different and somewhat unexpected direction, but that route could be a more scenic one than if I had taken the highway straight to my destination.

The Direct Route to Retirement Gets Me There Faster but…

When I was working in the hotel business, I was on the fast track to early retirement…at least that was the goal at the time. I wanted to retire when I was 45 and be done with it all. But this goal largely left me missing out on life. I was stashing as much cash as I could and working all the time, which left me with little time to enjoy myself or my surroundings.

As the years passed, I began to realize that while the highway to retirement might get me to my goal quicker, I was missing all the scenery of life along the way.

The Retirement Side Roads are More Scenic

At the realization that I only live once and that life was passing me by while I worked like an ant, scurrying back and forth between work and home with blinders on to the world around me, I began to view things from a different perspective. While retirement was still an important goal for me, I began to wonder if I was taking my goal to reach it so quickly a bit far. This led me to ponder other ways of living, ways that were somewhat outside the norm, but that might work for me, and in fact, could work for many other people if they stepped back for a moment and reviewed their situations.

This was when I began contemplating leaving the hotel business to become self-employed. At about the same time, my wife and I were considering having a child. I thought that if I could correlate the two (leaving the hotel business to work for myself, and the birth of our son), it might help me slow down a little, enjoy life a bit more and take a few scenic side roads on the path to retirement. In my opinion, it was worth working longer in a job I liked, and be able to take care of my son, even if it meant delaying my retirement.

Adopting a New Retirement Strategy

So now that I’ve stepped back from the regular working world for a time, I’ve seen a lot of different scenery and gotten a new perspective on life, living, and retirement. I’m not in a rush now to retire since I’ve found work that I actually enjoy doing.

When you’re doing something you don’t really like, retirement might seem like the only escape. This could however be a clear indication that it’s time to start considering a different job or career. For those in their younger years especially, suffering through another 20 or 30 years of doing something that is less than satisfactory just to get to retirement, could leave them with years of unhappiness. Meanwhile, doing something you love, or at least enjoy, might have you feeling like you’ve already retired while still working toward bright golden years.

I’ve now shifted gears from the fast paced, “get there at all costs, regardless of the toll on my happiness” type retirement attitude. While those early years helped to get me to where I am now, they also taught me an important lesson about a proper life/work balance -- it’s often not so much about how quickly you get where you’re going, it’s how much you enjoy the drive getting there.

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