Start Your Retirement Life Now

Start Your Retirement Life Now

Every time I use the word “retirement” in an article, I get kickback from someone who wants to make a big deal about it.  “Retirement doesn’t exist anymore, except for the super-rich.”  “Retirement isn’t realistic in this economy.”  “I’m 50 and I haven’t saved anything yet, so I’ll never retire.”

I challenge you to look at your definition of retirement.

Does it mean working for one company for decades, getting a pension (and/or a gold watch), and moving to Florida as it did for generations gone by?  No, it doesn’t.

This is not your father’s retirement.

Does it last from age 55 into our 60s or 70s, which was our projected lifespan back when Americans first considered retirement to be an acquired right of every worker?  No, it doesn’t.

This is not your grandfather’s retirement

According to the Social Security website, when the system was created in the early twentieth century “Life expectancy at birth in 1930 was indeed only 58 for men and 62 for women, and the retirement age was 65.”

Times have sure changed.  Today, according to data compiled by the Social Security Administration, on average:

  • a man reaching age 65 today can expect to live until age 83; and
  • a woman turning age 65 today can expect to live until age 85.

“And those are just averages. About one out of every four 65-year-olds today will live past age 90, and one out of 10 will live past age 95.

Did you register that? Have you really internalized that one of those 25 percent or 10 percent could be you?

What that means is that, by the time you take your benefits (however large or small … whether at 62 or 70 … and if the system isn’t bankrupt), you still have almost an entire second adulthood left to be lived out.  And financed.

As for the “financed” part, that’s a topic I write about often, where I try to instill the urgency of putting aside whatever you can, as soon as possible, and shepherding it carefully.  But that’s not the topic for today.

Today I’d like to talk about “almost an entire adulthood left to be lived out.”

Somehow, for many the traditional image of retirement has persisted until today.  There’s pre-retirement one day.  Then post-retirement the next.  As if one door closes, and another one opens.

I challenge you to look at the rest of your life as a continuum.  From today forward.

What’s the best way to do that?  I propose that you set aside a chunk of time.  Say a Sunday afternoon.  Go sit out on the back porch or deck.  Or in your favorite chair inside, if no one will bother you.  Use pen and paper, and not your computer (too many distractions like incoming email and unfinished projects).

Start writing down how you envision your later years.  What will you be doing?  What activities will be important to you?  Where will you be living?  Fantasize about how a day will be spent.  Get into as much detail as you can.  Relish in it; feel it viscerally.

Now, don’t even try to figure out how much that lifestyle will cost you.  For today, that’s not the critical issue.  For today, it’s important to see and feel what that will be like.  Kids are grown and your needs, as well as your responsibilities, are different.

Next, list ten different things about your ideal “later life.”

Pick one thing.  Is it that you want to downsize and simplify your life?  Why wait?  Do it now.  If the crazy real estate market affords an opportunity that moves you where you want to move … and does so intelligently … why wait?  And if downsizing isn’t realistic because of the market, simplifying still is.

Pick another.  Do you want to dedicate more of your time to volunteering?  Why wait?  Do it now.  Find something that may even be a watered-down version of your grandiose volunteering idea and start it now.  Let that good feeling start to fill your life now.

Pick yet another.  Do you want to spend more time surrounded by your kids and (if you have them) your grandkids?  Why wait?  Make more effort to integrate them into your life by revisiting your priorities as you decide how to spend your time.  Build those memories today.

Surely there will be things that you cannot do with today’s job and time demands.  That’s fine.  Maybe you want to move to Costa Rica eventually and the job you have today isn’t computer-based and portable.  But if your job isn’t real secure, you might want to look at how to take your job skills online and move to Costa Rica where the cost of living is a fraction of what yours is here.

Or maybe you hope one day to be running a charitable operation that you start up, based on a cause that is your passion, as part of the legacy you want to leave.  Maybe today you’re employed full-time doing something else.  No, you can’t drop one to jump into the other.  But you can sure inch into the charity by reallocating some time and energy.

When it comes to “retirement,” it’s unlikely that one door will close, neatly, as another one opens.  It’s more likely that there will be a shift in activities over time, some paid, some not, as you recreate yourself in your second adulthood.

Whatever your vision looks like, start creating your ideal life today.  There’s no reason to wait until all the pieces are in place.

Besides, any pieces of that ideal life that you do start living now will keep you focused on achieving the rest of the dream.  Whatever it looks like.

So start “retiring” now.

I have.

[Anyone you know who could benefit from this idea?  What about sharing it with them?]


Sharon O’Day lost everything at age 53:  her home, her business, everything.  But how could that be?  She’s an expert in global finance and marketing with an MBA from the Wharton School.  She has worked with governments, corporations, and individuals … yes, she was the secret ‘weapon,’ if you will, behind many individuals in high places.  But still, she did!  Since then, Sharon has interviewed countless women and done extensive research to understand how that could have happened, especially with her strong knowledge of numbers and finance.

The surprising answers will be shared in her upcoming book “Money After Menopause.”  Today her mission is to show as many women as possible how to become financially free for the long term, through her “Over Fifty and Financially Free” coaching programs.  She has developed a step-by-step plan to get past all the obstacles that keep women broke and scared … and from reaching the financial peace of mind they so deserve.

  • Denny

    This article really gave me pause as I have been one to see “retirement” as this far off situation that my grandparents always spoke of. Through your insights, I am now thinking about when my life as it is today will “shift”. I am inspired to begin formulating a plan…Looking forward to your book Sharon! Thanks for the “eye-opener” !

  • Sharon, this is pure genius. You have articulated so clearly what I am trying to wrestle with personally and help my clients think through. You are so right in that we will not have our grandfather’s retirement. But I want to add that it may be significantly better and richer. A life of continued contribution and constant learning is one that will keep us engaged, sharp, healthy, and will enable us to enjoy more completely our second life. I am posting this everywhere. Thank you. 

    • You’re very welcome, Catherine.  And thank you for inspiring me to give this lots more thought.  A comment you made last week challenged me!  😉

  • Sondra Wright

    Yes Sharon..the rest of life is a continuum: one that can be as if not more rich, rewarding and fulfilling as earlier life. I was really taken back recently when I read most Americans list winning the lottery as their retirement plan. I think the Saron O’Day road to a finacially savvy retirement..just makes more sense.

  • Susan Kim

    Theoretically, I knew all this information.  But it wasn’t until reading your article that I REALLY understood it.  Fantastic post.

  • Fay

    The word ‘retirement’ also fires me up Sharon.  There is so much to offer in life that I agree with your comment that it is simply one door opening and another closing.  My husband and I support others to make investment decisions, and we see ‘retirement’ as a time when you  have new choices and decisions to make, based on when you started to plan for this time. As you say, the sooner the better.  

  • Thank you, Sharon, for opening our eyes to the bigger picture and helping us to see that retirement has been completely redefined in our culture, and it can begin now! I’m definitely going to do your exercises today 🙂

  • Love… Love…. Love the idea of starting to retire today… at least in my mind.  It really is all about living your ideal life – whatever that may be for you!

  • Victoria Gazeley

    Things have definitely changed.  I watched my dad work into a frenzy ‘for retirement’, and it turned out his company ended up forcibly retiring him during downsizing – and it just about killed him.  I’m thankful I don’t have those same expectations, and that while I technically have a small pension from my 12 years at a municipal management job (which I do not expect to receive), I am depending on no one but me to provide for my future when I choose to no longer ‘work’.  Though honestly, I can’t imagine when that might be.  I feel sort of ‘retired’ already!

    • That’s the trick, Victoria.  To be doing what you want, how you want … and knowing you’ll be happy doing it until you change your mind.  If you ever do!

  • Thank you Sharon. Although my husband and I did some planning and investing early on; we didn’t plan for him to lose his job at age 60. This cut our “plan” by more than 5 years and like many others we bought into the corporate lie of work for a company, be loyal and dedicated for secure benefits and retirement. What we found was quite the opposite. After 45 years with one company, three sick days in all those years and sometimes relinquished vacation weeks…his retirement is a whopping $200 per month. Couple that with an outlandish Social Security benefit of $1200 per month and we exist. Now, I’m thankful for this form of income, don’t get me wrong. However, this is not what is sold to most people.

    Your article may hit some the wrong way, however people need to wake up to the harsh reality. There is no free lunch folks. Take YOUR future and retirement into YOUR own hands. Prepare now, like Sharon shares here. Don’t be left out, behind on find yourself in the gutter. Thankfully we have diversified by working from home in our auto transport business and added services to help others. But, the diversification didn’t stop there. By taking care of our health we found we could generate income by helping others there, too.

    You can do anything your heart desires. Want to end up broke and not able to walk out the front door? Do nothing and your heart’s desire will come true. If this is not your idea of the ideal retirement, then DO something about it. Follow Sharon’s instructions above, step by step to your ideal retirement life.