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Retirement and Other Concepts and Traditions

I’m a great fan of The Div-Net, a blog on dividend and value investing. Not being as knowledgeable about the topic as I want to be, I find the posts there to be quite educational.

However, in a recent post titled “How much money do you really need to achieve financial independence?” I found something to which I objected. Who gets to define financial independence?

It seems silly, but there are a number of concepts we take for granted. Retirement is one of them. We’ve been sold a concept of retirement. It’s not an entirely objectionable one, but it does ignore some factors.

Retirement for most people is an end to work. A chance to get out of the rat race. However, this concept ignores several important facts.

1. Some people like work: it might seem crazy, but often times people don’t mind their jobs, or even might like them. Work provides a reason to get out and socialize with others. It gives you a feeling of achievement, and lets you spend the hours of your day in a way that lets you feel reasonably content.

2. Work makes money: Saving for retirement can be a challenge. Working into your retirement can help make that challenge less stressful.

3. Work comes with benefits: Insurance, sick leave, and everything else can cost quite a bit. If you have a workplace that can provide them, this can aid your retirement plan immensely.

Really, the only mandatory thing is that you must plan for your retirement, and planning for your retirement includes defining exactly what you want your retirement to be. Will it be working full-time, part-time or not at all? Will you start your own business or travel the world? These are the decisions that define your personal financial independence, and everything else must follow them.

As a society, these concepts are framed and taught to younger generations. We are taught that diamond rings are necessary for engagements, that weddings need to be catered and that retirement needs to be without working. These traditions benefit the companies that fulfill them more than they benefit you. If you do something, do it because it means something to you, not because a commercial told you to retire at a certain age.

Question these conceptions. You might be looked at a little oddly by people all around you, but it is far better to plan your finances around things that are meaningful to you, rather than just another method of “keeping up with the Jones”.

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