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Retirement Remix – Chapter 15: The Many Ways of the Retirement Remix

In this chapter of the Retirement Remix, author Chip Munn shows how a retirement remix can create a positive balance between traditional retirement and working.

We are fortunate to live in a time and a culture where, as individuals, we have a wide range of career and lifestyle choices.

We have the right, and the ability, to choose where we want to live and with whom we associate. We can get married and have children or stay single and childless. We can be ambitious and climb to the top of the corporate ladder, or we can take other paths, such as working for a non-profit or, as teachers or parents, nurturing the next generation of leaders.

Chip Munn

Chip Munn

Of course, along with our freedoms we also have responsibilities—to ourselves, our families, and to our neighbors. Self-sufficiency is important. No one wants to live on welfare or in a situation where they’re constantly on the financial edge, afraid that one, big medical bill will wipe them out. No one wants to be a burden to society or to their families. We all want to be productive, and to contribute to our communities. We want to be givers, not takers.

In our work and in our lives, we each strive to strike a balance between freedom and responsibility. We must work to support ourselves and our families and so we seek a career that we enjoy. Recreation is important, but it can’t be a drain on our personal wealth, because then it becomes a source of stress. If you’re cruising the Caribbean on your sailboat, you don’t want to have to constantly worry about how you’re going to pay for it!

Spontaneity is good—it’s those spur-of-the-moment ideas that are often the most memorable. No one wants to feel as though their life is locked into a pre-set plan that allows for no variation! But careful planning—especially financial planning—is just as important. Unless you’ve got money to burn, you need to know how to maximize your income while controlling your expenses. The goal is to have more fun and less stress.

It’s not the intention of this book to tell you what to do with your life. This book is intended to help you become aware of the possibilities, and how, with proper financial and personal planning, you can help make your retirement dreams a reality.

Old School Retirement: Hit the Links!

If you want to follow the path of the Old School Retirement, where you work at full throttle until you’re sixty-five, before cashing out and moving to Florida and playing golf until they put you in the old folks’ home, then go for it! Plenty of people do this—and with the proper financial planning, it can work out very nicely for you. The key issue with the Old School Retirement plan is that when you retire, your earned income will end, leaving you dependent on your Social Security check and investments. If you can wait to take your Social Security benefits after your full retirement age, or (better yet) after the age of seventy, you’ll receive a bigger check than if you had claimed benefits earlier. No matter how you do it, good financial planning can mean the difference between constantly worrying about money and having financial peace of mind.

Keep Working at Your Job

If your desire is to keep working as you get older, then that’s exactly what you should do. Lots of people are continuing their careers indefinitely, including Warren Buffett, Stephen King, and our friend Jill, whom we met in chapter four. They love to get up in the morning and go to work, and they don’t feel deprived of typical retirement experiences.

But just because they choose to keep working, doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t use the services of a professional financial planner. If your income is reduced as you get older, then it’s important to have a good financial plan so you can balance your aspirations against what’s really possible. You may live to be ninety or more, and the last thing you want to do is run short of money while you have plenty of active years still ahead.

On the other hand, if your income is robust well into your eighties and nineties because you have investments or earned income, then you’ll still need a financial planner. In this case, a planner can help to keep your tax exposure as low as possible and help you focus on building a legacy for future generations.

Make a Career Change

Many people arrive at retirement age and say to themselves, “I’ve been on the same career path for my entire life. I like to work, but I want a change. I want to do something completely different.” You might call this the Jack Ma approach. It’s like the executive who retires and then opens a bed and breakfast on the seashore. If you’ve ever run a B&B, you know it’s a full-time job and a lot of work! But many people relish just this type of change, which takes them out of one environment and puts them into another. It’s like starting your life all over again at age sixty-five!

It’s likely that your income will drop, and careful financial planning is important to ensure that your lifestyle is on a manageable path. The last thing you ever want are financial surprises, where you suddenly find yourself struggling to pay bills that (in your previous career life) you never thought much about.

Hit the Road… or the High Seas

Like Gary and Julie, whom we met in chapter two, you may dream about reinventing your life and leaving not only your job, but also your home. You may buy a boat or an RV and tour places you’ve always wanted to go, and instead of living in expensive hotels, you can bring your home with you. Your life as a nomad may not necessarily last forever, but instead for months at a time, with regular visits home during the off-season.

As we learned, this can be an exciting choice, but you must plan carefully. You really have to enjoy the activity of traveling itself, and not just your destinations. The nomadic life requires a great deal of self-sufficiency and financial discipline, and I urge anyone who wants to sell their house and buy a boat or RV, to get advice from their financial planner. Like with any other retirement remix choice, you don’t want any unpleasant financial surprises, especially when you’re out in the middle of the ocean!

Go for the Remix

Like Roger and Dianne, whom we met in the first chapter, you may look at your life in your so-called “retirement” age as a chance to stay active in the business or non-profit world while giving yourself the gift of more leisure time. This is the true retirement remix, where you maintain a steady income stream by working part-time in the field in which you have expertise, while carefully spending some of your cash on those things you’ve always wanted to do.

With this approach, you’re basically postponing full retirement for five, ten, or even twenty years. Studies have shown that early retirement does not add years to your life and can, in fact, even shorten your life, for two reasons: 1) You may become physically more sedentary, which is bad for your heart and can lead to early death, and 2) You may become bored, which is bad for your spirit and can lead to early death.

The retirement remix can start at any age! It means adjusting your priorities earlier in life. Instead of focusing exclusively on your nine-to-five job and trying to build up as much cash as you can before you retire, many people are getting out of the fast lane earlier and getting a taste of a richer life before they’re sixty-five. Remember what Jim and Pat did—Jim asked for a six-month sabbatical from his job, and he got it, which allowed the couple to cruise the Great Barrier Reef. Then, Jim went back to work. Of course, this required some financial planning, but that’s why you hire a professional! By thinking about your quality of life while you’re still working and being open to the idea of staying in the workforce in some capacity until you’re seventy or even beyond, you’ll find that retirement isn’t a one-time event, like walking through a door that closes behind you. It can be more like walking along a winding path, never quite knowing what’s just around the next bend.

With the retirement remix, you can dream of the life you want and then, with the right guidance, make it a reality. And there’s no reason to wait—you can get started on your extended life plan right now. Set your goal and work with your financial planner to create a roadmap to get you there.

You’ll be glad you did.

The above article originally appeared as a chapter in The Retirement Remix and is reprinted with permission from the author Chip Munn. No parts of this article may be reproduced without correct attribution to the author of this book.

You can find the full book here.