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Ahhh, retirement.

It’s a brief, golden phase of life right before you kick the can. You spend your last, wrinkly days sitting on the front porch of a retirement home, watching the ducks. You play shuffleboard with Martha Mae, although your hip sticks a little, so you just sit down and watch. You half-heartedly gum some oatmeal while your great-grandchildren play with your walking cane.

Isn’t retirement magical??

Yeah, you probably aren’t liking this definition of retirement too much.

That’s because retirement isn’t just for old people. In fact, retirement is much more than shuffleboard and daytime TV.

So wait, what is retirement?

Retirement isn’t for the 65+ crowd any more, although that was its original intent.

The idea of retirement is actually fairly new, dating back to the late 19th century. Before that, you just worked until you keeled over dead. And everybody was cool with that, because that’s just the way life was. If you were lucky, you were able to stop working in your golden years and live with your children. So, in a way, children were basically your only hope for comfortable old age.

Fast forward to the early 1900s and we see the idea of retirement emerging. Life spans increased and the elderly population boomed. The idea of retirement was introduced because employers saw a noticeable “dip” in worker production once workers reached the age of 60 (mind you, this was back when physical labor was the bulk of work).

So yes, originally retirement was designed to let the elderly have a good rest after decades of hard, backbreaking work.

However! The playbook on retirement is changing. People as young as 30 are retiring thanks to prudent financial decisions. We usually call this “early” retirement, since it’s still seen as non-traditional, but I like to just call it retirement.

Because that’s what it is.

Modern retirement is having the freedom to abstain from full-time work. That’s it. You don’t become retired when you hit a magical age any more. Retirement happens when your financial ducks are in a row and you’d like to do something else with your time instead of jockeying a cubicle.

My view of retirement

I’ll admit that I used to scoff at the idea of retiring before 65. I thought that was reserved for trust fund babies, slackers, and rare stock market geniuses. But I’ve realized you don’t have to have supremely good luck or hyper-intelligence to make retirement happen before age 65.

I’m not sure when we’ll be able to retire, but it’ll be well before the ripe ol’ age of 65.

I envision our retirement as an age of choices.

Notice how I don’t say “freedom” here. I think freedom is a big, scary word that cripples us. We all want freedom, but we don’t have a flippin’ idea of what to do with it. So yeah, I prefer to say that retirement gives us choices.

It’ll give us the choice to spend time with our future kids and grandkids. We’ll have the choice to care for aging family members without worrying about the bills. We’ll have the choice to travel before we’re too old to board the 14-hour flight to Japan. We’ll even have the choice to work! But this time it’ll be work that we’re passionate about, not work to pay the bills.

It’s going to be a period of choices and it’s gonna be a damn good one.

The bottom line

The times they are a-changin’. Retirement may have once been for the elderly, but nowadays it’s for anyone. We need to remove the stigma of retiring before 65 and understand that it’s possible to choose to work if you can.

We want to know: How do you define retirement? Are you set to retire before 65?

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