As I write this blog post I’d like to announce that I’m living wild and free in gainful retirement. If you’re wondering what the heck that means, it’s simple. I’m not employed in the traditional sense and I fill my days doing things that bring me joy and bring joy to others. That’s gainful retirement.
How I found myself gainfully retired is the subject of this website. I put what I know out into the wild and it affords me a lifestyle that’s full of freedom. By the way, I don’t make money from this website. Not yet, anyway. I blog here because it makes me feel good when I help others.
Selling what I know is what made gainful retirement possible. If you have twenty or more years of experience as a professional, and you feel like retirement is hopelessly unattainable, let me share how I’m doing it.
Let’s Redefine the Concept of Retirement
The Great Recession forced millions of Americans into foreclosure, stripped them of their savings, and downgraded their employment. Nearly a decade after the housing collapse, most of the people affected have not fully recovered, and many never will.
For the first time since the end of the Great Depression, most Americans over the age of 40 believe they will never be able to fully retire. But, what is retirement?
Retirement, leaving one’s job and ceasing to work, is a relatively new concept. Before the 1930’s most North Americans worked until they were no longer able to work or until they died.
I recently read an article on Huffington Post related to retirement and how many of us are totally unprepared for it. Arianna Huffington suggests that we should change the definition of retirement. After all, most of us have known people close to us who retired from their career, only to pass away a short time later.
When Social Security was enacted in the United States the average life expectancy was barely 65 years. Many Americans have the misconception that the Great Depression – which forced millions of people into soup lines for their daily meal – was the catalyst for Social Security. This isn’t exactly true.
In reality, the Social Security Act of 1935 set the retirement age at 65 as a humane way to get older workers out of the workforce, while getting younger workers to support them. It’s what the country needed to do to alleviate the high unemployment rate of young workers. It was the early years of the Industrial Revolution and factories needed young, strong workers who could keep up with the assembly line.
Is Our Work Ethic Broken?
Today, the retirement equation is far more complex. Retirement from work itself is not the issue. It’s our work ethic and motivation to work that we need to examine.
The prosperity of North America is a direct result of the Puritan Work Ethic passed on to us by the Pilgrims who landed here in 1620. They were separatists fleeing the persecution of the Church of England in search of a new land where they could return to a simpler faith and a less structured form of worship. They brought with them a concept in theology, sociology and economics which emphasizes that hard work and frugality guarantee a person’s salvation in the Protestant faith.
While the work ethic helped build America and Canada into the great societies they are today. It’s also responsible, at least in part, for a nation full of workaholics who have no idea how to relax and enjoy life. Equally tragic, our prosperity caused us to forget frugality. In its place we invited and enthusiastically embraced consumerism.
What Happened to the American Dream?
One hundred and fifty years after the original Pilgrims landed, the American Colonists fought for more freedoms. In so doing, they created the idea of the American Dream, which is rooted in the Declaration of Independence, and proclaims that “all men are created equal” with the right to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
It’s the original definition of the American Dream that brought millions of immigrants, from all corners of the world and all walks of life, to America. Be that as it may, since the end of World War II, the original American Dream has slowly morphed into something completely different.
Today, most young people seem to believe that the American Dream is a big house with 72” TVs in every room, two luxury cars, a university education, lavish vacations on exotic islands and the latest iPhone. And is it any wonder they think this way? After all, their parents work 50 to 70 hour weeks to afford just enough credit to finance all of these luxuries.
It’s too bad they have no time to enjoy them!
What’s Wrong with the Middle-Class?
We’ve been brainwashed into thinking that if we go to school, get a great education, and then work at a career for 40+ years, we’ll be able to live a great life and retire in comfort without a care.
It’s a lie!
It’s a lie that supports the government, corporations, the poor and the rich, but not the middle-class. It’s a lie that more and more middle-class are figuring out, resulting in a huge spike in suicide rates among 50-year-olds who feel that life is hopeless.
Life isn’t hopeless.
We need to turn off the TV, block out the brainwashing, and begin thinking differently. Let’s face it, the Jones’ are deep in debt. So why the Hell are we trying to keep up with them?
Money Won’t Buy Happiness, Stupid!
Happiness has nothing to do with how much money you have. No amount of stuff will make you happy. Just look at all of the entertainers, professional athletes, and millionaire business people who are miserable wallowing in their money and possessions.
Happiness comes from a balanced life, including time with family and friends, spirituality, solitude, work you enjoy, creative activities, good food, and exercise. Once a person’s basic needs (food, water and shelter) are met, money has little impact on true happiness. This has been proven in countless studies and was best expressed by Maslow (Hierarchy of Needs) in 1943.
This begs an important question. If happiness has nothing to do with money, why are so many people stuck in thankless jobs they hate?
It all goes back to the work ethic.
Meet the New Boss. Same as The Old Boss… Only, There’s No Pension!
We’ve been conditioned to think that our goal is to work, save and retire, all the while we spend, spend, spend. We’re slaves to a 300-year-old ideology that is at odds with consumerism, and consumerism is winning.
Retirement and financial experts suggest that for workers to maintain their current standard of living, they need to have available anywhere from 10 to 20 times their annual earnings. However, the Employee Benefit Research Institute estimates that 36 percent of American workers have less than $1,000 in retirement savings and 60 percent have under $25,000. To top off these pitiful retirement savings figures, some 58 percent of working Americans say they have debt problems (which doesn’t include the ones in denial).
By the way, it’s not that American workers don’t make enough money to save. We simply choose to spend it instead. The world might stop turning if we don’t have the latest Apple tech gadget.
There’s a reason experts recommend 10 to 20 times our annual earnings in retirement savings. The majority of people who live to age 65 will make it to age 85. That means, if you don’t have a company, government or railroad pension, you’ll need 20+ years of retirement savings to ensure a comfortable retirement. Given this, is it any wonder that so many people feel they will never be able to retire?
What good is having one or two million dollars in the bank if you don’t live long enough to enjoy spending it?
What is Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, Anyway?
The realization that I’m not likely to grow a retirement savings account to $5,000,000, as one financial adviser recommended I’d need to be “comfortable”, is what caused me to step out of the box and start thinking differently.
I want a great life, and I know that money isn’t what will keep me from having it. So, why should I work myself into an early grave to fill the pipe dream of a financial moron who has no clue what retirement is about?
It’s not about money!
What about “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”? Because, when I think of a great life, that’s what I think of. And that’s what I want in retirement.
Life, as in good health. And, I don’t mean what big pharma is serving up, either. I’m talking about the good health that comes from an active lifestyle, vigorous exercise, good food, and feeding your spiritual needs. You don’t get these things from a bottle, a pill, or when you’re working 50+ hour weeks and not taking vacations.
Liberty, as in freedom. This includes freedom from fear of losing your job, and as a result, all of your belongings. Freedom from the stress of paying the bills accumulated from the everyday pressure of consumerism and trying to keep up with your neighbors.
Happiness, as in being able to enjoy time with your family and good friends (not your co-workers), and having time to enjoy your hobbies. True happiness comes from a balanced life, and its pursuit is an important endeavor.
This is the good stuff of the true American Dream, but how many Americans are truly living it? A scant few, I’d say.
Did We Zig when we Should Have Zagged?
So, what’s the problem? Where did we go wrong? More importantly, how do we get back on track?
Let’s face it, North Americans are victims of capitalism. While it’s the best economic system invented thus far, it has a huge pitfall.
We’re a nation of greedy little pigs.
Some CEOs, directors, salesmen and marketers simply can’t help themselves. So many of them sell out their morals for the almighty dollar. It seems they’ll do anything to sell more stuff. And, is it any wonder? The more profitable they make their company, the more handsomely they are rewarded.
The government is no different. You’d be hard pressed to find a politician who isn’t in the pocket of a special interest. They work tirelessly to create more jobs, in favor of the special interest, so they can produce even more dutiful, middle-class taxpayers who increase their power and influence.
Yes, I’m intentionally being cynical.
Capitalism is Dead. Long Live Capitalism!
The greatness of capitalism has been perverted by a small number of people for their own financial gain. Sorry, but a better alternative hasn’t been invented yet. Capitalism works. It’s our morals that need an overhaul.
If you’re wondering what all of this has to do with retirement, it’s simple. Capitalism, the American Dream and retirement go hand in hand. But first, we must dispose of the notion that making money takes hard work, as the majority of people believe. It simply isn’t true.
I’ll get back to this in a bit. First, here’s an interesting trend.
The grandparents of most baby boomers worked for one employer for 30 to 40 years. Most baby boomers themselves will work for about 6 employers over a period of 45 years. The grandchildren of baby boomers will hold 6 jobs at the same time. At present, the average time a worker holds a job is less than 3.5 years.
Do you see where employment is headed?
If We Can Have Gainful Employment, Why Can’t We Have a Gainful Retirement?
Technology has reduced physically demanding jobs to less than 15 percent of the workforce. It also makes it possible to do thousands of jobs anywhere there’s electricity and an internet connection. It even helps us find and serve customers around the world.
Given this, why would any intelligent, well educated person want to have a traditional job, particularly if you hate it?
It was this very thought that made me decide that I was not simply self-employed, but rather I’m in gainful retirement. I work the legendary 4-hour work week, with the exception of September, when I work a 30 to 40-hour work week.
I’m in gainful retirement because I spend the majority of my time with family, friends, or in solitude doing exactly what I want to do. The small amount of time I do work affords me this glorious lifestyle because my work creates passive income.
If you’re imagining that I live in the lap of luxury, think again. I tried that and it didn’t work. No, I live very modestly, but I live exceptionally well.
I’m writing this article on the last week of a two-month vacation in Arizona on the Colorado River. I’m enjoying the wide open space on my Harley-Davidson, visiting with friends, dining out, going to shows, reading books, and watching the lazy river pass on by.
It’s wonderful. I’m gainfully retired!
Take This Job and Shove It, I Ain’t Workin Here No More!
The other day I woke thinking to myself, “I need to share how I got where I am with others.” Considering the deep, dark hole I was in just a few years ago, it feels like a miracle. But it’s not a miracle. I simply made the decision to do it.
At age 50 I decided to make a radical departure from my past:
- No man hires me.
- No man fires me.
- No more 40+ hour work weeks.
- No more ignoring my health for work.
- No more house on the beach with a $4,200 per month mortgage.
- No more luxury sports cars and SUVs.
- No more buying the latest tech gadgets.
- No more credit cards.
In short, I “just said no” to a job and to debt.
This change came about because I realized that I was selling the one thing I can’t get more of – my time – and no amount of money could make up for it.
Life Is Short… Better Start Living It!
Today I live in an apartment in a nice area of San Diego, California. I spend my time with family and friends, exercising, eating out, traveling, reading, and exploring country on my Harley-Davidson. San Diego is a great city for biking, hiking and walking, and I’m actively out doing all of these things several times a week. I work, too. Mostly writing and programming for my blogs and websites.
Now that I’m fully settled into my new definition of retirement, I’m planning to go back to school and renew hobbies I have not been able to enjoy since I was in my 20s. Long term, I plan to research and visit the top 100 best places to retire so I can write about them.
The funny thing is, I no longer live at the beach, but I spend more time enjoying the ocean and beautiful sunsets now than I ever did when I lived there. That’s what the distortion and the perversion of the true American Dream has done to our society. It robbed us of happiness and it’s stealing years of our life.
Retirement is Wasted On the Old
I meet a lot of people my age, and younger, who say that they are tired of their jobs and wish they could retire. The most common excuse for not doing so is money.
What a conundrum.
“life is short, and so is money,” said Bertolt Brecht. Unfortunately, you can’t put off being young, healthy and full of life until you retire.
So, what do you do?
I say, retire now while there’s still time!
Why Does Money Hold People Back?
Let’s get back to the notion, that most people seem to have, that making money is difficult, or requires hard work, and that you need a lot of it to retire. If you don’t think this way, that’s great. You’re already way ahead of the game. If you do, maybe there’s another way to look at it.
I once heard someone describe money in terms of water. If you’re a fish, you’re not aware that you’re in the water, because you’re simply in the flow of it. Money is the same way. We’re continuously in the flow of it, whether we realize it or not. Like the fish, we can choose to fight the current, and swim upstream, or we can go with the flow.
In my former business I packaged, branded and sold car care chemicals and products (detailing supplies) on the internet. When I started the business in the 90s, suppliers and naysayers told me it would never work. But it did. I worked tirelessly for a couple of years to create volumes of information that helped people learn how to solve problems (e.g., remove scratches, etc.) and the sales came in by the thousands.
I was in the flow of money.
I was also in serious debt. The more sales you make the more inventory you need on hand. The more sales you make the more staff you need to support the sales. The more sales you make the more time the business demands from the business owner. This is the plight of many small business owners.
And The Truth Shall Set You Free!
What I learned from my 8-year e-commerce experiment is that it wasn’t the products or the sales that put me in the flow of money. It was the information I gave away. My knowledge and creativity put me in the flow. Sales happened as a result of my creatively giving my knowledge away for free.
This led me to the profound idea that I should stop selling my time and start selling what I know. After all, there are only so many hours in a week that can be sold. Plus, the amount you can get per hour is limited by competition (supply and demand).
This is exactly why rich people don’t sell their time. It’s a fool’s game.
Rich people are in the flow of money. They sit still, downstream, with their mouths wide open catching all of the money that comes their way. They can do this because they work on their business, and not in their business. Why repeat a process when you can hire someone else to do it for you and profit from their labor?
The Hurrier I Go The Behinder I Get
Yesterday I had a delicious lunch at Lisa’s Bistro. It’s a cute place with a large bar area and a dining room with live jazz music four nights a week. Lisa and her husband both work full-time in the business with the aid of several employees. The food and service are wonderful. They really put their heart and soul into it, and you can taste it.
While enjoying my soup and panini, I asked Lisa if she and her husband ever got time off. “Oh, sure,” she exclaimed, “we take Saturday evenings off.”
This, it seems to me, is the struggle experienced by many middle-class people. We work and work, and then work harder still to get ahead. And for what, so we can die tired in old age?
We’re doing it backwards. Life needs to be enjoyed, to its fullest, today, so we have the motivation to do work.
Why Do We Sell for So Little What We Have So Few Of?
That brings me back to my revelation: Stop Selling Your Time.
By the time we have reached middle-age, most of us have learned a number of skills that others would like to have. And I’m not necessarily talking about work. Most hobbies require skills, too. If I wanted to take up under water basket weaving, I’d have to learn from someone. Right?
It used to be that trade skills were learned by apprenticing. Often times it started with a family member, such as your father, a grandparent or your favorite uncle. Then along came that pesky Industrial Revolution, and everything changed. Suddenly, our parents were swept away to work in the factories and no longer had time to be mentors.
Today, technology makes it possible for any of us to mentor or help people around the world… And get paid for it! It can be as informal as a blog or a community forum, or it can be a structured course or a book. There are dozens of possibilities. Best of all, it does not need to be one-on-one interaction.
The internet creates one-to-many relationships. That means you can package your knowledge and experience once, share it, and get paid for your work over and over (passive income). Suddenly, you’re down stream, in the flow of money, and no longer selling your hours.
Sell What You Know
This is exactly what I did. I package my knowledge and experience, put it in the flow of money out in the wild, and I get my fair share. It’s how I gainfully retired in my 50s without a pension and without millions in the bank. And, you know what? It’s awesome!
If you’re sitting there thinking to yourself, “I can’t do that!”, then find a good mentor! Find someone who was where you are today, who figured out how to get out of the rat race, and is now enjoying life to the fullest.
Obviously, if we had a good mentor when we were young, we would have retired in our 30s or 40s. Right? I know I would have!
Hard work and frugality had its place in American history, but it doesn’t bring wealth. Wealth is created by putting yourself in the flow of money and using it wisely to live a happy, healthy, meaningful life being wild and free.