Retirement means different things to different people. There’s a traditional view of sipping Mai Tais on the beach. I know a few retired people and I don’t know anyone who does that. I think it gets more boring. They are more likely to take their surfboard into the water at the beach.
I’ve been thinking of retirement a lot lately. I’m not sure if I believe in that traditional retirement of not working completely. When I tried to define “retirement” in 2007, I came up with five things that I would want in my retirement job:
- Ability to work on projects that I enjoy
- Flexibility to working as much (or as little) as I want to
- Flexibility to when I want to
- Flexibility to work from wherever I want to
- Freedom from having to take orders (which I might disagree with) from others
The article that I wrote s a little rough around the edges, but the comments are exceptional for 2007. There are some bloggers who are still popular today (Early Retirement Extreme) as well as Brip Blap giving a great definition of “Work Optional”, something that’s seen some popularity in more recent “retirement” discussions. This is one reason why I love when people leave comments on blog posts. It’s a time capsule treasure.
I still agree with all those aspects of the ideal retirement job, or what is often called a “second act” today. For me blogging fits the mold. Unfortunately, blogging got a lot more difficult and the income has gotten a lot worse. It’s trending in the hobby category for me, which is fine as our financial situation is very good now.
While all those things are still great, they don’t do much to help with one thing:
Finding Purpose in Retirement
Even though I have these retirement qualities to my work now, it would be a stretch to say that I’m retired. On a basic level, I do customer service work for someone else, so that defeats almost all the bullet points above. Fortunately, there’s not a tremendous need for customer service much of the time. I still do blogging obviously. I also do dog sitting, which matches some of the above retirement qualities.
Unfortunately, I don’t find a lot of purpose in any of these things. Customer service is famously known as a thankless job. That said, I get so many polite people who say “thank you”, far more than the rude people. Dog sitting has some of the retirement job qualities, but not all of them. Overall, most people just want their dog back healthy with some good pictures that he/she had fun. Personal finance blogging has become a crowded field and producing more financial content for the world to consume seems, well, entirely unnecessary.
The first two (customer service and dog sitting) are transactional fulfilling someone’s needs. I don’t remember most dogs or customers from three years ago.
Blogging seems to have more purpose. For example, by digging up that old article from 2007, I feel like I uncovered a tiny piece of history. Like dogs or customer service requests, I do sometimes forget blog posts from a few years ago, but they are still there.
I’ve been thinking about how to do things that have more staying power than a transaction. I am working on starting another blog. I would like to self-publish a couple of eBooks. I don’t know if the eBooks will make any money as that’s a crowded area as well. However, I would be able to say, “This is something I created. Someone will be able to read the thoughts I had while on this Earth (and not with all the typos and poor grammar like my blog posts).” It doesn’t matter much to me that most people may not want to read those thoughts. It would be nice if they did, but it’s enough for me to know that they could.
I’m at a point in my life where I’m trying to put all these pieces of the puzzle together. There are those three jobs. There’s landlording our three rental properties that are becoming more and more difficult. In reality, our patience for dealing with them is running low. When I’m not doing those, I’m doing the basic errands of laundry, dishes, grocery shopping, cooking, etc. (some cleaning and yard work are outsourced). There’s also the kids and their activities.
I don’t know when I’ll reach a point of true retirement. Maybe we’ll get property managers or sell the properties. The kids will go off to college or live on their own someday. Maybe we’ll take fewer dogs as our mortgages get paid off. Even though, I can’t see a clear path to true retirement, it is helpful for me to think about what I’m going to do that’s going to have a purpose or leave some legacy. (Some may say raising decent human beings counts, but the human beings have to be decent and the jury isn’t close to deciding that one yet – LOL.)
So what do you think? How do you think you’ll find purpose in retirement? Or have you already found it?