What does financial freedom mean to you?
“Freedom lies in being bold.” – Robert Frost
Freedom 55’s current marketing campaign asks the question, “What does your freedom look like?” It’s a question that encourages people to move beyond simply calculating how much money they need to accumulate in order to finance their retirement and to focus instead on the intangibles of retirement; their retirement lifestyle and setting retirement goals that are your reward for a working life well-lived and well planned.
When I think about financial freedom in retirement there are three specific types of freedom that spring to mind:
The vast majority of people say they would like to retire without any debt but a recent survey showed that 59% of Canadians are carrying debt into retirement. Given the huge amount of household debt that we carry this is unlikely to change anytime soon but debt could quite easily be the single biggest obstacle standing between you and the retirement lifestyle you envision. The key to having the freedom to live the lifestyle you want lies in the amount of disposable income you have available. Entering retirement with a fully paid off home and no debt allows you to minimize your living expenses. This gives you the freedom to redirect the money you previously spent on housing/debt towards whatever you choose and protects you from the impact that rising interest rates can have on the cost of debt repayments. Living in a culture that is so heavily focused on “stuff” and which needs us to spend in order to boost the economy means that opportunities for financing are always available. Choosing not to carry debt and to focus on making your money work hard for you rather than your financial institution puts you in a very powerful position and makes it so much easier to accomplish your retirement goals.
Related article: Should retirement be debt-free?
Freedom of choice
For somebody who really enjoys their work, the concept of “freedom 55” is not necessarily an appealing one. Many people gain a great deal of fulfillment from their job and often a significant portion of our identity is tied to what we do for a living.
Related article: Are you planning to work in retirement?
The idea of no longer working might conjure up images of vast empty days with little purpose or social interaction and there is little appeal in giving up a job that provides a sense of self-worth and accomplishment in order to sit back and relax, especially if your partner will still be working. Regardless of how much you enjoy working, however; there is a lot to be said for having the freedom to choose whether or not to work. There is a world of difference between working 40 hours a week at age 63 because you want to and working those hours because you have to. Circumstances change, health changes, goals change and building a plan that allows you to have the choice of retiring at a given age means that even if life doesn’t run exactly the way you expected you still have the ability to live the retirement lifestyle you desire.
What would you do if you no longer had to work 40 hours a week? Would you relax on your front porch? Travel? Volunteer? Build a new business or take up a hobby you’ve never had time for? Your lifestyle in retirement is your reward for a working life well-lived. It should be a time full of rewarding experiences and dreams fulfilled. It should be as simple or extravagant as you have always envisioned it would be and there is a great deal of freedom in being able to choose how you spend your time. Many retirees find that they are busier in retirement than they were when they were working – what creative, fulfilling, impactful things will you spend your time on? For me, travel is high on my priority list and I’m currently investigating all the ways that I can “travel with a purpose” for example: volunteering as a Teacher-Trainer in Nepal, taking a yoga retreat at a Brazilian eco-resort or learning Spanish in Malaga. It’s amazing how many ways there are to fill your time!
Related article: What can you do in retirement to have fun?
What does your freedom look like? What will it take to achieve it? What’s your motivation for attaining it? Take some time this week to think about what freedom in retirement means to you and what you can do to take yourself one step closer to making it a reality.