I was reading a book the other day which had an interesting scene between the villain and the heroine where basically she was offered anything and everything she could want to which she replied: “I don’t want everything that I want. Nobody does. Not really. What kind of fun would it be if I just got everything I ever wanted? Just like that, and it didn’t mean anything.”
That scene struck a chord with me in regards to how a lot of people approach retirement planning. They plan to have everything they want in their retirement. They want two trips a year, a summer cottage, a bigger boat…and so on. The build a fantasy of what they think they want, but here is the kicker: the don’t even really want it. They just think they do.
For some people their retirements have become substitutes for everything that we don’t have in their lives. They place every desire they have ever had there so it becomes a place of ‘wants’. Yet most people don’t connect the world of wants to the amount of work it would require to get there. We live in a perpetual disconnect between this fantasy of wants and what people really need.
I suspect that this disconnect more than anything separates early retirees from the rest of the world. We aren’t interesting in playing the same game as everyone else and thus appear to ‘throwing it all away’ in the conventional sense of giving up our highest earning years complete with higher level jobs because we really don’t want everything that we want. Instead we often are on the hunt for meaning in our lives which often can’t be obtained with just money. Often that meaning involving going after dreams of working in another field, starting a business, or helping others.
In the end, I suspect most people would find both retirement planning and life in general a lot easier if we all stopped wanting it all and settling for wanting more meaning. At the same time, I don’t think that will happen anytime soon.