Posted by Tim Stobbs on June 22, 2011
One of the issues I struggle to explain well on this blog is the fact of you can’t plan your retirement well without knowing what makes you happy. It becomes pointless to plan your savings for retirement based on your current spending habits if in fact your not happy with your current life. You need to know who you are and what you want from life to plan a retirement that allow you to be happy most of the time.
This is critical since you might discover a passion for helping others in the third world, so you might end up downsizing your house to a condo since you are traveling for almost half the year. This could end up saving you hundreds of thousands off your initial retirement plan as you realize you don’t need the same clothes anymore or even care about some of your previous shopping habits. Who has room for a new couch when you are moving to a condo with half the square footage of your house?
In the end we all must discover that fact you don’t have to live your life the way others tell you to be. If you want to achieve an early retirement or anything else significant you are going to have to live life on your own terms. Which frankly is an intimidating concept at first as often we have grown up and we still don’t know what we want to be when we grow up.
Ironically, I recently got some help sorting this all out for myself from a course I took at my day job. It happened to be when I took a course on career management and as part of the course took an interest inventory.
It was amusing to me that my top job according to the inventory would be a librarian, which of course made no sense to me at first. Then I read the description of tasks done and skills required and got the reference. Take highly math interested person with a creative bend who loves books and drop them in a library. They will likely be happy working there. Of course as I went through the results of my inventory during the course it did occur to me that my top interests are actually all being used in some way at a job, just not all at my day job.
Which was an interesting point of the instructor, you don’t have to get all your interests met from your day job. A second job or hobby or volunteering might also help you meet your interests. Which of course is why I write this blog and also work on the School Board, I get different levels of satisfaction from each thing I do.
An also somewhat odd thing people don’t consider is how much of their identity is tied up in their habits. People often assume their personality is set rather than realizing a good lot of your personality is just automatic responses to specific stimulus. You hit a specific stimulus and you play your pre-recorded response tape of your personality and don’t realize that it is an automatic response like developed from childhood and not really part of you. If you can objectively review that habit of your personality you can change your automatic response and become more of yourself rather than a previously learned behaviour pattern. As an example, I never considered myself an entrepreneur during my adult life, but the reason for that had to do with a childhood experience.
I had been given a scooter as a present and I was riding it around the bay where we lived. As it had been one of the first on the bay other kids wanted to try it. So I let them, but I got tired of giving other people turns so in frustration I had said to someone that if you wanted another turn pay me for it. I was a little surprised when the agreed and I started getting other kids pocket money in exchange for turns on the scooter. When I got home I told the entire story to my mother who promptly made me give the money back. So I also had this idea that I wasn’t suited for self employment which is ironic because I know own a publishing company and do freelance writing. In the end I have to face the fact, I am an entrepreneur despite the fact of my childhood experience, so to keep thinking otherwise is wrong.
So in the end you always have to keep learning about yourself and what you want. The answer will keep changing as you get older, but in the end you will find out who you really are in life and what you want. This is critical to your happiness and your retirement plan, so don’t be ashamed to keep learning about you. Just consider it an investment in your retirement planning.