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Your “Golden Years” Should Be Every Year

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old man with magnifying glass

Most of us are raised under the expectation that we’ll go to school, go to college and maybe grad school, then get jobs, get married, have kids and continue until we’re around 60ish before retiring. That whole life “checklist” has just never really worked well for me. I’ve always been one to do my own thing, and something I’ve definitely been rethinking lately has been retirement.

Being in my mid-20s, I knew it was a good time to start thinking and planning for retirement and also saving for it so you’re not playing major catch-up later. (Without doing crazy math here, we’re talking about $500,000 extra in your 60s if you start saving a few hundred dollars a month now, instead of waiting 10 years.) That’s the awesome power of compound interest, my friends!

However, I don’t want a typical 9-to-5; I want to build businesses and work at jobs I love. I’d rather earn less and love what I do than spend 40 years working a higher-paying job I don’t like. Because what is retirement, exactly? Most people consider it a time to stop working the job you don’t really like and to devote your time to things you love to do: volunteering, hobbies, traveling and spending time with loved ones. I definitely understand that.

But I’ve seen a growing trend around me. People who have retired (including my own grandparents) have started businesses doing things they love, like making jewelry or writing books. Or they’ve gotten part-time jobs they enjoy, and not always because of the need for money. Usually it’s because they just enjoy working and staying connected with lots of people. Do they still take time to travel? Yes. Do they still take time to read a lot? Yes. Do they spend a lot of time with family and friends? Yes. (My grandparents have a fuller social calender than I do half the time!) But my point is, must we wait until we’re 65 to have all this?

No, I don’t think so. Instead of waiting until I’m in my 60s or 70s to enjoy these things in life, I’ve taken a different approach:

Money management

I’m still saving and investing for retirement, but it’s more of a second “emergency fund.” We can live really healthy lives, but there is always the chance we may not be able to work at some point for some health reason. It can also act as a “supplemental”-type fund where I can eventually cut back on work and still have enough to continue my lifestyle.

Living life

I’m choosing a different lifestyle to begin with. I’m not doing the 9-to-5 thing. I’m also not taking out tons of loans for cars, houses or other things. I don’t really mess with credit cards much, and I’m keeping things simple in the money department.

I’d rather spend the extra money I’m not using for saving for my retirement fund, paying down debt, traveling or other fun experiences instead of a fancier car or bigger apartment. I’d rather work a little less and have more time for family and friends now rather than wait. (Or read more now, or travel more, or volunteer more… you get the idea.)

Working well

I’m choosing to do work I love now, instead of waiting until I’m in my 60s to be able to devote time to things I love. This may mean weird looks from people when I tell them I don’t have a fancy job title at a big company, and it may mean less money at the moment. But it also means loving the work I do (at least 90 percent of the time) and having that old cliche be true: “Doing work you love means you’ll never have to work a day in your life.”

There may come a time when I do want to change the work I’m doing or cut hours in a big way, but regardless, I still am doing work I love, and I’m pretty sure I’m never going to want to stop. In fact, most retirees don’t really stop working, even if they can. So I’m not planning on stopping, either.

I’m not a certified financial planner or accountant, so I’m not an expert on retirement planning. But I have done a lot of research in this area, and this is the plan I’ve come up with that is working well for me so far. Hopefully something similar works for you, too!

How do you plan to enjoy your “Golden Years” now? Tell us in the comments!

This post originally appeared on Levo League.

Ashlee Thurlow is a life coach unlike other life coaches. Certified by the School of Coaching Mastery, Ashlee helps improve the quality of others’ lives and enables them to look around and realize they’re living the lives they’ve always wanted to live.

Brazen powers real-time, online events for leading organizations around the world. Our lifestyle and career blog, Brazen Life, offers fun and edgy ideas for ambitious professionals navigating the changing world of work.

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  • Dallas

    This is such a great piece! I could not agree more. Thanks for the inspiration.

  • vahid

    I could not agree more

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