I’m wondering how I got here. Why I, the newest and youngest member of the One Wealth team, am writing to you about February’s theme of Retirement Planning. But when David Steele, founder and managing partner at One Wealth, asked me if I thought about retirement, I said, “Yes. Of course.”
“Then write about it,” he said. Fair enough. Let me tell you what I think.
As a 25-year-old, I think a lot about time. On average, Americans spend 8.5 hours of their days working and, as writer Annie Dillard so acutely pointed out, “How we spend our days is of course how we spend our lives.” If the average age of retirement for women in the U.S. is 62, I am staring down the barrel of at least another 37 years of work, or 81,770 hours. I better hope I like what I’m doing. For the record, I do like what I’m doing. Am I certain it is how I want to spend the rest of those 81,770 hours? Do you enjoy your job enough to commit whatever percentage of your working life you have left to it? Did you always?
I believe that no matter how much anyone finds fulfillment in their job, everyone deserves to have time in their lives for other activities, although activities is an inadequate word to describe rest, time with loved ones, movement, art, learning. We are complex, multifaceted creatures with diverse needs and interests. Even though, Annie, we may spend almost more than half of our waking days at work, work is not our lives. It doesn’t have to be.
It starts with time. And time is money. Time is also freedom. Planning for retirement is a gift to my future self of more time and freedom later on in life to do whatever fulfills me then and to share it with loved ones around me. This is as simple as contributing to a 401k and maxing out my annual contribution to a Roth IRA. When friends learn I work for a financial advising firm, their first questions to me are often about retirement planning. My response is always, “Do it.”
This was a lesson I learned before I took this job. Saving early and often has compounding and invaluable effects. Humans have a tendency to place a higher value on more immediate, smaller rewards, than on bigger rewards in the future. I am lucky enough to see the fruits of retirement planning every day. It is what allowed my parents to retire at the ages of 60 and 61, in spite of having spent most of their careers in education. Now, they ski on weekdays, volunteer for arts festivals, visit their aging parents, and meet me for lunch on my lunch break. What a gift to them! And frankly, what a gift it’s been to me.