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Rethinking Retirement: Is Your Target Date Holding You Back?

Have you determined the year in which you plan to retire? Do you have an age in mind? Here’s my counsel to you. Forget about it. If you are driving your career to a future date at which you punch out and enjoy the good life, you may be missing the good life right now. You likely bought into a retirement model that stems from the industrial age. We have been in the information age for decades and likely for all of your working years to date.

I recently read a comment in the Wall Street Journal from an executive at Vernado, the powerhouse commercial real estate company. The comment acknowledged that Fridays in the office are effectively gone for the knowledge-based workforce. Mondays are a mixed bag, and Tuesdays through Thursdays are as strong as the traditional work week in the office will be.  Vernado Realty Trust has adjusted their investment strategy around this new reality, investing millions of dollars in building concepts in New York City alone. You can read more about The Penn District here.

“Well, that’s New York City,” you say. Look around. Every major company in the United States is attempting to balance the work week for the perfect blend of maximum effectiveness, employee satisfaction, and above all, retention. It’s no longer a novelty that the pandemic rapidly accelerated the move to remote work. People noticed immediately that removing the commute from their lives had a dramatic impact on their quality of life.

Manufacturers lament the term knowledge-based workforce. It’s not a pejorative, but who can blame the manufacturers? They’d also like some of the benefits of a remote workforce. I’d suggest it’s within their reach, but it might look somewhat different. Flexible may take the form of a shorter work week consisting of both fewer days and fewer hours.

Let go of the notion of the 40-hour week. Its origins are almost quaint and have nothing today with the environment we live in today. It dates back to Henry Ford who examined the productivity of a 6-day week versus a 5-day week. The assembly line of the 1920s looks nothing like the manufacturing floors of today. If yours does, you have bigger problems in store than employee retention and the benefits of retirement.

The defense industry remains among the more conservative industries in our nation owing largely to the nature of its customer base. Its ethos is grounded in traditions and cultures the customer base holds dear: service above self, rules, boundaries, deference to authority, and more. We see flickers of change within the growing WERX eco-system that likes to associate itself with the innovation-mindedness of Silicon Valley circa 1975. Software companies tend to embrace the shifting cultural norm in large part because their work does not require physical co-location. Most large defense companies are late to the party acknowledging that it’s not about butts in seats.

It’s about employees adding value through their work, not their proximity to the bosses.

There are trade-offs to fully remote, partial remote, in person, rigid work weeks, and flexible schedules. Today’s technologies allow us to evaluate these trade-offs as never before. It takes work, and even some deep thinking, to turn a mirror on your company’s methods and rules.

Part of the reason the dream of a leisurely retirement lingers is that we associate it with a better lifestyle in which we can do as we please.  Travel, golf, boating, fishing, time with extended family, and lengthy vacations are promoted via cottage industries built around the same myth of what retirement was for prior generations.

Americans tend to mock the European’s longstanding recognition that life is about more than work. You may not agree that taking a month of downtime or shorter work weeks can ever work in America.

The health benefits of reducing stress are well-documented. We are smart enough to find a better balance.

For the past ten years, I have worked independently and remotely. I “work” more hours in a given week than I ever worked in a corporate role, yet I work them in different increments and at a completely different pace. The result for me is a change of mindset about what a future retirement even looks like. I will “work” later in life, of this, I am sure. But I will be doing things I enjoy, supporting companies I choose to work with, and balancing the work with interesting activities to include vacations, leisure activities, thought-work, and family time.

“Well, you work for yourself as a consultant, that’s different,” you say. Yes, but it’s only different in to whom I am held to account. I still have to do the actual work, the planning, the thinking, and the travel that goes with the role.

In my book, Make Your Move, I identify that most in their retired years left the workforce as soon as they could do so financially because they didn’t want to grind anymore. I can assure you, those who left in search of the mythical years of leisure are not living the life of leisure they imagined. This happens because they can’t afford the retired life they envisioned (the “goes ins” no longer outpace the “goes outs” of their budgets). Secondly, the aging body is as old as humankind…hips, knees, hearts, backs, elbows, and sadly, minds, all wear down over time.

Scrub the retirement model of your parents and grandparents. It no longer serves you. If your work culture doesn’t allow such a change, maybe reconsider your work. That kind of change does involve risk. But are you a risky bet?

If you are responsible for people coming together to work, for whatever reason, are the assumptions of your model still valid?

I work regularly with companies on their strategies, helping them acknowledge what is truly within their reach, and what is too far over the horizon to worry about. We often find that some poor assumptions are baked into their thinking.

So, when will you retire?

Make Your Move is a navigational guide for those transitioning out of the military and considering the next steps— or anybody facing a major career change. My story is both an example and practical guide to dream big and achieve big things.

100% of the Proceeds of Make Your Move Go To Freedom Fighter Outdoors

Freedom Fighter Outdoors started as an awareness of the physical, mental and emotional suffering of the men and women who served our country in the military.

Order your copy at Amazon.

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