When I decided to write about Gen X and money, my interest centered on our financial joys, concerns, trends, and opportunities to position ourselves as the next travelers on the road to retirement. I didn’t realize that several columns later I would be struggling with the term “retirement.”
For some strange reason, saying the word (retirement) out loud engendered a sense of decline and a loss of purpose and identity. My fear of the future surfaced with irrational thoughts about transitioning from work to leaving this earth.
I decided to publicly confess my dislike of the term and invited my social network to share a new word that defines a “mark moment in life when you no longer work for a living”. I think we should all feel inspired by one of the most important times in our lives and work together to support each other through this transition.
I never imagined that the social experiment would arouse so much interest. Respondents’ themes spanned relaxation, surrender, re-engagement, reinvention, and reincarnation (well, almost.) It was clear that the concept of retirement signals something different for each person at different seasons of their lives.
The phrase “financial independence” ranked first when counting responses. This phase is closely linked to the trend movement “FIRE” (“Financial Independence Retire Early”), a concept inspired by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez, authors of “Your Money or Your Life”. The two baby boomers, Robin and Dominguez co-authored this book in their late twenties and early thirties, respectively, describing how to live modestly without needing a job.
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Clearly, for Generation X, we are on the bandwagon of financial independence as the boat of early retirement has sailed. As a financial planner, I’ve seen clients whose retirement nest egg comfortably supports a modest lifestyle, travel, hobbies, and life’s surprises. Switching from earning money to spending it worked very well for them.
Yet I also know people for whom retirement has stuck them due to ageism, lower health and care requirements, and forced them to declare their retirement with social security benefits as a buoy safety. Thus, financial independence can represent a luxury and a bonus for retirement.
It’s time to lower the curtain on the theater metaphor
Another popular response centered on life as a play with retirement as the ‘Next Act’, ‘Second Act’ or ‘Third Act’, with current respondents considering new roles, actors, scenarios and scenes . Setting and managing the production budget cannot be overlooked, opening up the possibility of earning income on your terms to finance this important stage of life. It must be exhilarating to finally be the director and main actor of your own story.
A term that associates having enough money (financial independence) and agency with the use of your time (Next Act) is optional work, another favorite choice among respondents. It is difficult for me to inject the term and concept of work into a season of your life when you are searching for meaning and inspiration. I believe that professional activity should emulate gambling, or at least be a passion project if you are lucky enough to experience a financial agency.
The term “freedom” resonated with a number of respondents and signaled the joy of spending your time how, when, where and if you want. Deciding for yourself what you want out of life and having the option to commit or not is good business. Another phrase mentioned, “temporal wealth,” falls into this category.
Some retired baby boomers took offense to my statement and my quest to redefine their badge of honor. Who am I to challenge meaningful lived experiences by retirees celebrating their deserved title?
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‘Fake it ’til you make it’ is not a plan
There were also some creative spins from the retirees. In the “All About Your Benjamins” podcast hosted by Justin Castelli, Justin’s dad Terry calls him “again.” There was practical wise boomer advice: “Go with the flow” or “You just gotta keep living, man!” (thanks to “Dazed and Confused” actor Matthew McConaughey). That’s the basic point of view, right? To live on while you find out?
Yet not everyone had such an optimistic outlook. A few dropped the word “death” without warning or explanation. I found myself in this category – either active or dead. Not very inspiring, I know.
Why would anyone, including me, think so?
The “aha moment” came to me when I saw the term “rewire”. In the book “Rewirement: Rewiring The Way You Think About Retirement,” author Jamie P. Hopkins suggests that grounding—believing that your life will mirror the experience of someone you know—can serve as a cornerstone. stumbling to consider your own retirement.
“How can you know what your retirement will be like if you’ve never experienced it? said Hopkins. “We have to remember that our experience will be unique to us and not the same as those who came before us.”
His statement resonates with me. I felt this momentary distaste for the word retirement when I remembered a beloved family member who died two years after a dedicated career spanning over 40 years. It was a bittersweet moment that lasted longer than mentally warranted.
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My Social Project confirms that we are empowered to define the seasons of our lives, such as retirement, based on our hopes and aspirations — as well as our fears and phobias, if we let them. We can adopt traditional words or create new terms to serve as guideposts to prepare and plan our future.
I am pleased with my new collection of words and phrases that will serve me well on my road to…[fill in the blank].
Lazetta Rainey Braxton Certified Financial Planner Lazetta Rainey Braxton is Co-CEO and Co-Founder of 2050 Wealth Partners and CEO and Founder of Lazetta & Associates. She is passionate about amplifying diversity, inclusion, equality and belonging in the financial planning profession and does so through financial planning, public speaking , writing, consulting and coaching. She was named 2021 Crain’s New York Business Notable Black Leader and Executive as well as one of Investopedia’s Top 10 Financial Advisors in 2020 and 2021. In all of her endeavors, she is on a mission to create wealth for the common good. . .
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