Redefining Your Goals To Achieve Freedom Now

Traditional retirement planning was created for previous generations whose options were bound by a mostly manual labor-driven economy. We’re fortunate today that we can benefit from technological advancements, yet we’re still marching along to the beat of the old retirement drum rather than high stepping to capitalize on new freedoms.

With a few minor tweaks to your personal financial freedom goals, you can create exponentially more flexibility and fulfillment for yourself and your family. Syncing savings with short-term and intermediate financial freedom goals helps make the most of your money today, while still being able to enjoy life after 65 too.

This approach can help you beat keeping up with the joneses syndrome, stress less about finances, and boost savings—when it comes to getting rich in life, it pays to be a goal-digger!

Redefining Retirement

A quick trip back to the industrial age takes us to the origin of modern American retirement. Work during this era was largely about trading physical capital for a paycheck. As life expectancy was increasing, but health still limiting, governments and corporations were increasingly urging that later years be spent off the clock.

The point is that the resources we use today to help us calculate how much we need to retire, manage our expenses and live off our savings are based on a model that’s outdated! Retirement planning is not timeless like Nonna’s secret family recipe for lasagna.

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The economy of the 21st century is very different from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The industrial revolution has given way to the information and knowledge revolutions. Most assembly line jobs are being filled by robots while human workers are increasingly disengaged. And sixty is considered the new forty.

Even though we are wealthier today than ever before, misguided financial goals make it nearly impossible to find the peace of mind about our money and fulfillment in life that we deserve. So what’s a young knowledge worker to do?

Here’s the secret: time is our most precious resource. Time is the only variable that cannot be earned back. Yet the value of our years is completely neglected in most retirement plans!

Retirement has been defined by employer-established motives for too long. We are no longer climbing career ladders, we are advancing along different paths and have the power to rejuvenate and reinvent ourselves along the way. This brief walk down memory lane is a wake-up call that the time to learn from and improve on the past is now.

We don’t have to wait to enjoy retirement—and we shouldn’t. So, start by updating the way you evaluate success: swap out corporate promotions to prioritize personal development goals and cut that big fat retirement with bite-sized mini-retirements.

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Mini-retirements give us a chance to migrate between (mind-numbing) routine and experiences that spark personal growth. The new retirement can be defined and spent on what we want to do at different stages in our lives—whether that’s taking a break to travel for adventure and the creative boost of living abroad, having more time to grow that side-hustle into a sustainable business that transitions to a new career, or simply spending more time at home with family and friends.

Now that we’ve classified retirement as a recurring theme, the stage is set to start building a financial freedom plan that supports varying periods of work that fulfill your version of freedom.

Start Planning For a Mini-Retirement

Everyone has goals, big and small. Any planning you do for the future can be considered a goal. Even if your goals haven’t been formalized in writing (yet), there are likely things you hope to achieve during particular periods in life.

You may be focused on losing 15 pounds before summer swimsuit season. Or you’re an aspiring author putting pen to paper to write a book by next year. Maybe the appeal of being your own boss is motivating you to start your own business. The goals themselves will differ based on your unique interests. Setting goals keeps us moving forward in our individual work and personal lives, and are proven to add meaning to your life that makes you happier.

Psychological studies have tested goal-setting theory and show that we are more motivated by relevant and tangible activities rather than abstract numbers. Yet the majority of people have a retirement plan that’s broad and based on an ideology formulated by someone else. When the freedom to retire relies on working 30+ years to become a millionaire and live happily ever after, the success of your financial freedom plan is contingent on maintaining willpower for the long-term.

Ask any successful person about accomplishing goals in life and she will tell you the key is reducing the information overload that leads us to lose site of a clear pathway to achieve our objectives. Because it’s too easy to quit when the finish line feels too far away. So why is the accepted work-life norm to postpone meaningful fulfillment to a point that it feels exhausting and extraneous?!?

The downfall for traditional retirement plans today is that they always seem beyond grasp and are not aptly aligned with current realities of job security, healthy aging and the inevitable curveballs that life throws at you. You’ll have more success saving for retirement when there’s a clear purpose for the wealth that you’re building, and you can take the time to enjoy it along the way.

Although you probably won’t hear about it in the mainstream financial planning media, there is a better way to approach retirement that enables a more fulfilling and meaningful life today. Mini-retirements can be used to break up the decades-long grind of work (and the stress that goes with it) with periods of purposeful personal growth and rejuvenation.

Allocating resources to planned mini-retirements from your regular work routine makes retirement more achievable and rewarding today, while minimizing the interference of health and other longer-term uncertainties that are outside of your control. And it’s up to you to decide what goals to focus on during your mini-retirements, which should make them strong motivating factors to save more and stress-less.

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This should help us to clarify a few things:

  1. Work-life balance is achievable if you plan for it

  2. money is not actually the goal, but a tool to help us to achieve freedom to pursue greater meaning

  3. goals are flexible and can be designed to fit within our financial capacity

The bottom line is that with proper mini-retirement goal-setting, you will boost your likelihood of achieving your personal ambitions, big and small. Setting mini-retirement goals lays the foundation for shaping your ideal lifestyle that incorporates more meaningful activities and time for rejuvenation. And if you do it well, you will have well defined action steps that will get you there.


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Getting on the same page as your partner

Syncing goals and money with a partner can be fun, difficult, and sometimes stressful. It’s no secret that money is cited as the number one source of stress in relationships. Views on managing money and your future lifestyle can be pretty different sometimes. Redefining your goals to include mini-retirements brings a lot of those differences (and tough conversations) to the surface.

After the initial enthusiasm of dreaming up your mini-retirement vision, doubts and worries may start to creep in. If you’re like most people, finances are a centerpiece of those challenges.“How could we ever afford to do that?” “We couldn’t afford risking a solid paycheck.”

Sometimes there is fear that if you work hard on creating a lifestyle, you’re locked into that choice. Being able to take a mini-retirement is not an overnight thing for most families. It may be a simple few months of planning an extended trip, or a multi-year process that begins with assessing (and reassessing) your current lifestyle.

The point is, when you invest time in defining your future, instead of letting societal norms do it for you, you can pivot into new opportunities and build a life you love together. The financial freedom analysis and systems discussed later in this guide, will help you to assess the real costs of your plans, simplify your lives, and redirect your resources towards shared dreams.

Case Study: Financial Trade-off Of Taking a Mini-Retirement

Mention taking extended time away from work and the first thing you’ll hear is excuses for why it could never be afforded. That’s what we heard from almost everyone that we talked to about our plans. But what does incorporating mini-retirements into your financial freedom plan really cost?

Here’s an example of the back-of-the-envelope analysis we did to understand how it would impact our family. Our goals-based plan is to take a 1 year (likely unpaid) mini-retirement for every 5 years of work.

A few starting assumptions to get us started:

  • Earn $100k per year and save half of it (for simplicity sake, we are ignoring taxes and tax advantaged savings)

  • 5% inflation-adjusted growth of investments

  • 4% investment safe withdrawal rate

  • Spending stays constant at $50k annual during mini-retirement years

First, if we were to work straight through (ie no mini-retirements), with earnings and spending staying constant, we would end up with $1.25M after just over 16 years. Using the 4% safe withdrawal rule, this would afford us $50K of spending annually ($1,250,000 * .04 = $50K) in perpetuity, and a nice early retirement.  

 
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But taking time off from work would significantly impact that early retirement trajectory, right? Let’s look at the impact of taking an unpaid gap year after every 5 full years of work- starting in year 6, then another in year 12, and another in year 18.

At the end of Year 5, our net worth is $283,189. We take year 6 off, continuing to spend the same amount as we did while working — $50K.  We also earn 5% from our current investments — a little over $14K. At the end of year 6, our net worth is now $247,348. We go back to work, earn the same salary, and continue to save half of what we make. Rinse and repeat in years 12 and 18.

 
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At the end of year 21, our family will have $1.34M — nicely padding the $1.25M required to fund full financial freedom.

So what’s the impact? In this simplified example, our family’s mini-retirement plan will require 21 years to achieve financial freedom, as opposed to the 16 years in the work straight through scenario. That’s 5 additional years, but keep in mind that 3 of those years are entirely work free. That’s time to rejuvenate, pursue our personal interests, and maybe even build a business of our own. Seems like a good trade-off to me, but you be the judge.