Last week I started pulling out all the tax prep paperwork to give to our CPA. Because we both still work and are self-employed, our tax returns are complicated and far above my abilities as a do-it-yourselfer. But as I began going through all the receipts I was relieved to see that in spite of all our expenses—the fun ones like travel, and the necessary ones like medical—we still managed to save a decent amount of money. In other words, thankfully we once again managed to keep our income above our outgo, or “live below our means.” While I realize that isn’t always possible for everyone depending upon circumstances, I do tend to believe that we each continually make certain choices that can help make it more of a reality than a dream. And yes, when we do that, the freedom and peace of mind it brings can far outweigh the effort.
A big topic in my age group is retirement. About half of my friends are looking forward to it while the other half are already there. As for Thom and I, we see ourselves standing with a foot on both sides. We aren’t retired, but neither are we chained to our work. What makes us different from others hoping to retire soon is that we’ve embraced what I call rightsizing. Rightsizing is a process that any of us can do to come into greater alignment with our most cherished values and goals. On a practical level, rightsizing points to actions we can make at any age that will help before, and especially after, a person retires.
In case you are wondering, I am not a financial advisor. Most retirement “planning” comes from people who would like to manage your finances. That approach tends to put the focus on how much money you make, how much money saved, and how much you need in the future to maintain your current lifestyle. Rightsizing, on the other end, downplays money and instead puts the focus on what is most rewarding in your life.
One of the stories I can vividly remember my father telling me years back was related to his pride at managing his money in retirement. At the time, both my father and mother lived on their social security and some modest savings held in a 401k. Dad frequently bragged that he lived better, traveled more, and seemed to have more fun than many of his friends who retired with big homes and generous pensions. From my perspective, at least at the time, their lifestyle seemed more humble and restricted than I felt necessary. Yet now, less than 20 years later, I recognize that their simple and minimal lifestyle afforded them tremendous benefits that millions of other “hope-to-be-retirees” could learn from—including myself. [Read more…]