Why We’re Not Planning for Retirement

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As full-time travelers and freelancers, one of the top questions we get – from family, friends, and well-meaning strangers – is “but what will you do for retirement?” It usually comes out of genuine loving concern, or utter disbelief (and often disapproval) at the decisions we’ve made for our life. I get it, we have no home gathering equity, no job matching funds in an account, and no idea where we will be in a year – let alone what our lives will look like in 40. Maybe we’re young and naïve, or vastly irresponsible for not planning for retirement. Believe that if it makes you feel better. But, we’re not. This isn’t some crazy life crisis or experiment. We thought this through. There’s no plans to change course. This makes sense – for us, at least.

not planning for retirement

And let’s get one thing straight, I’m not bashing anyone for trying to make smart life decisions. There’s nothing wrong with planning ahead and trying to make responsible decisions for your life. No one wants to be poor and struggling to survive, especially in old age. But, why have we all bought into this idea that we have to sacrifice our passions and dreams to one day – in some far-off future – have enough hours clocked and money in the bank to deserve to live life on our own terms?

The retirement dream

This topic has been weighing on my heart heavily this week. As we enjoy the first week of eight in Hawai’i, I can’t help but realize we are again living the retirement dream of so many.

Usually when people think of their retirement, they imagine leisurely days with no real responsibility, reading by the ocean somewhere, time to pursue their hobbies, hiking all day, spending quality time together or with loved ones, and often, lots of travel.

We are doing that already.

not planning retirement

When we RVed for a year, we would often have people a few decades older than us tell us “You are living MY dream!” Some with genuine excitement for us, and some with an obvious jealous irritation.

I won’t lie, I feel sick with guilt at times. There’s this unsaid rule that you have to put in your time to deserve a break. You have to work really hard for a really long time, then finally – if all your plans go right – you get to enjoy your remaining years how you wish, with whatever funds you saved up. So many people I love are playing by those rules, because they haven’t been able to find another way to sustain their lifestyle.

And I feel like the biggest jerk in the world that I get to have this kind of life after barely putting in my ‘time’ at a traditional job. I feel like I’m bragging when I tell people about what we are doing – especially when they are working hard to maybe get a short vacation once a year. But, I have to do what is right for myself and my husband – my little family.

And if I ever win the lotto, I’ll happily retire my parents and as many other people as I can. But I won’t apologize for chasing the life I want and rejecting the idea that I have to sacrifice most of my life to deserve the experiences I crave. That is bullshit. No, thank you!

The reality

You don’t have plenty of time. You just don’t. We all seem to say we do to reassure each other that there will be lots of chances to fulfill our dreams, but it’s a lie. No one knows how much time we have. If you are young and healthy, it is likely that you have plenty of time, but it is never guaranteed.

So why on God’s green Earth are so many people hell-bent on planning for futures that may not freaking exist instead of living the life they crave now? It is insane to us and seems to revolve around some false sense of security we can’t get down with. Like time, retirement isn’t guaranteed either. It’s all a gamble. Your company can screw you over before that fateful date arrives, the stock market can crash, the world could end – who knows?

Yet, when we tell people we aren’t planning for retirement because we are living like we are retired RIGHT NOW they look at us like our skin just turned inside out and we’re speaking a made-up language. But, it’s not that crazy, I swear.

getaway to catalina island - trailing away

What is crazy is working at a job you hate to literally kill yourself by overworking your body and mind, just to make enough money to pay for a bunch of stuff you probably don’t need, then hopefully retire before you die or get too sick to use your funds to do those things you dreamed of.

A wonderful man recently shared with us that he retired “early” at 55 after breaking down crying uncontrollably at his desk. While Buddy worked in corporate America, with 60-80-hour work weeks, one of his coworkers in his 30s got diagnosed with a brain tumor and got six months to live. That is devastating. Those stories break my heart. And at the same time, it gives me this ‘we just barely escaped’ feeling. We were on that path – where only a terminal illness or mental breakdown was going to give us permission to live our dreams.

Our turning point

I used to fantasize of a day that we would have a good enough ‘excuse’ to say f- it and pull the plug on the idea of success we had bought into. Turns out, realizing the damage it was doing to our marriage was excuse enough. And it was the best decision we’ve ever made.

It is one thing to work for a company you love, doing work that brings you joy. It is another to sacrifice what is likely your most healthy, active years for a future ‘retirement’ that may never come.

SCREWWWW that. I mean, really. There is no better way to say it. Whose idea was this?

We want to pursue what we are passionate about NOW – while we are young, healthy, and alive! All I ever wanted to do was travel, write, and be a good wife/friend/person. That’s it. I worked a shitty desk job because I thought I had to.

I made myself feel horrible for dreading work every day. I’d berate myself for just being lazy and unmotivated because I thought there was something intrinsically wrong with me for not wanting to live like that. Everyone else is doing it, I thought. But they aren’t. There are tons of people like us, who are making a life on their own terms. It just takes some blind determination to make it happen.

not planning for retirement

Our plan – for now

We are looking very short-term at the moment. We have a few things in the works for next year, and that seems really far out. But, we are loving being house sitters right now. It works really well for us. Plus, it will enable us to travel the world on a very small budget.

However, by living this way, we realize that when retirement age does come around, we’ll be able to live on such a small budget that we will be totally fine. Plus, we could live anywhere and will have tons of skills, as well as friends all over the world by then!

And, if we have to keep working until the day we die – that’s fine! I love what I am doing now. As a freelance editor, I get to make my own schedule, work with amazing content creators, write interesting stories, and work from anywhere. And, please try not to throw up when you read this next part … I work about 100 hours a month. That’s it. That pays our very limited bills and funds our travels. Buddy is just exploring options right now, because we finally have time and flexibility for him to do that!

When we quit our jobs more than a year ago, we decided to only make as much as we need. So, we stopped trying once we got enough work. And it is awesome. We have time freedom, which is a truly amazing gift to give ourselves.

Yes, we try to put some money aside. No, we aren’t letting debt pile up to do this (aside from our car payment and a small student loan – we’re actually debt free). And yes, we’ve even talked about possibly buying property “one day.” But we are not working all day to save for some distant obscure future. We are living for today. We are chasing our dreams now.

not planning for retirement

Closing thoughts

I didn’t like who I was before we started this journey – and during much of the transition phase. I didn’t know who I was. I never took the time to figure out what I really enjoyed, what my strengths were, or what I needed to be happy. But, there’s something about travel that broadens your view of yourself and the world. I was pulled toward this lifestyle, and married a man who felt the same magnetism toward it, for a reason.

I find myself going to places and talking to people to intentionally grow my comfort zone, and it is a wonderful thing. If I had waited to do this until my 60s, I’d have lived in a shallow, dark little box for most of my life.

Exploring our world now, taking the time to seek God daily, enjoying each other and overcoming challenges together, it is making me a better person. It is giving me a different perspective. It’s giving us a better marriage.

not planning for retirement

Yes, living this way is unpredictable, possibly even dangerous at times. But, please don’t worry about us. We could die today with smiles on our faces, because we are living the life we thought we’d only ever dream of. If we have it our way, we’ll go out in a blaze of glory together, before either of us starts suffering from any big mental or physical issue. But, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Today we thank God for our abundant blessings in this life we’ve fought for. And while others are busy worrying about the future, we’ll hold onto our faith that there is even more joy yet to come – joy made even more beautiful with the knowledge that our time here is not guaranteed.

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Brooke travels full-time with her husband Buddy while working as a freelance writer and editor. In addition to writing content for TrailingAway.com to pair with Buddy's great photos and videos, she also contributes to other blogs and publications. When not traveling, hiking or writing, most of her time is spent working as the Editor of Winnebago's lifestyle blog, WinnebagoLife.com, where she gets the privilege of working with a very talented group of contributors. Brooke and Buddy also house/pet sit while traveling as a way to spend time with animals and really get to know a new area.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Great post and very inspiring. I admire your courage to step out and follow the road less traveled. May you continue to find your happy place in all these happy beautiful places you’re exploring! Best of luck & good health to you both

  2. Great post, Brooke. While I didn’t live in a ‘dark box’ until my 60s, and really gave little thought to future security during my child-raising years — I somehow still landed in a sweet spot in later life. I live nomadically now, with my partner Aaron, and we have a life of true freedom — house and pet sitting, sometimes AirBNBing, always travelling. We love it, and applaud you for getting there earlier in life! (Interested in my stories, check out: World Encounters or kathperreault.net)
    Cheers, onward and upward to you and Buddy!

    • Thanks a bunch, Kath! I guess a ‘dark box’ does sound really gloomy. haha We definitely had some great times before beginning on this adventure, but I’ve just realized how much about myself and this world I didn’t know until we set out to explore. I had no idea how wrong some of my assumptions about both were and glad my eyes were opened early. I’m really thankful I’m able to live on my own terms. Glad you are doing the same! Happy travels to you and Aaron. 🙂

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