The Dirty Little Secret about Retirement Nobody Talks About

photo by Thomas Hafeneth

Ask anyone about retirement and you’ll get the standard answer: Aim to retire at 55 so you still have your health and energy to be able to do all the fun things you want to do. If you have to work until 65, maybe you can manage a few annual bus tours before your hips give out. The rest of the time you can putter in your garden or play cards. Start saving for retirement now by putting a monthly amount into a managed retirement fund.

Looking around, you see everyone is heading for an exciting fun filled retirement. Full of travel, dinners out, helping young relatives, going to charity events and shopping. There will be the unfortunate few eating cat food, but not anyone you know.

So when you look at your situation you feel shame.

You did what you were supposed to do, you went to school, got a job and climbed the corporate ladder. Your reward for giving your life to this work is to enjoy your golden years in retirement. You’re going to spend time with family and friends finally connecting deeply over leisurely meals. You’re going to travel to all those places you’ve wanted to spend time getting to know. You’re going to read that growing pile of books, maybe take some courses and try your hand at painting/cooking/writing/rock climbing.

If you are like 97% of women reading this, you have a vague sick feeling in the pit of your stomach right now. A look at your retirement funds reveals your dirty little secret. Unlike everyone else in the world (you think) your retirement isn’t going to look so rosy. Between the stock market, your $0.77 earned dollar and the increasing cost of living, things aren’t looking the way you thought they would.

You’re doing alright now and trusting that the economy will pick up, that your returns will get better and that it will all work out in the end.

You would like to retire in the next 5–10 years (forget freedom 55), but a realistic look at your retirement funds, shows you things aren’t matching up the way you had hoped they would for you to retire with enough money to continue your lifestyle and have fun.

Retirement used to be what you did as you gracefully slipped into your peaceful old age and the waiting arms of that eternal sleep. The average age of retirement was 65 and the average lifespan for women in Canada in In 1990 it was 77. You could be wildly optimistic and plan for 15 to 20 years of retirement.

As of 2015 average lifespan is 84 and if you are 55 now you can expect to live to 86. That’s average. If you wanted to retire at 60 you better plan on 30 to 40 years!

You are in better shape than you thought you would be. 60 is the new 40 and all that. You can expect to live longer and with better health than you planned. This is good news for you and your Good Life, but hard news for your finances.

Between a rock and a hard place

It doesn’t matter how hard you work if you have a job, you don’t make any more money (bonuses are still capped). The only way to top up your retirement savings is to cut back. Does that mean your frugal lifestyle must start now?

These days companies expect fewer people to do more work — all in the name of productivity. So you are working harder, longer hours and your income is capped. If you keep working this hard you are sacrificing your health. If you don’t keep working you are in danger of losing your job. You work harder than ever under more stressful conditions and stress takes a high toll on your health.

What’s it going to be? Are you going to run out of money or develop chronic health problems?

So you would like to retire sooner rather than later and still be able to afford a fun and exciting lifestyle, right?

What’s a smart, savvy woman to do?

You do what you always do, you take what you have available and turn it into an advantage.

You are very good at what you do, which is why you are where you are. You have knowledge, industry insight, and connections. You know how people can navigate your industry, you know how people can get the results they desire in your industry and you know what people need to do to succeed in your industry.

What if you could package your knowledge and help other people, while making great money, on the side?

Welcome to the new economy

A quick recap of the history of the economy: Humans started by making everything we needed for ourselves, our family and our tribe. We worked together. Then, when money came on the scene, we made things to sell. We had a product economy. With the industrial revolution, we sold our time. Now that we no longer need humans to make what we need, we are moving into a knowledge or experience economy.

We all have unprecedented access to the means of making a living. All it takes is knowledge and the ability to deliver an amazing experience, which we all can do.

Women like you are joining the new economy and starting side businesses so they have control over their economic lives.

photo of a lady by Cherry Laithang

Just like Jennifer

Jennifer is in commercial banking and doing well. She loves her job, but she is looking forward to a time when she can travel, spend more time with her family and friends and read the growing pile of books beside her bed.

She knows the stress of her job is compromising her health, but a look into her financial situation makes it clear that stopping isn’t going to be in the near future.

Many of her friends ask her advice about their finances. She knows the ins and outs of untangling personal finances after a breakup. She was asked to speak at a couple of women’s events and she wrote a report as a hand out. Several women asked her to help them more. She was happy when it was her friends, but when strangers asked, she decided to charge a fee for a webinar. For the first one, 5 women paid to attend. Last month she had 45 women on her webinar.

She talked to a couple of her self employed friends who are making a great living. She learned that small business owners aren’t all reckless loners gambling their lives away. In fact, she was impressed with the way they carefully assessed each situation and took very calculated risks. The more she looked into it, the riskier her situation looked in comparison to theirs. She was counting on one company and they were counting on many. Rather than being loners, they had a team of experts to support them. They worked from their strengths to provide tonnes of value and they were paid well.

Now, she’s writing her first ebook and working on a course that she can deliver automatically. She is looking for places where she can speak and bring her message to other women who could use it. She isn’t going to replace her income soon, but she will be able to scale up her business any time she wants.

Now it’s your turn

How would you like to turn your talents, knowledge and interests into your very own extra income stream? Get your copy of Future Proof Your Life with a Side Hustle to learn how you can do it, too.