Originally posted at Appenmedia.com by Lewis Walker, CFP, May 15, 2023.

Ask people about retirement goals and you get a wish list ─ travel, play more golf, spend more time with family and friends, etc. Retirement is seen as a time to do more of the things you enjoy doing. But in some advisory circles an interesting question is emerging. Why wait?

Mitch Anthony is the author of the highly acclaimed book, “The New Retirementality: Planning Your Life and Living Your Dreams…at Any Age You Want,” now in a fifth edition. In a recent phone call with financial planners, Anthony, quick to perceive nascent trends, said, “It’s time to ban the word ‘retirement’ from the retirement conversation.” There was a time when life was considered in three basic stages: from birth to age 18 or early 20s, growing up and education and training; working years from early adulthood to retirement at age 62 to 65; then, cease working and enjoy life while you can until “old age” slows you down, as an individual or as a couple. Death is a reality at any time along life’s path and pre-planning is important.

Call the new scenario the “Modern Work Path.” Some young singles and married couples are focusing on enjoying life early in the game with a “why wait?” attitude. They may put off saving for a house or having children in favor of adventures and traveling now, for example. They’re living in the “experience economy.” They have intentions and objectives they want to effect near term. They don’t want to wait until some arbitrary retirement date. Obviously, a person needs to work and generate sufficient funds to live and reserves to cover emergencies.

Today’s younger generations assume that they will work for multiple employers over the course of their work life, with fun, travel, sabbaticals, volunteer work overseas or domestically, or other pursuits, mixed in. More people assume that they will work remotely at various times or even start their own business. Recently, this writer met a young woman traveling in Patagonia in southern Chile and Argentina. Her job allowed her to work remotely, and with her laptop and modern global communications, she can work from almost anywhere in the world. So, she was exploring South America for a few months while working.

We are not talking about a cavalier attitude, about assuming that mom and dad will pick up the tab if the worst happens. For, even if you’re embracing the experience economy, you still need a solid plan. You should have enough reserve funds so that if there should be a setback you can continue to be self-sufficient. You need financial reserves that allow you pay for experiences responsibly without running up debt. You must be able to confidently handle emergencies and setbacks, all the while working toward long-range goals.

Mitch Anthony opines that retirement is an “artificial finish line, an unnatural event.” “At 65, we’re supposed to take an exit ramp.” As Anthony asks, “Exit to what?” Not all ages are equal. You know people who are 80 who act like they’re 50, and people, sadly, who at age 65 or even younger have significant health problems or caregiving challenges and are forced to retire. If you love what you do, and have the flexibility to keep doing it, why retire? Forget retirement. Call it “refirement.” Get fired up and continue to do what wakes you up with purpose as long as you like and are physically and mentally able to do it well! “Re-tired” could infer that you’re “tired over and over,” and that’s not a prescription for a happy life. Many pre-retirees are not worried about running out of money. They’re concerned about being bored!

If travel is your passion, get out there. Don’t wait for some hazy someday to pursue your dreams. If need be, fly coach, or what many airlines now call “main cabin,” (most likely because some marketing guru saw that as a less pain-suggesting choice of words). Book early, and if you are traveling with your significant other opt for aisle seats across from each other. You both will have direct aisle access. Better to travel now and enjoy life than to wait too long and miss out if health or other challenges emerge later in life. Flying first or business class can come later with significant financial success when all of your bases are covered and you’re financially secure.

On international and domestic long-haul routes, Delta, as well as other leading carriers, offers “Comfort Plus” featuring more legroom and dedicated overhead luggage space. The new Delta Premium Select cabin on some international flights offers a greater range of seat decline that allows you to stretch out with a reclining feature and a footrest, plus a wider seat and premium amenities. Check SeatGuru.com for cabin configurations for your chosen carrier and flight. This can aid in seat selection and avoid those that are less desirable for whatever reason.

“Living life now” does not mean ignoring common sense planning so that you end up broke or underfunded when it comes to ultimate financial independence. The Modern Work Path is a personal plan crafted between you and your advisor. It recognizes flexibility based on your preferences and priorities, not an artificial “nose-to-the-grindstone work until you drop” and then retire construct. Why not work until you want to do something else, with financial independence as your timeline goal, not retirement per se? Warren Buffet is 92. He may never retire. He’s financially independent and he’s doing what lights his fire.

What fires you up? That flaming scenario should be the foundation of your financial plan!