Forget The Old Definition of Retirement And
Define Your Ideal Lifestyle

**This is an excerpt from Chapter 2 of THE RELAXING RETIREMENT FORMULA: Discover What You Want

Good Morning Relaxing Retirement Member,

Kevin and Barbara came to see us looking for the same kind of clarity Joe and Sally had. In Part Two, we’ll break down the process they went through, but for now, it’s enough to say it’s a bit like going to a very thorough new doctor. We took a complete history—financial, rather than medical—and they revealed all their unique priorities to us. We put their numbers through an extensive diagnostic process over the next few weeks and they returned to our office to get the results.

“Congratulations!” I told them. “You’re in wonderful shape. Given everything you’ve shared, you can afford to retire tomorrow.”

Can you guess what happened? Did trumpets sound and balloons fall from the ceiling? Did Kevin dance from the room and call his managing director to say he was finished? No. What happened?


Kevin and Barbara turned to each other, confused. Now they knew they could retire, they weren’t sure they wanted to. Kevin derives an enormous sense of accomplishment from his work, and Barbara would miss the friends she has through hers. They wondered if perhaps they didn’t want to retire, they just wanted to know they could.

Of course, some of what Kevin and Barbara were feeling is tied to the inherent weirdness of the transition from doing what they’ve been doing for thirty and forty-two years respectively. Everything they knew was tied to their work—their friend groups, their sense of purpose, their pride in accomplishment. Work wasn’t just something they did for money.

Much of their ambivalence was due to the lack of good role models we discussed in the previous chapter. Kevin and Barbara had seen a few friends retire and stop working. They’d watched the TV ads of grey hairs in hammocks. They knew that wasn’t what they wanted, and wondered if maybe they just weren’t ready to cross The Employment Dependency Threshold yet.

Conventional or Customized

Kevin and Barbara weren’t interested in the conventional idea of retirement. They weren’t conventional people. For one thing, they’d done a better job than most of putting money away. For another, they’d never aspired to what most people strive to afford.

In my work as The Retirement Coach, I make it clear to our members: our goal is not to get you to stop working. Our goal is to get you situated so you never have to work—or do anything you don’t want to—ever again. A truly relaxing retirement is one in which you do whatever you want with whomever you want where, when, and however you want with no anxiety about money.

For some people, that means quitting work the next day, but many end up staying at their jobs because they love what they do. Many, with no financial necessity driving them, keep doing their work but stop going into the office every day. They work from home or from their second house down south during the winter.

Others go half time. Still others completely redefine their professional lives. They leave one business and launch a completely new one, sometimes in the same field, sometimes in an entirely different one. I’ve seen an operations officer become an entrepreneur and a software engineer go to work for a theater company. But they were both doing the same thing—exactly what they’d always wanted to.

A Hybrid Retirement

Many retirees create a hybrid working retirement. They sit on boards or consult in their industries—doing so only on their own terms. They arrange their lives so they can go to warmer weather for six months a year and conduct their important meetings by phone.

They apply their business and leadership skills to charitable organizations, or they become mentors. Some hire a weekly landscaping service because they never want to do yard work again. Others mow their own grass into their eighties because they like the exercise. A relaxing retirement is one that frees you from chores and obligations that annoy you, not one that makes you give up any of the work you enjoy.

Retirement doesn’t have to mean you stop working. It can mean anything you decide you want it to, and what you want can change over time. You’re not locked into anything. You redefine what you do; you don’t retire from doing it.

Defining the Ideal Lifestyle

Drilling down to what “ideal” means to you requires that you set aside any fears and misconceptions you may have. Look at things you think are facts and question if they’re really true. Call on your imagination to paint your perfect lifestyle. Since you’re probably not going to live another ninety years, it’s crucial to get started on this process now.

Even as an exercise, it’s a massive mindset shift to go from thinking about your responsibilities and constraints to imagining your dreams and freedoms. But that’s what your savings can purchase. You prepaid then for choices now.

In our work with our members, we find it helps to ask them a slightly morbid question. We have them imagine it’s the day before their last day and ask them to reflect on any regrets they think they might have. In twenty-nine years of doing this, no one has ever told me their vision of the future includes more time doing menial work.

Try to come to this exercise without preconceived notions of what you think you can do. Resist basing your expectations on what your friends are or aren’t able to afford. Come to it with a completely different mindset. Go in thinking you can have anything you want.

Later, we’ll put a price tag on it and let The Relaxing Retirement Formula determine whether or not you can afford it all.  Because if you could, wouldn’t you like to know?

Never and Forever

We do this exercise with new members, but I invite you to try it out for yourself at home.

Think about the things you’re unwilling to miss any longer and everything you want to stop doing. List all the things you’d regret not having done. What do you never want to do again? What have you wanted to do forever but didn’t think you could?

Create a picture of your ideal retirement that’s as detailed, as exciting and inspiring as you can. Do this without putting any financial constraints on your imagination.

Don’t worry whether or not you can afford it right now, just whether or not you’d enjoy it.

Committed To Your Relaxing Retirement,

Jack Phelps
The Retirement Coach

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(The content of this letter does not constitute a tax opinion. Always consult with a competent tax professional service provider for advice on tax matters specific to your situation.)