What if our thinking about retirement is completely wrong?
Typically, retirement rewards you with the flexibility to spend your time how you’d like to, after working many years. In reality, however, the time you need the most flexibility is when you have young children at home, isn’t it?
As business owners, Kim and I each worked about 60 hours a week — before Lucy was born. When we had kids, we wanted at least one of us to be home with them and decided to share childcare duties. This meant that instead of two 60-hour workweeks, we’d have just one 60-hour workweek between us. In order to make this happen, we had to focus, cut, and streamline things. We had to scrap some projects and put others on the “someday maybe” list. Interestingly, this actually helped our business grow (the lessons of which could be a whole blog post of its own.)
As an entrepreneur, when you are the boss, you always feel like you should be doing more to grow your business. And there are some pretty cool business ideas that we’ve come up with that we have to shelve for now, because they would take too much time and attention away from our family.
But most of us spend the bulk of our twenties and thirties and forties working long hours in order to grow our business, move up the corporate ladder, get the promotion and solidify our financial standing.
And for too many people, when we finally get to the point where we have the money and time to focus on our family, our kids are grown and interested in other things. Our life becomes a living example of the Harry Chapin song, “Cats in the Cradle.”
No thank you.
Kim and I were already heading in a different direction, but our friend David Rendall helped give it a name: Reverse retirement.
While we can’t ignore our financial needs completely, Kim and I have decided to place the biggest chunk of our time and attention on our family. Which means we probably won’t work as many hours as our peers, our business probably won’t be as big as it could be, and we won’t have as much money as we might like.
When the kids are more interested in their friends and especially when they move out, Kim and I will have PLENTY of time to work on our business and the fun projects together. We will be able to make more money, accomplish more things, and travel together on the company dime. But in the meantime, we’ll have the flexibility to spend the time we want when our kids are young.
The key here, of course, is finding meaningful work that you love. I’ve never planned on retiring in the traditional sense. If I’m doing what I love, why would I want to stop doing that? As I get older, I may not be able to keep the same pace that once did, but I’d still like to draw and speak and write for as long as I’m alive.
Another key is coming to terms with the idea that raising kids requires more time than money. That’s hard, because we’re conditioned to believe otherwise. We’ve all seen the charts on how much it costs to raise a kid from the time he is born until the age of 18. According to one study by the USDA, it will cost over a quarter million dollars for a middle income family to raise a kid born in 2009.
Our focus on money is in part what leads us to bust our butts to provide our kids with stuff they don’t really need. And I’m not just talking about toys and video games and bouncy house birthday parties. We earn more money to buy bigger homes in nicer neighborhoods and send them to better schools. In fact, the same USDA study finds that the average high income family will spend almost a million dollars to raise just one child!
Now think about it. All things considered, what does a kid need more: a free ride and solid education at a top school, or a rock solid relationship with a parent (or parents) who spent countless hours molding, teaching, disciplining, empowering, spending time, and having fun with them?
To me, the choice is clear. Both would be nice, but I’ll take the odds on the latter, regardless of how many hours the first kid’s dad worked to pay for his Ivy League education.
Working extra to give our kids nicer homes to live in, better clothes to wear, and more presents to open on Christmas is very, very admirable. But not worth it if it comes at the expense of the time we can spend with our kids. Food, clothing, and shelter are the basics we need to provide for our kids (and they don’t cost as much as we think). The rest is gravy.
Some may read this post and think to themselves, “Well it must be nice to be your own boss and have your own business. I don’t have those options,” or “My boss isn’t so flexible,” or “It doesn’t work that way in my field.”
While it’s true that none of our stories are ever the same, every single day, we are all presented with choices. The “more money vs. more time” choice is one we ALL get on a regular basis. All I’m saying is that if you have kids, maybe you want to choose more time more often, even if that means less money in the bank account.
Because Harry Chapin and Jamey Johnson (video below) have it right. Ultimately, what kids really crave is more TIME spent with the people they love.
Which is why even though reverse retirement doesn’t make the most cents, it makes perfect sense to me.http://vids.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.individual&videoid=4909616
I couldn’t agree with you more! Finding the right mix is a constant struggle in our lives, but keeping the goal of solid family foundation is worth the work. Thanks for the reminder Jason!
Thanks Anastasia! Yes, the implementation is ALWAYS a challenge, but knowing your core values and why you’re doing what you’re doing is a huge factor.
Have a great week!
Amen brother! Love it when you get on this track – more people need to slow down and think about this topic. Our kids will all be better off if more of us take the slow track instead of the fast track.
Thanks Kent. As you know, I’m pretty passionate about these things. Good to know that I’m not the only one!
Misy Brown says
WOW…what an eye opener. My husband and I don’t think about retirement but we certainly share the values you and Kim have about what your kids need when they are young. Our boys are all grown up now and one graduated college in three years, which he is paying for himself by the way.
Thanks Jason and enjoy those kids NOW!
Wow, Missy, you mean you didn’t just hand your kid tuition on a silver platter? Mucho props.
My parents helped me out some, but Kim and I did the heavy lifting ourselves and are better for it.
Thanks for the comment!