An article in today’s Wall Street Journal discusses the role of chance in saving for retirement, arguing that we can’t depend on the average 30-year return that’s often touted. Much depends on which 30-year period we’re investing in. If your career coincides with a relatively flat period or the markets, there’s going to be a natural limit on how much you can hope to reap for your future.
With financial security comes freedom. Maybe that freedom is in the form of a relaxed period of “Golden Years”, when you finally get to do some of things you’ve longed to do but couldn’t (because you were working). Maybe freedom is a blow-out sabbatical every now and then. Maybe freedom is working for yourself, so you can run errands and travel whenever you damn well please.
But haven’t you heard? Security is a myth. You could squirrel away 12% of your annual income for 25 years, planning and saving for that day when you’ll retire (freedom), and then a “global economic crisis” hits and POOF . . . there goes freedom.
A well-traveled, independent-minded friend of mine, Julie, has this Helen Keller quote framed in her office, and I remember reading it there several years ago:
“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature,
Nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding
danger is no safer, in the long run than outright exposure.
Life is a daring adventure or nothing at all.”
I work for myself (and with my mother), and relish in the fact that “getting ready for work”, for me, means simply putting on a robe, pouring coffee in my favorite mug, and sitting down to face my computer. But I’ve learned that my independence does not mean “freedom” to the degree that I long for – because I, like everyone else, have to work for security.
Maybe freedom really is just another word for nothin’ left to lose. Today, I’m working on re-defining “freedom” for myself. More than the ability to do as I please, when I please, I think it’s about having the peace of mind – the space in my mind – to recognize and cherish the very small moments in my day that bring me joy.
How do you define freedom?