Life After Full-time Work Blog

Learn about preparing for life after full-time work through posts from Don's upcoming book.

#1: Why Bother?

You may wonder why you should bother with retirement-related stuff at all.  Here’s why.

Why bother?  Because you are your own family business.  This is a very powerful notion, one that I have taken from an excellent book that you should refer to if the idea excites you. (It’s Douglas McCormick’s Family, Inc. published by John Wiley.)

When we work, we automatically tend to think of ourselves as employees.  That just makes us one of a vast multitude.  Think differently.  You are also your own family business!

When you start working, your asset is labor.  You use this labor to earn money to spend.  That’s what enables you to survive, and also to thrive, to be happy; you won’t be happy with no money.

Your labor asset declines over time.  In fact, you want it to.  You don’t want to have to make it last forever, to use it forever, until you pass away.  You want to be able to stop providing it, ideally at a time of your own choosing, ideally at an age when you are still fit and energetic enough to enjoy the spending even more because you now have the time to devote to enjoyment.  (In the old days this used to be called retirement.  Again, think differently.  This is just life after full-time work.)  This is freedom!  This is the control over our future that we all want.

To enjoy this phase of life, to even make it feasible at all, you have to convert your labor into financial assets.  That means you have to save some of it.  If you spend all of it, you can’t save any, and that defeats your purpose because you need those financial assets.

Your financial assets grow as you add to them.  In fact, they ought to grow much faster than just by adding to them.  They ought to grow by investing them.  (But that’s a story for another time.)  That means that systematic investing, with a focus on growth, is the main focus of this phase of your family business.

As you spend your financial assets, they will deplete.  In this depletion, or drawdown, phase, it’s important to keep them growing, but now it’s also important to bring safety into the equation because your labor has ended and you no longer have the option of adding to your financial assets from labor.  And you don’t know how long you have to make your financial assets last, because you don’t know how long you will live.  You need to find a way to ensure that you don’t outlive your money.  Longevity protection, safety, growth: those become your family’s three financial goals, as you happily enjoy the time that your labor has bought.

That’s why you should bother.


Convert your labor into financial assets.  That’s how you enable yourself to retire.


I have written about retirement planning before and some of that material also relates to topics or issues that are being discussed here. Where relevant I draw on material from three sources: The Retirement Plan Solution (co-authored with Bob Collie and Matt Smith, published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2009), my foreword to Someday Rich (by Timothy Noonan and Matt Smith, also published by Wiley, 2012), and my occasional column The Art of Investment in the FT Money supplement of The Financial Times, published in the UK. I am grateful to the other authors and to The Financial Times for permission to use the material here.

6 Responses to “#1: Why Bother?”

  1. Nevin Adams says:


    First, my congratulations on your endeavor here. Let me offer a few thoughts on why everyone should “bother” thinking and planning for retirement; specifically, five reasons:

    1. Because you don’t want to work forever.

    Seriously, no matter how much you love your job, if you want to stop working one day – and trust me, you will – you are going to have to think about how much income you will need to live after you are no longer working for a paycheck.

    2. Because living in retirement isn’t “free.”

    Many people assume that expenses will go down in retirement – and, for many, perhaps most, they do. On the other hand, there are changes in how we spend in retirement as well – and they aren’t always less. A recent report by the nonpartisan Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) notes that health-related expenses are the second-largest component in the budget of older Americans, and a component that steadily increases with age. Health care expenses capture around 10% of the budget for those between 50–64, but increase to about 20% for those age 85 and over,” EBRI notes. And those spending shifts don’t take into account the possibility of a need or desire to provide financial support to parents and/or children.

    3. Because you may not be able to work as long as you think.
    In 1991, just 11% of workers expected to retire after age 65. Twenty-five years later, in 2016, 37% of workers report that they expect to retire after age 65, and 6% say they don’t plan to retire at all, according to the 2016 Retirement Confidence Survey (RCS). At the same time, the percentage of workers who say they expect to retire before age 65 has decreased, from 50% in 1991 to 24% in 2016.

    However, the RCS has consistently found that a large percentage of retirees leave the workforce earlier than planned – nearly half (46%) in 2016, in fact. Many who retired earlier than planned say they did so because of a hardship, such as a health problem or disability (55%), or changes at their employer such as downsizing or closure. The bottom line: Even if you plan to work longer, the timing of your “retirement” may not be your choice.

    4. Because you don’t know how long your retirement will last.

    People are living longer, and the longer your life, the longer your potential retirement, especially if it begins sooner than you think. Retiring at age 65 today? A man would have a 50% chance of still being alive at age 81 (and a woman at age 85); a 25% chance of living to nearly 90; a 10% chance of getting close to 100. How big a chance do you want to take of outliving your money in old age?

    5. Because the sooner you start, the easier it will be.

    As recently as the 2015 RCS, fewer than half (48%) of workers report they and/or their spouses have tried to calculate – even a single time – how much money they will need to have saved by the time they retire so that they can live comfortably in retirement, a level that has held relatively consistent over the past decade.

    Whether or not you feel fully financially “literate” now, you need to have a plan for your retirement. And there’s no time like the present to start.

    • Don Ezra says:

      Thanks very much, Nevin. Words of wisdom, distilled from your knowledge and experience. They add so much to my “why to start” piece, because they spell out all the things we don’t think of.

  2. K.C. says:

    This blog post, and Nevin Adams’ comments, should be mandatory reading for every young person on their first day of full-time work! Sound, practical, valuable advice!

  3. J. J. Woolverton says:

    Don, great start. From a private wealth standpoint, I look at the “investing” public (or those who should be thinking about retirement) as representing three groups: 1) the Baby-Boomers (those born in the mid-40s to mid-60s; 2) the Gen-Xers (mid-60s to mid-70s; and 3) the Millenniums (mid-70s to mid-90s. Each has a different timeframe and, therefore, different investment requirements. Each has a different mindset as well. I will read your Blog keeping these generations in mind.

    One change over the past 60 years has been the change in the workforce: from one where manufacturing jobs represented the majority of the population to one now that is dominated by the service industry. A change from having “jobs” to having a “career”. This might be one of the reasons why people are working past the “normal” retirement age. As well, look at the pictures of our grandparents — they looked and acted old at the age of 50. Today, people at the age of 70 do not consider themselves old. I totally agree, that the word “retirement” is passé. You are creating a new mindset that is not only refreshing, but, necessary. You might want to remove the word “retire” from your Takeaway.

    • Don Ezra says:

      Thanks, JJ, I’m delighted that you’re going to go systematically through the posts and add your thoughts. That will be very valuable. It will be even more valuable if you can identify different attitudes across the generations, because I’m not good at that. Also, I’d love to find a good replacement for the word “retirement” but I haven’t yet found one that makes me jump for joy. I’ve played with it, and perhaps one day might post some thoughts about alternatives, but if you can help that would be great!

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