We were debating what the retirement age is in Australia the other day at work. I said 70, someone said 65, someone else said 60. Turns out we were all right given the difference between the pension age, the super age and some other detail I don’t recall. The point is they were all pretty depressed at the thought of having to work to such a ripe old age.
“I’m going to retire at 50,” my colleague piped up.
“I’m already semi retired,” I replied – to ripples of laughter.
It’s true. At 40 I am semi retired. So, how did I manage it? I’m not a trust fund, silver spoon fed girl. Neither do I have a sugar daddy of a husband. My retirement is all down to my own hard work and considered choices about how I want to live my life.
I’ve worked hard for twenty-odd years, over half of which were spent in the highly charged marketing and corporate world until I almost burned myself out. Now I freelance as a writer, bringing stories to life for businesses and magazines, and I teach yoga part-time.
In my spare time (which is plentiful) I ride my bike, walk my dogs by the beach, and write my labours of love: short stories, a memoir and a novel. I have to remind myself not to feel guilty about having down time. Being busy is worn like a badge; as a measure of success and importance.
But I don’t see either writing or yoga as actual ‘work’ in the gruelling, obligatory, monotonous sense. I see it as play, a hobby and a way I choose to live my life. See, I was writing and practicing yoga for years before I got paid for them. Now I just feel fortunate that I get paid for doing what I love.
So, it is possible to retire at 40. But only if you make a conscious choice; it means you may have to sacrifice material things. It’s not for everyone. It’s funny how those well-worn anecdotes like ‘life begins at 40’ play out, and how crystal certain things become when you stop and realise you are approximately half way through your life.
Choice is the definitive word – what life do you choose and how do you measure success? If money and reaching the top of the corporate ladder are your priorities then retiring at 40 is probably unrealistic.
Do you want to continue on the treadmill or to design and carve the life you dream of? I’m not encouraging laziness. Learn. Create. Evolve. Leave your comfort zone. Challenge yourself. But choose to follow your own path, not the one you’re conditioned to believe you should follow. That path might just, if you’re lucky, lead to retirement at 40.