The Goal of Work is Retirement: Rule 10

This is Rule 10 in my 10 Rules to Eliminate Debt and Change Your Life

The reasons I started Married (with Debt) are twofold: to help people get out of debt, and help them change their lives.

That means you are fixing the problems that got you where you are today, and then changing those bad habits to make sure it never happens again.

Many of the previous Rules are geared towards the first goal, helping you get out of debt. This one is about the bigger picture: changing your life.

early retirement

I will also say that many of you will disagree with this, the final Rule, but that’s okay. These are guiding principles I have used to change MY life. If you don’t agree with this one, that doesn’t mean the previous 9 have no value for you.

So what am I trying to say when I say the goal of work is retirement?

Firstly, it’s a statement designed to get you thinking about the very long term (when you will retire). But mostly it’s a way to give meaning to this thing we do 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, for 40 years or more.

For some, the goal of work is to buy things. I guess on a base level that is true for everyone. The difference, however, is how much you buy. You might be living so far beyond your means that it could take years just to get back to zero. You might joke to your friends that you will have to work until 75 before retiring.

That’s because you didn’t have a goal to your work. Work was not seen as a highway where you can race others to the finish line. You were treating it like a hamster wheel that will eventually release you from the cage.

Working to Not Work

When we change our mindset and view work as a means to get from A to B, we experience changes in our daily thinking. We hold off on that 3-pack of DVDs because we can rent it instead. We buy a very used car instead of a brand new one.

This frees up our money, allows us to spend less than we earn, and put a lot away to fund our ultimate goal.

How you feel about work probably depends on your career. But it can also depend on your personal finance habits. If you absolutely love your line of work, you may find yourself saying “I so happy I don’t think I could EVER retire.” Or, you could say “I’m so poor I don’t think I can EVER retire.”

Let me be clear: I truly respect those who have a strong inner urge to always be doing big things. I envy people who wake up each morning and can’t wait to get to the office.

This rule is more geared towards people frustrated with their job, and frustrated with an economic system that must produce losers in order to create winners. They are frustrated with the endless cycle of consumerism, a chain that keeps you tied to your paycheck and forces you to always be seeking more income.

They know that by focusing their life on what truly matters, things like family, stability, and their health, they can learn to ignore the iPhone 6 or the latest fashion that will be dead in 3 months anyway.

They also know that by focusing on what truly matters, they can get where they want to go faster.

If your goal in your work life is reaching its end, maybe you will do something crazy like sell that brand new car you regret buying. Maybe you will take a second job delivering pizza, even though you are dead tired at night. Maybe you will take that $100,000 in your retirement account and pay cash for some land and a paid-for house.

When we stop caring about what others think and focus on ourselves, big changes happen.

If you are content with just going with the flow and following your peers down the predictable path laid out for us, that’s fine. This rule is definitely not for you.

Do I Want Everyone to Follow this Rule?

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. I don’t want everyone to like my ideas. I want YOU to like them.

If everyone changed the way they view money and work, the global economy would probably crash. It would be easier to measure employment rather than unemployment.

So don’t go preaching on the mountaintop that you can’t wait to retire. People will call you lazy, and suspect that you are some weird threat to the fragile balance of the system.

That’s fine. Just smile and nod, focus on your family, and go back to your plan.

Though this may sound harsh, that’s because reality is harsh. The system is broken. The Eurozone is barely held together. The American experiment in fiat currency is barely holding. For every person who retires early, their spot will be filled by someone who will do the work for half the pay.

Rather than join this race to the bottom, it’s best to sit on the sidelines and politely clap.


10 Rules to Eliminate Your Debt and Change Your Life

1. Combine Incomes, Finances and Efforts 

2. Spend Less than You Earn

3. Make a Monthly Debt Budget and Live by It 

4Pay Off Debts Smallest to Largest, Regardless of Interest Rates

5. Make Big Changes for Big Results 

6. If You Don’t Need It, Sell It 

7. Save Monthly for Large, Anticipated Expenses

8. Set Aside Some Money for Fun

9. Pay Off Debts Before Investing 

10. The Goal of Work is Retirement 

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43 thoughts on “The Goal of Work is Retirement: Rule 10

  1. Hi John, my dear hubby and I have just been having this exact discussion. As we get closer to paying off our debt, we are working on the best way to enjoy our life. Our conscious spending plan will look after our travel dreams and finance our investments. We are just working out which is the best vehicle for us. That is the hard part.

    Simply more people need to focus on what they really want in the future. Funny, in my life, many of my friends are starting to figure out that the bigger house and the toys are not as valuable to them as freedom and time with those they love. They realize that debt can tie you to a career you don’t love any more, but have little way out of.

    I sincerely hope that your readers, no matter where they are in their debt reduction plans, do start to think about what they want for their future.

    Best of luck to everyone.

    • Hi Bec – I like what you said about getting tied in and not being able to get out. We are taught to try to get ourselves into anything we can, but exit strategy is never talked about.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  2. i hope for retirement one day.. nothing spectacular, just some introspective time at the end of my life. it wont be easy, given the financial climate of our country, but i do think that it is still the end goal.

    and it isn’t that i hate my job.. because i certainly don’t. it is rewarding.. but to truly be able to dedicate myself towards my family and my interests, 7 days a week.. is certainly appealing.
    jefferson recently posted..Should We Buy A Dog?My Profile

    • I hear ya, Jefferson. I think there are dark skies ahead for a few years, which is causing a lot of people to think about their own endgame sooner than normal.

      Good to see you!

  3. While we haven’t settled on this decision, my wife and I are currently looking to downside our home, give up our space, and buy a duplex here in the near future.

    We want to be able to move closer to our jobs, but by downsizing in home we can pay off the mortgage faster and reduce some other monthly payments.

    It would be a large sacrifice for us because we’re very comfortable right now, but it’s something that would really help our financial situation now and in the future. It will help us get from point A to point B at a much faster rate than the snail’s-pace we’re currently moving.
    WorkSaveLive recently posted..Blog Income and Site Statistics April 2012My Profile

    • Hey Jason – I think the days of an easy slide into retirement are over, and you’ve picked up on the idea that we probably have to make big changes if we want to preserve a certain quality of life. Thanks so much for your comments!

  4. I like my job, but I`m sure it will change within the 35+ working years I have left, and while I don`t think I`ll ever be in a job that I despise, I can`t fathom having to work until 65. I want to be able to enjoy my life so I want to retire early.

    • Hi Daisy – Kinda strange to think I may have 5 or 10 more jobs in my lifetime. I’m with you – looking to retire as soon as I can.

  5. Retiring early would be nice, but I think I would still want to be working in some capacity when I’m old. I’ve found that when I have too much free time I just get restless. Maybe I’d just need to take up more hobbies. Then again, I’m a long ways from retirement. So all that could easily change. Retiring early may be counterproductive to many people’s retirement goals though. A lot of people think they need a ton of money to retire with the lifestyle they want. So they’ll end up working much longer to get there.
    Modest Money recently posted..Career Lessons From My MomMy Profile

    • I’m like you, I’d probably try out a new hobby every few months. I’m not sure how long I could go on just doing nothing. I always manage to find a new project.

  6. Nice Article. I currently place about 25% of my income into savings not including retirement. I invest the amount that my employer matches. I am happy with this amount, but know it could be more. I am in my mid 20’s and know that I could be saving more, especially towards retirement. I still have a selfish attitude towards long term savings I guess. As much as I’d like to retire early, I want to enjoy myself.

    I tend to skimp on certain things so that I can spend on things I enjoy. Right now it’s working for me. I know in the next few years I will need to change that mindset and invest more towards retirement. Hopefully Apple slows down with new products so it will be an easier process LOL.
    Paul @ Make Money Make Cents recently posted..Ways To Invest Your MoneyMy Profile

    • Hey Paul – sounds like you are doing great. I wish I was where you are when I was in my 20s. I also practice conscious spending so I can do it up right on the things I love.

    • Thanks Sean – retirement is a good way to end this series (I already have plans to resurrect it soon, though).

  7. The ultimate goal for most people is to make enough money so that they can quit their jobs. Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with that if they’re looking for a career change. However, I think that it’s not a good plan to make enough money so that you can stop working all together.

    Medical experts have found evidence linking not working (or not having some type of busy activity) to early death. On average, those who stop working after retirement are said to live an average of seven years. The best plan is to do some type of work (or engage in pursuits) that you enjoy.
    Anthony Thompson recently posted..Self Manager – 4 Suggestions for Keeping Your Mind Healthy and SharpMy Profile

    • Great advice Anthony. We were put on this earth to experience it and to live life fully, and to learn each day. Thanks for stopping by!

    • Great points Joe. We have to retire in order to do the work we really want to do. Thanks for weighing in with your expertise on this issue.

    • Definitely – I’d be a professional hobbyist – woodworking, welding, gardening – you name it, I’d find the time to do it.

  8. We have been discussing lately the idea of going overseas and working for a while to help fund our retirement and get us ahead. I like to work but I can’t wait to work for the sole reason of liking to and not having to worry about making a living. I think many people would enjoy this feeling.
    I am all for living life to the fullest. Life can be short so doing what you can to enjoy life is really important. You never know what the future holds so don’t hold yourself back.
    Miss T @ Prairie Eco-Thrifter recently posted..How to Save Hundreds of Dollars a Year on Your Water BillMy Profile

    • Hey Miss T – where were you thinking of working, and doing what? I’m also interested in this as I could probably get an EU passport given that my dad is from Croatia.

    • My mindset is probably skewed because there are many people in my office who live for their job, and don’t have any friends outside of the office.

      No doubt, who retires without a hobby? Nevermind, my dad did. Then he discovered auctions.

  9. John, I’m a big fan of your 10th rule. Whether people know it or not, it is universally true. Even if people aren’t saving for retirement, they are earning credits in social security. People should be saving for retirement and spending less than you make, but you point out the paradox that if everyone actually did what was in their best interest, it would (at least temporarily) crash our whole system.
    CultOfMoney recently posted..How to retire on a pension?My Profile

    • Kinda scary to think about, eh? Life is so tough that it’s almost impossible to think about retiring, much less next week.

      Thanks for your kind words and for stopping by.

    • Cool idea. I read a blog of a daytrader recently who described his day. It was getting up at 3 or 4 am, doing research, executing trades. taking a nap, picking up his kids, etc. Actually didn’t sound half bad.

  10. I like your point on the goal of working for retirement. I don’t wake up each day thinking about retirement, but I would like to one day be free to manage my own schedule and have a hobby for work so it keeps me focused and doing my best now.
    John recently posted..Money-Wasting Time-SaversMy Profile

    • Hey John – good to see you. I’ll bet most of those who do think about retirement every day probably have regrets or feel like they are behind. Thanks for stopping by!

  11. Hi John,

    I just stumbled upon your blog and felt compelled to comment on this wonderful post. It gets me so excited to read about other people embarking on the same journey to early retirement and financial independence. Good luck to you!


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