Retirement, the Ultimate Financial Independence

Jay Gershman |

By: Jay Gershman

With this being Fourth of July month, I thought it appropriate to start with a brief history lesson.

The American War of Independence lasted eight years and the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776. This day became one of the most important dates in American history, a representation of freedom that so many fought and worked hard for. And yet, what 4th of July has become in the 242 years since that historic signing is quite different.

In today’s world we celebrate Independence Day with picnics, fireworks, and a welcome reprieve from the daily grind. It’s a day of freedom, sure, but more so from the work and responsibility that dominates roughly 45 years of our lives. Rarely do we consider what our forefathers worked so hard for. Instead, we turn inward with gratitude for a break and an extra day to breathe, rest, and enjoy time with our families. We celebrate freedom from the day to day, not a free life.

Independence is a word that I use every day as I sit in front of clients to discuss their financial freedom. Sure, it’s not the same as what our forefathers worked so hard for, but every time I get in front of someone new, I get to explore why they have toiled for decades and what they expect from the best years of their lives. For many, the thought of retirement is not at all exciting – the image conjures up an old man or woman in a La-Z-Boy, rocking away their final days. It’s very difficult for some people to understand or accept their own financial freedom, never mind start planning for it!

I love asking clients if they’d like to sing the Johnny Paycheck song, “You Can Take This Job and Shove It” to their bosses. Their reaction usually tells me what I need to know and gives me the opportunity to remind them that retirement does not have to mean the end of their purpose, their friendships, or their life. Instead, retirement can simply mean freedom. Freedom from an alarm. Freedom from traffic. Freedom from work. Freedom from rules.

Over the past 27 years, I have projected potential retirement dates for hundreds of clients. It often takes time, but slowly I can give them confidence that they will get there. Some have gone on to embrace their plan with vigor, others with reluctance. But most, if not all, have not looked back.

A client once told me, “Every day I wake up with nothing to do and by the end of the day, I haven’t accomplished it all.” Retirement means something different for each person. It can be taking on a passion project, helping with the grandkids, traveling the world, building the house of their dreams, or exploring new hobbies. But most of all, it means freedom. Independence. A brand new world to explore.

I would be untruthful if I didn’t say that a fulfilled retirement takes work. Yes, work. Just like a great vacation takes thinking, planning and negotiating, so does retirement. It requires putting yourself first for once and listing all of the things you’ve always wanted to do but put off because someone or something else came first. A fulfilled retirement starts with a vision of everything you want to see, do and experience without worrying about how to pay for it. Once you have your list, then the negotiations start, especially if you’re married. Where you will live, what you will do, how you will spend your time is all put on the table. Then it’s time to build a plan to pay for it, which is where the experts come in.

So this Fourth of July, enjoy your cookout and relax in your hammock, but also set aside a little bit of time to think about your freedom. This day of independence could be permanent, but not without a good financial plan. Today might just be the best time to constitute it.