Did that catch your attention?  I admit, it is probably a little dramatic.  But its true, at least so far as the retirement industry is concerned.  You know, the financial advisers, retirement planners, and the like.  They are selling you a bill of goods.  Obviously, you will likely need some form of financial planning in order to become financially independent and retire, but to what end?

On television it seems every commercial break is filled with ads for financial services, many aimed at saving for retirement.  Just follow the green line or sign up and use our 312 overly complicated tools to track your stocks.  Neat!  Surely, you will be have a wonderfully fulfilling retirement now that you have the latest stock picking iPad app and that emerald line to follow.  Right?

The financial and retirement industry love images of 60-something couples retiring, who then take jobs teaching, or open businesses, or fly off the Africa to dig wells.  Huh?  Is that the norm?  Age wise, probably, though it doesn’t have to be.  But do most of us retire in order to start a new career?  I doubt it.  I think most of us look forward to a life of leisure, travel and free time.

The industry that helps us plan for our future retirement has an interest in seeing we never retire.  When you start withdrawing funds from all those accounts, they earn less in fees.  If you decide to take matters into your own hands and manage your own money (and why not, you have lots of free time when you retire), they get NO fees.  They need you to continue working and investing.

They will tell you that you need millions of dollars to “maintain your lifestyle”.  That the only solution is to work longer and harder and save more and more and all the while their fees continue to grow!  There are other ways to retire.  I addressed these ideas in “When is Enough, Enough?” and “Frugal Retirement: Living a Rich Life”.

Then you see financial guys writing articles (like this one) warning us of the dangers of retiring early.  I suppose if you have only planned the financial side of your retirement, there might be dangers, like becoming bored and lazy.  Retirement planners, despite the title, don’t help you plan for retirement.  Not really.  They are glorified financial advisers for the most part.

If you are relying on the retirement industry to “plan” your retirement, you will probably be miserable.  They don’t prepare you for having your days to yourself.  They don’t recommend that you begin to find interests outside of work before you retire.  They don’t have you discover your true passions and desires so you can live a fulfilling life in retirement.  They just tell you where to invest your money, how to get it out when you finally do pull the trigger and take their fees.

I am not advocating that you eschew financial planning completely.  Most of us don’t have the knowledge or time to do it on our own.  However, you also need to plan your retirement beyond the financial aspect.  That older couple in the ad that wonders how to go from saving to spending may have a fantastic retirement ahead, but it won’t be because a few guys dropped a new green line to follow.  It will be because they didn’t buy into the idea that money solves all problems.

They will enjoy their golden years because they took control, found what it is that makes them tick, explored their dreams and desires and found the passion that will keep them healthy and happy for the rest of their lives.  Money is a means to and end, not the end in itself.  Retirement is about so much more than saving enough money, but it is unlikely your financial planner will help you figure that out.

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