Why do all pictures of retirement include a beach? Am I missing something? Is that all other retired people do? I guess that's what you get when people who work for a living try and market retirement.

Among retirees, those saving and planning for retirement and those that claim to help them, security is a big concern.  Some folks are obsessed with it.  However, security is a fantasy, an illusion.  You can never truly be secure.  Stuff happens all the time that is out of your control and all the supposed security you’ve garnered won’t mean a hill of beans.

Money, insurance, pensions and government safety nets will never provide real security.  I think the recent events in America and around the world prove that.  Money isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on and if a government defaults who’s to say you’re millions in savings will do you any good?  Small local pension systems have started paying reduced benefits.  Social Security and Medicare are going broke.  Not to mention wars, natural disasters and the like.

Financial security is just one aspect.  Health is also a form of security.  Just like money, you can do all the right things and have the rug pulled out from beneath you.  Healthy people die everyday.  Ask Jim Fixx, the guy that wrote “The Complete Book of Running”.  He was supposedly healthy, even an authority on the subject of fitness.  Oh, yeah, you can’t.  He died at 52 of a heart attack.

Ben Franklin. He also said that beer is proof God loves us and wants us to be happy. A very smart man.

One of my heroes, Ben Franklin, is also the source of one of my favorite quotes, and a I paraphrase, “Those who would give up an essential liberty to gain a little security, deserve neither liberty or security.”  He wasn’t talking about retirement, but the sentiment applies.  Retirement is a form of liberty.  I mean, it is usually coupled with financial independence and it frees you from the demands of others (bosses, clients and customers).

Many, many people give up the freedom of retirement to gain some more security.  They postpone retirement to get just a few more dollars or to qualify for better benefits, but they must give up years of freedom in order to do so.  Obviously, you can’t retire with no money, but how much do you really need?  There is a point when you begin to surpass basic and reasonable security concerns and aren’t doing a whole lot besides making yourself feel better.

For instance, I’ve seen people who, by their own admission, can live comfortably on their savings but still worry whether or not they should work a few more year to get a slightly larger Social Security check.  They don’t need the benefit at all, much less the bigger benefit when they get older.  Really?  Is that extra few hundred a month going to make them more secure?  Probably not.

The point isn’t that you shouldn’t save money, earn insurance benefits, and take what’s coming to you.  The point is that life is short and all the stuff that you think gives you security might cost you the very thing you are trying to secure.  You’re life and/or your lifestyle.  Who cares if you have more money than God, Cadillac health insurance and have paid off your mansion if you’re to old to enjoy any of it or die before you even retire?

Is that even security?  If you’ve given up the very thing you’re attempting to secure, what’s the point?  Ben Franklin was a wise man.  Retirement is one of those essential liberties and people give it up or put it off everyday to gain a little more security.  Often, in reality, they aren’t gaining anything at all.

Security is a state of mind.  How do you think those people retire at 35 on barely anything?  They have changed their definition of and reliance on what we’re told makes one secure.  The would rather exercise their liberty than spend all their life trying to chase the illusion of security.  They understand that retirement isn’t bought with money, insurance and benefits, it’s purchased with courage.

You have to have the intestinal fortitude to strike out on your own and just do it.  You might not have all the money, insurance and safety nets, but at least you’re retired.  You’re free and enjoying life on your terms.  Would having a few more dollars, a lower co-pay or another level of “guaranteed” benefits be worth giving that up?  And then you have to ask how long will you’re health hold out?  You can hope to be an active 80-year-old, but you can’t count on it.

We all have a different tolerance for risk and I’m not saying we should all retire on ten grand and some prayers, but there’s a point of diminishing returns.  All of us reach a day when working for a little more just doesn’t provide us anything tangible.  You should pull the trigger prior to that.  Otherwise you end up working longer for essentially nothing.  In fact, you end up slipping backwards, not gaining anything worthwhile and losing precious years of your life.

Retirement security is a real concern, but you can only control so many things.  Once you’ve got you’re ducks in a row, take the plunge.  The markets, taxes, recessions, illness and all that are largely out of your control anyway.  Stop trying to make sure nothing can ever go wrong, you can’t, and begin enjoying retirement now.  Now is all you really have anyway.  No matter how much you plan, tomorrow can never be guaranteed.

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